How to Explore Big Bend in Three Days

Three Days of Big Bend Adventures

Make sure to check out the guided horseback riding tours at Big Bend.

Big Bend is one of the most remote national parks in the country and is located in Far West Texas. This national park has some of the most diverse wildlife and landscape, with mountains, deserts, canyons and lush wetlands all along the Rio Grande. Though the park is massive in scale, you can see much of the park in just three days. This sample itinerary will give you some ideas of all there is to see and do in the park.

Day 1: Check-In and Get to Know Big Bend

You can stay in all types of places from lodges, to cabins, to RV and campgrounds at Big Bend!

Getting to Big Bend requires a drive. The nearest airport is located in Midland, Texas, which is a three-hour drive to the park. The remote location is part of the charm of this lesser-known and visited park.

Stop by the Panther Junction Ranger Station
Upon arrival in Big Bend National Park, your first stop will be to the Panther Junction Ranger Station. Here, you can get maps and recommendations from the ranger on duty. Be sure to ask what ranger programs will be offered during your stay and make note of the time and location. Driving across the park can take up to an hour, so you’ll want to plan ahead for any scheduled activities.

Check-in to Chisos Mountains Lodge
Once you’ve stopped at the ranger station, it’s time to get checked in. Head to the Chisos Mountains Lodge, which is centrally located in the park. The Chisos Mountains Lodge is nestled in the basin of the Chisos Mountains, where you’ll be surrounded by hiking, lush landscape, and undisturbed scenery.

Another great lodging option is in the quaint town of Terlingua with two motels at Big Bend Resort & Adventure.

Get to Know Big Bend and All Its Stars
If you still have daylight left, take some time to explore the park and get to know the layout. Head out on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which will offer fantastic views of the Chihuahuan Desert and has multiple scenic lookouts where you can stop and take photos.

At the end of the road, you’ll find Santa Elena Canyon. If you’re looking to stretch your legs after all that driving, you can hike into the canyon. This 1.4-mile round-trip, moderate hike is a great way to end your day.

Once you’re back at the hotel and the sun has set, be sure to take a moment to look up. Big Bend is a Dark Sky Park, meaning it has one of the clearest, darkest skies. If you’re looking up on a cloudless night, you’ll be able to see constellations, satellites, and the Milky Way.

Day 2: Hikes and Hot Springs

Don't forget your camera when you hit the hiking trails at Big Bend National Park.

Start your second day early with a quick breakfast, load up your water, and hit the trail.

Hit the Trail
One of the most beautiful trails in the park is The Window Trail. This hike is 5.6 miles round-trip and takes you downhill to the Window pour-off. The hike takes you through trees, deeper into the basin and to a stunning overlook. For any hike in the desert, be sure to bring plenty of water.

Pack a Picnic and Head to Rio Grande Village
After your hike to The Window, you’ll likely be ready for lunch. Grab your picnic food and head to Rio Grande Village. Along the way, you can stop at Dugout Wells for a short walk along the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail or simply find a picnic table to enjoy your food.

After lunch, make a stop at the Rio Grande Village store for an ice cream treat and to get WiFi if you need it. If your feet are up for another hike, you can take the 0.75-mile Rio Grande Village Nature Trail for a panoramic view of the Chisos and Del Carmen Mountains. This trail is perfect for viewing the sunset.

Rest Your Feet at the Hot Springs
After a long day of hiking, there’s nothing better than soaking your feet in the restorative waters of a natural hot spring. Down an unpaved road, you’ll find the Big Bend hot springs, where you can soak the day away.

Day 3: Departure

Stop and take a picture next to the entrance of Big Bend National Park for one last memory of your trip.

After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to enjoy one last day in Big Bend. With a long drive in your future, it’s important to start your day off right.

Hit the Trail . . . On Horseback
Finish your trip through Big Bend on a high note with a trail ride on horseback. Big Bend Stables will provide you with a surefooted horse and a knowledgeable guide to take you on a true southwestern adventure.

Check-Out of Chisos Mountains Lodge
After your hike, it’ll be time to hit the road. Stop by the store to stock up on snacks or grab that fun t-shirt for the drive out of the park, fill up on gas at Panther Junction if you need it, and cue up your podcast audiobook for the drive.

Big Bend National Park is a hidden gem among the country’s national parks. With stunning hikes, arid desert landscape, and some of the best stargazing in the country, you’re sure to not forget your visit.

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