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19 Free Campsites for Big Bend National Park

Last updated on May 7th, 2022 at 11:50 pm

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park has a beautiful and serene environment that has been surrounded by ancient nature and blessed by mother nature with the Chisos mountains. Big Bend  allows people to enjoy various animals and plants that enhance its beauty. The variation of the desert temperatures gives the park a unique feeling. Viewing the existence of plants in the park enables one to appreciate the work of nature and view life positively. Read on to learn more about Big Bend  and the reasons why you should plan to visit.

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History of Bend National Park

The park has a rich history deeply rooted as early as 1535, whereby Indian groups had inhabited the area believed to be the Chisos Indians who were nomads. They survived by practicing gathering, hunting, and agriculture with seasons. The Jumano, who were enemies of the Chisos, invaded the land and replaced them. The Europeans, who later on, began to explore the area, searching for gold and silver, removed the Jumano’s. The Spanish later set forts to stop Indian intrusion into Mexico.

Top 19 Free Campsites for Big Bend National Park

Balancing Rock

1. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Chimneys West

Address
Unnamed Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.219236, -103.527889
Elevation: 2382′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

2. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Croton Springs

Address
Unnamed Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.342986, -103.346119
Elevation: 3356′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

3. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend National Park

Address
Terlingua, Texas
GPS: 29.2502, -103.25045
Elevation: 5311′

Management – Public – National Park Service (Unofficial)

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

The road in is Dirt. Big Bend National Park is open All year. The maximum RV length at Big Bend National Park is 20′. You may stay 14 days at Big Bend National Park.

4. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Ocotillo Grove

Address
Gaging Station
Terlingua, Texas
GPS: 29.203252, -103.594789
Elevation: 2293′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

5. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Juniper Canyon

Address
Dodson Trail
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.223869, -103.241208
Elevation: 3980′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

6. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Twisted Shoe

Address
Juniper Canyon Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.218567, -103.233411
Elevation: 3822′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

7. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Terlingua Abaja

Address
Gaging Station
Terlingua, Texas
GPS: 29.199151, -103.603712
Elevation: 2218′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

8. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Government Springs

Address
Grapevine Spring
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.340652, -103.25536
Elevation: 3930′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

9. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Pine Canyon

Address
Pine Canyon Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.256704, -103.212555
Elevation: 4367′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

10. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Paint Gap

Address
Paint Gap
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.397415, -103.304238
Elevation: 3533′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

11. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Black Dike

Address
Unnamed Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.055686, -103.432684
Elevation: 2093′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

12. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Gauging Station

Address
Unnamed Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.035079, -103.389854
Elevation: 2103′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

13. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Grapevine Spring Rd

Address
Grapevine Spring
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.378162, -103.221126
Elevation: 3379′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

14. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Elephant Tusk

Address
Black Gap Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.129584, -103.206195
Elevation: 2543′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

This campsite is adjacent to the road and is located across from the Elephant Tusk Trailhead. The site is small. It is easiest to reach this site from the south along the River Road, as opposed to coming from the north via the Glenn Spring and Black Gap Roads. Sometimes water will flow in Fresno Creek after a rain event.

Elephant Tusk 1 (EL-1) can accommodate 1 vehicle, 6 people, no horses. Remote site with very little vehicle traffic. There is no shade at this campsite. There is gravel ground cover with sparse creosote and lechuguilla. Excellent views of Elephant Tusk Mountain and Mariscal Mountain. Road is maintained for high clearance vehicles only. 4×4 may be required.

15. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – K – Bar

Address
Chihuahuan Desert Research Station Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.306854, -103.176644
Elevation: 3428′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

16. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Rice Tank

Address
Glen Springs Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.23008, -103.166555
Elevation: 3136′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

17. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Big Bend NP – Johnson Ranch

Address
Johnson Ranch Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.023484, -103.369957
Elevation: 2087′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

18. Budget Campsites for Big Bend Park – Glen Spring Road

Address
Glen Spring Road
Big Bend National Park, Texas
GPS: 29.257249, -103.15243
Elevation: 3123′

Management – Public – National Park Service

A permit ($12) is required to stay in all backcountry campsites at Big Bend National Park. You may stay up to 14 days with the permit.

Top Trails to Hike at Bend Park

There are numerous hiking paths in Big Bend National Park. There are 77 fantastic paths throughout the park. Plan to visit on a regular basis because you won’t be able to see everything in a day or a week. The Window View Trail, Lost Mine Trail, Emory Peak, Tuff Canyon, Balanced Rock, Hot Spring Trail, Ernst Tinaja, Chisos Basin Loop, and Santa Elena Canyon are just a few of the great hikes in Big Bend National Park. Don’t leave without visiting the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail.

1. Lost Mine Trail

1. Lost Mine Trail Big Bend National Park

The trail is moderate overall with some steep elevation at the top before revealing the most magnificent views of the Park and the Valley. Some shade but sunscreen essential. Well maintained and easy to navigate. Limited parking at the trailhead. Please be cautious and alert as you will be heading into Bear & Mountain Lion country . Enjoyable hike . We finished the trail in under 2 hours.

Length: 4.8 mi
Elevation gain: 1,131 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Forest, Views, Wildlife, Rocky, Fee, No dogs

2. The Window Trail

2. The Window Trail Big Bend National Park

The upper half is a little tedious, but the Window is distinct and intriguing. In evaluations, I’ve noticed a wide range of difficulty ratings – my wife and I are in our sixties and have hiked a lot of trails. This trail was on the easier side of moderate for us. I can see how someone climbing up and out in the heat of the sun might find it unpleasant – we arrived very early. For us, the effort was well worth it. If you only have time for one trail hike, make it Lost Mine! By far the finest value for money.

Length: 5.2 mi
Elevation gain: 948 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Forest, Views, Waterfall, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Fee, No dogs

3. Santa Elena Canyon Trail

3. Santa Elena Canyon Trail Big Bend National Park

This is a simple walk with excellent views. To gain height, stair climbing is required. The rock formations are spectacular and fascinating to observe. It is magnificent as you enter the canyon. This is a great little hike with enough of things to occupy your attention. We went to the canyon via Old Maverick Road (off-roading), which added to the thrill and excitement. For this option, you’ll need high clearance and 4-wheel drive.

Length: 1.4 mi
Elevation gain: 157 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Running, Beach, Rails trails, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Fee, No dogs

4. Big Bend Hot Springs Trail

4. Big Bend Hot Springs Trail

I merely hiked out to the hot springs and back, a total distance of 0.5 kilometers. The trail is flat and sandy, with little in the way of shade. The hot springs area is roughly the size of a huge hot tub, and it quickly fills up with visitors. The route down to the trailhead is dirt and gravel, but it’s not too awful, and it’s passable in most cars (though high clearance will make it easier). There are two parking spaces, one for RVs and trailers halfway down the road and one for automobiles immediately at the trailhead, which was packed when I arrived. It’s best to visit during off-peak hours because both the parking lot and the hot springs can get quite congested.

Length: 1.2 mi
Elevation gain: 144 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Hot springs, River, Views, Rocky, Historic site, Fee, No dogs

5. Basin Loop Trail

5. Basin Loop Trail

Coming down from the Laguna Meadows side of the route, there are some spectacular views. Walking in a clockwise direction is recommended. This is a great trail! We started around 4 p.m. and found the first half to be warm and pleasant, with the sun shining brightly. The sun dropped behind the mountains, and a blast of frigid desert air blew in, turning any perspiration you’d worked up into chill zones. It was a great time!

Length: 2.4 mi
Elevation gain: 465 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Views, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

How to Get To Big Bend

Getting to Big Bend  is easy. You can use two modes of transport, either driving to the park or you can catch a flight to the nearest town and drive to the park.

For driving options there is no public transport and  you will have to drive your car or join a tour group heading to Big Bend Park. Several highways lead to the park including the highway 170 from Presidio to Study Butte,  385 highway heads to Marathon, highway 118 from Alpine to Study Butte.

The nearest airport connections are in the Texas, Midland, El Paso’s airports. If you are wondering after landing how to get to the park, at the airport, they have rental cars to anyone who wishes to proceed to the park.

Costs and Paid Camping For Bend  Park

Big Bend National Park entrance fee is $30 for 15 passengers using a non-commercial vehicle, for private vehicles $30, motorists $25, and individual $15; all the passes are valid for seven days. However, you don’t need to go alone; the government has given free passes to all students who wish to visit the national park.

Did you know you can get an America Beautiful Pass at just $80? This pass will give you access to all the U.S natonal parks for a whole year, which is very economical. A senior with 62 and above can get a lifetime ticket to visit the parks with the same amount of money.

The camping sites cost $16 per night for Cottonwood and Chisos Basin campgrounds. It will cost $10 per night permit at the backcountry campsites.

Places and Things to Do and See

Big Bend Park has many places to offer its visitors. Things to do while in the park are also plentiful. You can enjoy all the beautiful sceneries and learn a lot about the Big Bends National history. It is home to many species, including 1200 plant species, 75 mammals, more than 450 bird species, and 56 reptiles.

While in the park, you can see the Santa Elena Canyon, the tallest in the park and its river, the desert view at the Chimneys trail, where the view is magnificent with volcanic rocks. Hiking throughout the park at different trails is also an activity that you can engage in. You can go to the desert, the mountain, or the rivers for hiking. At the rivers, you can enjoy both boat and rafting, else if you have your passport with you, you can have the privilege of crossing the border to Mexico on a boat or drive through.

You can also enjoy the long drives on of one of the many roads inside the park This will give you ample time to view the desert, high mountains and breath the fresh air of Big Bend Park. Note: many of these road do require a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance.

Things to Do at Big Bend

Big Bend National Park has many fun activities that you as an individual can do, or as a team, family. You can choose your activity. Some of the activities you can do at Big Bend National Park include hiking, mountain climbing, scenic driving, boat riding, horse riding, and stargazing.

How Much Time Do You Need For Your Visit

Big Bend  is large and requires more time to visit than many parks; it will take at least 4 hours to drive to the park from the nearest airport. Due to time required to and from the park, you should plan on at least two to seven days for better explorations and site visiting.

Plan to spend a large amount of time in the park seeing all three distinct areas; Chisos Basin, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive area, and the Rio Grande Village.

Alternative Accommodations and Dining Near Big Bend

Before thinking of visiting Big Bend , you need to consider the accommodation options available near or inside the park. One more thing is that you need to make a reservation before you head to the park if you’re planning to stay and explore the magnificent desert.  The park spots for both RV and tent camping spots are booked full months in advance.

The options are limited inside the park as they have three main campgrounds. If you opt to stay outside Big Bend Park in the nearby town, you will need a nice place to stay that is easy to drive by and gives you the best options.

The accommodation choice may be influenced by the entry point you use. However, they are good hotels on all entry points like the Marathon lodging, Lajitas lodging, National park lodging, outlying lodging, and many more. You need to find the one that suits your needs best.

Best Time to Visit Big Bend

Big Bend National Park is known for its harsh climate during the winter and summer, with the temperature going as high as 100 degrees. You can imagine the heat around the park, different people have different tastes, and thus, the park has three beautiful seasons that anyone can relish; summer, winter, spring.

The best time to visit and have ample time is during the spring season. Big Bend  temperatures are mild. However, expect the park to be occupied by many people although it is large enough to accommodate everyone. During the summer, the hot temperatures can be harsh, and during winter, the climate shifts to freezing and snowing in the desert.

Despite the climates in the desert in all seasons, it is never that bad to experience them. You will be amazed at how ideal it is to visit during summer or winter.

What to Pack For Your Visit To Bend Park

The excitement of visiting a new place or somewhere where you won’t have access to your wardrobe easily can be hectic. Some people enjoy packing while others don’t. You will not need a ton of bags for you to enjoy the adventure.

To ensure you carry all the necessary items you might require while traveling to Big Bend National Park, here are a few things to help you park.

Water bottles are essential in Big Bend , regardless of the season. Other things you need to pack during a summer trip include light clothes, comfortable shoes, a light backpack, hiking gear, snacks, a walking stick, insect repellent, toiletries, sun protection gears, cameras, a first aid kit, and a sleeping bag.

If you are visiting Big Bend park during winter, ensure you carry the following with you, emergency blanket, snowshoes, essential toiletries, food, water, heavy clothes, walking sticks, raincoat, camera, gloves, and a GPS tracker.

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