Big Bend

National Park

This is a park that isn't on the way to anywhere, and consequently is hard to get to unless you're a resident of west Texas. It is worth a journey, though. One can fly into Midland, TX and rent a vehicle. Midland is an oil town and doesn't get a lot of tourist traffic, so prices of flights and rental cars often plummet on weekends. And if you're traveling cross-country on I-10, especially in the fall, winter, and spring, don't miss the chance to see Big Bend.

In many ways, this park is more removed from civilization than most others, including some of the Alaska parks. There is no TV reception, no FM radio reception, no AM reception except in Spanish. Newspapers are not available in the park stores till two or three days after publication. If you want to really get away, you can do it here. If you are in the park on a fall Sunday and want to find a place to watch a football game on TV, you'll have to drive over 100 miles to do so. And this is in Texas, where football has the status of a state religion.

Big Bend is first and foremost a desert park. In the center of the park, however, are the rugged and cool (well, cooler than the lower elevations) Chisos mountains, which are an interesting contrast to the lower elevations). This divides the park into two distinct zones. Although summers in Big Bend are hellishly hot, fall, winter, and spring can be very pleasant times to visit. I've visited twice in January, and found very pleasant daytime weather, although I'm told January can just as easily have sub-freezing temperatures.

The broad Rio Grande forms the southern boundary of the park.

Most visitors drive the main roads and hike a trail or two. But a lot of the park is traversed by small dirt roads that are accessible to most cars and all SUV's and trucks. Most of them have remote campsites well away from the main roads. These provide a chance to camp and hike without crowds. Actually, Big Bend is only crowded in the spring- March and April. The fall and winter have lots of good weather and opportunities for enjoying the sunshine, scenery, and clean dry air.

Visit the official site.
Favorite hike: Lost Mine Trail, Pine Canyon Trail.
Favorite place to stay: There is a plain but comfortable lodge in the Chisos Mountains, where I usually stay on winter visits. There are several campgrounds accessible to high-clearance vehicles but well away from most visitors (see above). These would be my first choices. If I felt like a little more civilization, I'd choose Cottonwood Campground near Santa Elena Canyon.
Favorite place to sit for hours: Watching the rays of the setting sun on the Chisos mountains.
Read: The Big Bend, by Ron C. Tyler

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All photography and text by Bill Dummitt (all rights reserved)
Website designed by JULI
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