Saturday, September 23, 2023


10 best things to do in Big Bend National Park

By Cheri Sicard
Join Magellan and Greyhound in the video below as they count down the 10 things you must do when visiting West Texas’ 800,000-acre Big Bend National Park, one of the country’s largest, yet least-visited, national parks.

Big Bend is one of the team’s favorite national parks. If you like hiking, cycling, canoeing, sightseeing, or soaking in natural hot springs, they predict that you, too, will come to love Big Bend National Park.

Within the park is a good part of the Chihuahua Desert, the entirety of the Chisos Mountains, as well as the Rio Grande, which runs through it. In fact, the giant U-shaped arc that the Rio Grande makes at the border between the U.S. and Mexico is the reason this park got its name.

Be sure to watch the video below for some great national park eye candy. Plus, stick with it to the end as they also talk about additional cool stops very near the park.

So what made the Big Bend National Park top 10 list?

#1 Emory Peak: The highest peak in the Chisos Mountains and the 5th highest peak in Texas at 7,825 feet, the 10-mile round trip hike to the peak will reveal some of the park’s most iconic landscapes and a spectacular view. It is not, however, an easy hike. Especially the bit near the top.

#2 South Rim: Continue from Emory Peak to the South Rim Trail for even more spectacular vistas of the Chisos Mountains and a view of “boot rock.” Doing both these trails will give a 15.6-mile total workout.

#3 Upper Burro Mesa: This is a short, relatively easy, 3.7-mile hike with only about 500 feet of elevation gain. It winds through narrow gorges and a slot canyon with some gorgeous rock formations. The hardest part is the little bit of scrambling required at the end.

#4 Santa Elena Canyon: One of the most amazing places in the park, the Santa Elena Canyon features a 20-mile stretch of the Rio Grande. While there are hikes to see the views, the best way is via paddle, so the team recommends signing on with a local canoe or kayak outfitter.

#5 Fern Canyon: A small side canyon within Santa Elena Canyon can be accessed via paddling and is a great campsite location for tenters. There are also some scenic hikes along the canyon’s limestone formations to enjoy.

#6 Hot Springs: There’s nothing like soothing away the sore muscles of hiking with a long soak in a hot spring. This is one area of the park definitely not to be missed. The springs are right along the river. You can even sit in the hot springs while touching the much colder river water.

#7 Hot Springs Canyon: This is another terrific paddles trip that takes you right by the hot springs, so why not stop off for another soak?

#8 Boquillas Canyon: Yet another kayaking or canoe trip, this is the longest and deepest canyon in Big Bend National Park. At one point you can be ferried across the river into the tiny Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen, where you can enjoy some tacos and shop for souvenirs before returning across the river to the U.S. In the canyon itself, you will find wild horses, burros, and breathtaking views of the steep canyon walls. At 33 miles, plan on spending 3 to 4 days exploring Boquillas Canyon. Doing the trip with a local outfitter saves you the trouble of getting a National Parks Service permit.

#9 Ernst Tinaja: This is a short, flat 1-mile out-and-back hike but it takes a 5-mile drive down a primitive rocky road to get to. You will need a high-clearance vehicle. Tinaja means clay jar in Spanish, and the spectacular scenery here includes layered rock formations containing clear water holes. This hike is especially impressive at sunset.

#10 Dark Sky Park: As spectacular as the scenery at Big Bend National Park is, it arguably gets even better after dark. A designated International Dark Sky Park, there is no light pollution for miles around and the star-watching here is unparalleled. In fact, Big Bend National Park has the darkest skies in the Lower 48 states.

One more word of advice:

This park is VERY remote with emergency services more than 100 miles away. Make sure your vehicle is in good repair and bring emergency and first aid supplies with you just in case. Most of the park is also without cell service, so be prepared to go off-grid for this adventure.



  1. Santa Elena Canyon is not to be missed, although the trail is moderately hard. I’m thinking of getting a Kayak just to paddle up the river. Spectacular views from either route.

  2. After 50 years of traveling, the last eight years as full time RVers, Big Bend remains our favorite place! If your bucket list includes a trip there, go in March or April when the desert flowers are blooming and before it gets too hot!


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