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Camper's Guide To Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is located in the massive Chihuahuan Desert and is a place where campers can enjoy everything from backpacking to hiking and picnicking to animal watching. This is a national treasure that offers a unique and adventurous place to visit and explore. Those who love the great outdoors will want to experience the many exciting camping-related activities available at Big Bend National Park.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Ground camping is available at Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village and Cottonwood. You can enjoy everything these campgrounds have to offer and be close to all of the fun of this national park. Though each campground is unique, all offer fabulous mountain views, a location close to the river and plenty of shade from surrounding trees. No matter which campground you choose to sleep at, you will have access to trails, picnic areas, horseback riding and mountain biking trails. Reservations for all of these must be made at least four days prior to your arrival.

Primitive car camping is also available in select areas throughout Big Bend, including those with cars and those wanting to backpack it. Those who wish to camp this way can find sites in the desert and along the Rio Grande. Many of these backcountry sites are accessible to most vehicles, including some of those that have a high clearance and some four-wheel drive vehicles. A backcountry use permit is required to use any of these campsites.

RV Campsites

RV owners will want to make sure they plan ahead when visiting Big Bend National Park with their RV. There are campsites available at the Rio Grande Village, but they are limited. Full hookups are available for up to 25 RV units and are often booked far in advance. Other RV parking is available within the Cottonwood and Rio Grande Village car campgrounds. Verify there is space available for your unit before packing it up and making the journey to Big Bend.

Related: Best National Parks For Camping


Hiking is one of the most popular things to do when camping at Big Bend National Park. There are a variety of road-less land featuring more than 150 miles of trails that are prime for hiking. Your hiking adventures will take you along the Rio Grande and through the Chisos Mountains. Hiking opportunities available include desert hikes, mountain hikes and river hikes.


Just like with hiking, Big Bend National Park offers plenty of activities for those wanting to be out experiencing the natural amenities this park has to offer. While at this national park you can enjoy scenic driving, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, stargazing, canoeing, kayaking and wildlife observation. There are also a variety of ranger-led programs that visitors can sign up for and enjoy.

Related: Best Pet-Friendly Camping Spots In Washington DC

Packing Tips

Make sure that you have everything you need before leaving for your getaway. Keep in mind it is the desert, so bring a lot of water and containers. Other things to bring along include a day pack, comfortable walking shoes, a container fuel stove, towels, brags for waste (if primitive camping) and a tent. Even if you do not plan on tent camping, it might be all that is left when you arrive.

If you plan to camp at Big Bend National Park, you are going to want to make sure you are prepared. Depending upon the type of camping you plan to do, you might not have access to a store where you can pick up those items you forgot back home. In additional to all of your camping gear that you want, you will also want to pack:

  • Extra blankets to keep warm when temperatures drop at night
  • Map printouts just in case your GPS is not working within the park
  • Extra fuel and supplies, because it is a long way back to town
  • Extra shoes, just in case you get the ones you are wearing wet
  • Walkie talkies, so you can communicate when you no longer have cell phone coverage

Your visit to Big Bend National Park can be an exciting one. Especially if you plan on camping and becoming one with nature. Camping at this park offers you plenty of opportunity to go out exploring the park and the ability to see some things you might not be able to see at any other national park.

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at
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