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Backpacker Magazine – October 2005

Adventure Guide: Big Bend National Park

Texas-sized solitude is practically guaranteed when you explore the high peaks and striking river canyons of this lightly visited wilderness.

by: Steve Howe, BACKPACKER Rocky Mountain Editor


Getting There The closest airports are in Midland and El Paso (242 and 329 miles, respectively, from the park).

©Steve Howe
Adobe ruins at Terlingua Abajo
Getting Around Gas, water, and limited groceries are available at Terlingua, Lajitas, and the three main campgrounds at Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin, and Castolon. For travel between November 15 and April 15, you can reserve car campsites up to 240 days in advance through ReserveUSA (877-444-6777;

Season November through April, except for the higher Chisos Mountains, which are best visited late spring through early autumn.

Don't Miss Fajitas at the Chile Pepper Café in Terlingua.

Cautions Extreme heat and scarce springs mean you must carry lots of water, identify potential sources, hike during cool parts of the day, and leave your itinerary with a responsible person. Soloists should fill out the Solo Hiker Form, which requires check-in upon return.

Regulations Permits (free) are required for all backcountry overnights and are available at visitor centers up to 24 hours in advance. In the Chisos, camping is limited to designated sites; elsewhere, camping is allowed anywhere a half-mile from roads, trails, and developed areas. No campfires or pets.

Maps Trails Illustrated #225 Big Bend National Park is a good overview map. For custom topos of our main hikes, visit

©Steve Howe
» Mesa de Anguila: USGS Mesa de Anguila
» Outer Loop Trail: Go to to download a map and route description.
» Santa Elena: River Guide to the Rio Grande is sold at Big Bend River Tours, visitor centers, and
» Emory Peak: Chisos Mountains Trail Map is sold at park visitor centers and at
» Glenn Springs/Juniper Canyon: Road Guide to Backcountry Dirt Roads of BBNP is sold at area stores & visitor centers.
» Marufo Vega: USGS quads Boquillas, Ernst Valley Guide Hiking Big Bend National Park, by Laurence Parent Contact (432) 477-2251;

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Tom D
Mar 11, 2009

Big Bend is hot and rocky. Stay away. Please. That way only a few of us know the secret.


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