Our National Park Series: Big Bend National Park

It’s getting cold in New England – are you planning your next warm-weather adventure? If you’re headed south for the season, we recommend adding Big Bend National Park to your “to do” list.

With over 800,000 acres of unspoiled desert terrain, Big Bend National Park in Texas is one of the nation’s hidden treasures. Even its peak season is never overly crowded, and its temperate climate, diverse birdlife and dramatic landscapes make fall one of the best times to visit.


Big Bend

As the largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Credit: Robert Hensley, Flickr


Located in a corner of the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park features 150 miles of trails to roam. For day hikers, the popular Lost Mine Trail covers five miles of spectacular views and exotic bird watching. For those looking for more of a backcountry adventure, the Outer Loop Trail takes about 3-4 days to complete and provides a tour of both the woodlands of the Chisos Mountains and the exposed Chihuahuan terrain.


Elevations at Big Bend range from 1,800 feet along the Rio Grande to 7,832 feet on Emory Peak in the Chisos Mountains. Credit: Vincent Lock, Flickr


Since the park sits in the middle of a migration route, Big Bend’s peak season is also a great time for bird-watching. If you’re visiting off peak, don’t worry! Various species can be seen throughout the year, including the Lucifer hummingbird and Colima warbler – birds you won’t find elsewhere in the United States. Visit the Santa Elena Canyon, Dugout Wells, or Sam Nail Ranch for rare sightings and key birding habitats.

Clockwise from top left: Mexican jay, Lucifer hummingbird, Acorn woodpecker, Colima warbler, Greater roadrunner. Credit: daveynin, mlhradio, Jon Wiley, Flickr; Greg Lavaty

In addition to birding and hiking, the Rio Grande offers a variety of river activities. From whitewater rafting to gourmet river trips, the 120-mile stretch of water whets the appetite of every outdoor enthusiast. Check out the famed Santa Elena Canyon for seven miles of gorgeous coves and towering side canyons.


The limestone walls of Santa Elena Canyon reach up to 1,500 feet. Credit: Robert Hensley, Flickr.


Did we miss any of your favorite Big Bend activities? Tell us in the comments below.


  1. Steve | October 30, 2013 | 7:06 am

    My favorite National Park. We’ve been several times. Great park for backpacking, and some really nice tent camping in the Chisos Basin area. Recommend hiking the South Rim trail for amazing views!

  2. Belinda | July 13, 2016 | 12:53 pm

    We have lived in Texas all our lives and never been. We’re going in October and can’t wait.

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