Big Bend National Park is HUGE!! It's very diverse from craggy mountains to desolate desert and the Rio Grande River borders the park and Mexico. There used to be border crossings into the park, but no longer which is a sad for the villagers across the river. There are several visitor centers and it is almost like the park is divided into three sections. Fortunately, we had the time to touch on each area a little bit, but the park is so vast, we hardly scratched the surface. We talked to several RVers who had returned time and again. When we arrived on Sunday, the Rio Grande Campground was pretty empty but by the time we left it was the middle of Spring Break and the campground was pretty full. The Rio Grande RV Campground has hookups but at $32 a night we opted for the Rio Grande Campground at $7.00 per night with the Golden Age pass.
Our first stop was at the visitor center at the North entrance to the park to get "the lay of the land". We also checked at the visitor center at our campground and purchased three paper back guides which proved invaluable. The three included scenic drives on paved and improved dirt roads; back roads; and hikes. So with the guides in hand we were able to hike and drive successfully during our stay:
Monday, March 7, Lost Mine Trail. This is a "classic" for the park near the Chisos basin. It is a 4.8 mile round trip with at least 1000 foot elevation gain. There is very little "level" trail on the way up but the payoffs were the spectacular views.
Casa Grande from the Lost Mine Trail, part of Chisos basin .
After our hike we went into the Chisos basin and explored the campground. There is also a nice lodge and visitor center. The basin area was a lot smaller than I expected. I thought for such a large park there would be more camping in the mountain area. I guess I had vision of Yosemite, but thank goodness it is nothing like Yosemite.
Tuesday, March 8. Boquilla Canyon. This is a short little hike along the Rio Grande River. One could cross the river into Mexico very easily, but there are severe fines if caught returning. U.S. citizens must cross at official border crossing. The canyon is a prime river trip and kayaks and canoes can easily put in a little ways up the river near the campground but the take out at the canyon means porting your boat about 1 mile back to a parking area or continuing three days down river. Also, permits are needed and I'll go into that later in another post.
He is carrying walking sticks and trinkets for sale to the U.S. side, apparently not worried about the border patrol.
Wednesday, March 9. The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The drive goes to the other side of the park with the Santa Elena Canyon being the highlight of the drive. We made several stops along the way and then took the Old Maverick Road (12 miles of dirt road) which intersects the main road back to the the Rio Grande campground.
Tull Canyon on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Note the shadows at the bottom of the picture. Guess who was having some fun.
We talked with one of the river guides about where to put in and take out our kayaks without doing an over night. He suggested paddling up river from the canyon a little ways and then turning around a floating/paddling down. Permits are needed, so we decided we would check into that another day.
We then back tracked slightly and took the Old Maverick dirt road back to the main park road to our campsite and along the way saw some interesting sites.
The total mileage was almost 131 miles. A long day, but the sites were well worth it.
Our first few days at the park have been pretty busy, and we have seen so much. I think I might need a day or two to digest everything.