We just spent an amazing week at Big Bend National Park. I heard this is one of the least visited national parks probably because it is so remote and far away from everything. If you decide to visit, you should plan on spending a few days there. Not only is it a long drive to the park entrance, but just driving around the park itself takes a long time. This park is BIG! It is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. We spent 3 days visiting the 3 main sections, and each area is several miles away from the others. The really neat thing about this park is that the 3 main areas are all so different. You can visit the river, the mountains and the desert all in one park.
The River: Rio Grande Village
We spent the first day hiking the trails at the Rio Grande Village. Big Bend is on the border of Mexico and is separated from Mexico by the Rio Grande River. One thing I found very interesting was how narrow the river is and how easy it is for anyone to cross over to the other side. Of course it’s illegal to do that so we didn’t but I was so tempted to just go stand on the other side of the river and get my picture in Mexico. I really didn’t feel like getting arrested though so I didn’t. 🙂
Below are some pictures from our various hikes around the river.
In the picture below there is a camp of people from Mexico with their horses.
The people across the river sometimes sneak over and leave little trinkets for tourists to purchase (shown below). I guess they use the honor system expecting that you’ll leave money for any items you purchase. One of the park rules is to not purchase these items as they are considered contraband. And since we wanted to follow the rules we didn’t buy anything. However, I do feel sorry for these people. Before America started requiring passports for us to cross over into Mexico, people used to come and go freely and support businesses on the other side of the river. The passport regulations hurt a lot of businesses in Mexico because now it is so difficult to just cross over for dinner or to buy some souvenirs. I’m not trying to get into a political discussion regarding immigration laws, and I do see the need for border security, but visiting this park opened my eyes to other perspectives.
The two pictures below are at the hot springs. This water was very hot and since it was so hot outside it did not feel very nice to sit in this. We ended up going in the river to cool off. I guess we don’t always follow the rules because we weren’t really supposed to go into the river.
See how easy we could have just stepped over into Mexico?
The next day we went for a drive on the “River Road” between Lajitas and Presidio. National Geographic described this as one of the most scenic drives in the United States. The views were absolutely breathtaking!
The Mountains: Chisos Basin
Later that afternoon we went back into the park to hike in the mountains.
Doesn’t this sign make you want to hike there? Don’t worry Mom, we didn’t encounter any lions or bears. Thankfully we didn’t see any rattlesnakes all week either which is what I was most afraid of seeing.
The opening in the mountains below is called “The Window”.
We tried to time it so we would get to The Window in time for the sunset, but we were a little early. We didn’t wait around for it because it was so hot and the bugs right at this spot were horrendous.
The Desert: Castolon
On our third day we hiked in the canyons and desert.
Cool fossil looking thing in the wall. Looks like a big fish, shark maybe?
Nice shady spot for a cool drink.
I love when they act like they like each other! 🙂
The ruins of an old house at the Sam Nail Ranch. We also saw a windmill with a well that the Nail family made which is still working today!
This area looked like a ghost town.
We saw some really neat looking desert plants. I’m amazed that these plants can grow and flower in such a dry climate.
Colorful lizard. Doesn’t look like the lizards we have in Florida.
We ended the day at the ranger station where the kids earned their first of hopefully many Junior Ranger badges. At each National Park we visit we can get a Junior Ranger booklet that teaches the kids about the park. While visiting they need to do the activities in the booklet and then return to the ranger station when they are done so the ranger can award them with a Junior Ranger badge and certificate. They also have to raise their right hand and repeat after the ranger a pledge about protecting and supporting the national park.
Visiting this park was such an amazing experience. I was in awe of the beauty of God’s Creation! I am so thankful for my family’s health so that we can do these hikes together. I am thankful that we live in an RV and can travel to these far away places that we otherwise would never have seen. I am thankful that I have legs so that I can walk around places like this. I am thankful that I have eyes that can see the spectacular scenery that my God made. Sappy? Yes, but after the incredible sights I have seen this week I can’t help it. 🙂
It is also so rewarding to hear my kids say this was their favorite trip so far. I wasn’t sure how much they would like hiking around a National Park and learning the history, especially since they are so used to going to Disney World and riding rides. A National Park is so different since there are no rides and no artifical entertainment. I was happy to see how much they enjoyed themselves and how much they learned.
Next I just have a few tips about visiting. We were there during the off-season. The peak season is from November through April. I realize now why this is the off-season — it is so hot! The nice thing about being there during the off-season is it is not the least bit crowded. But it would be nice to hike these trails in cooler weather.
Another tip: if you plan to RV here, there are several campgrounds within the park, but only one with full hookups that can accommodate a larger rig. We almost stayed at that one, but I’m glad we didn’t. It is literally just a parking lot with hookups. We ended up staying at the Maverick Ranch RV Park at Lajitas Golf Resort. It is about a 20 mile drive to the entrance to Big Bend. The longer drive each day was a little inconvenient, but the resort was so nice it was worth it. It also costs the same as staying at a full hookup site within the park. And after those very hot hiking days, it was so nice to come back to a campground that had a pool to cool off in. Below are some pictures of the resort.
Below is the view from our campsite. Not crowded at all! I guess we were one of the few people crazy enough to come here at this time of the year.
Cute boardwalk of shops at the resort.
The Lajitas town mayor is a beer drinking goat!
I know this was a long post and if you’re still reading, thank you! I hope you enjoyed this post about Big Bend and I hope you’ll be able to visit yourself someday and experience all of the beautiful sites in person because my pictures just don’t do it justice.