The Best Camping Near Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Best Camping Near Big Bend National Park, Texas

If remote camping and peaceful solitude is what you’re after, head to campgrounds near Big Bend National Park. Brimming with desert wildlife, meandering hiking trails, and a collision of river, desert, and mountain ecosystems, Big Bend National Park camping is never the same experience twice.

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Check In – Check Out
2 Adults

About Camping Near Big Bend National Park

Home to jaw-dropping flowering cacti as well as desert wildlife from black bears and coyotes to javelinas and white-tailed deer, campgrounds near Big Bend National Park bring you right into the heart of the wilderness. Discover historical sites like the Comanche Trail and archeological sites dating back almost 10,000 years while camping near Big Bend National Park. From volcanoes to fossils, natural history enthusiasts will find endless treasures throughout the park, and hikers can enjoy the 200 miles of trails.

Top Campgrounds Near Big Bend National Park, Texas

View More

Big Bend National Park Camping FAQs

Perched on the edge of America, at Big Bend National Park you’ll find captivating rafting trips along the Rio Grande River, labyrinthine canyons, riverside hot springs, scenic drives, and dinosaurs. Camping in Big Bend National Park is the highlight of many a West Texas roadtrip. It’s also certified as an International Dark Sky Park, meaning you’ll be sleeping under a blanket of stars and dreaming about your next trip before you’re even through. Here’s everything you need to know about camping near the mysterious and alluring Big Bend National Park.

What’s the best time of year to go camping in Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend’s unique blend of mountain and desert means that the park can experience different weather patterns depending on which part you’re in. A simple drive from the Chisos Mountains Range down to the low elevation desert floor can vary in temperature by up to 20°! The juxtaposition of the Chisos Mountain Range and Chihuahuan Desert is one of the features that makes Big Bend so special, but it also means that weather can be unpredictable.

The best time to go camping in Big Bend is in winter, from December to February, when the temperatures are mild, even in the desert regions, and rainfall is minute. Spring and fall are also great seasons to camp, although temperatures can trend to hot. The wet season, in the summer months from June to September, can see flash flooding and menacing thunderstorms.

What should I pack for camping near Big Bend National Park?

Here are a few things to consider bringing to make the hot desert days and cool, arid nights more enjoyable.

  • Binoculars
  • Water purifier
  • Star map
  • Bug spray
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunshirt
  • Hat
  • Headlamps or flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Map
  • Waterproof matches
  • Multi-tool
  • Biodegradable wet wipes
  • Lip balm with SPF


Big Bend sees differing weather depending on the part of the park. Wear layers and bring insulating clothing like wool thermal underclothes, hats, gloves, and coats in the winter months. While cold spells are rare, they do occur from time to time.

Water Purification

Big Bend National Park’s location in the Chihuahuan Desert might make you think there won’t be much water around, but there are five rivers flowing through this national park alone. The largest and most pervasive is the Rio Grande, snaking its way along the border of Mexico and Texas. Having a water purifier or iodine tablets on hand can be a lifesaver in the backcountry. Always be sure to purify water you collect from natural resources before drinking.

What are the top outdoor activities near Big Bend National Park?

From spotting shooting stars and tracing the constellations, to hiking through cacti or up to mountaintops, here are the top outdoor activities near Big Bend National Park.


Hiking is one of the best ways to see Big Bend up close and personal. Whether you want to traipse along the river beds, summit mountain peaks, or get up close to the cacti, there’s a trail for you. Some of the most revered are the Window Trail and Santa Elena Canyon Trail.


The Rio Grande is a water-lover’s oasis in the desert heat. Floating trips are one of the most delightful and fascinating ways to see Big Bend National Park. Float through the towering walls of the Santa Elena Canyon or the stunning bluffs of Mariscal Canyon—whatever you choose, you’ll be rewarded with rugged views and an interesting perspective.

Hot Springs Hopping

In winter, the Hot Springs Trail in Big Bend sees a sudden influx of patrons. This hot spring, located right along the banks of the Rio Grande, has been a point of relaxation and healing for thousands of years. Pictographs line stone walls near the hot springs. Come here to soak away your worries after a long day on the trails.

Star Gazing

Big Bend’s remote location gives way to crystal clear night skies, especially in winter. In fact, Big Bend is known for having the lowest amount of light pollution out of all the national parks in the contiguous United States. Gaze up at an indigo quilt to discover constellations and wish upon a shooting star.

What major sights should I see in Big Bend National Park?

While the major sights in Big Bend National Park are, of course, the far-reaching views, desert mesas, and craggy mountains, there are a few extras to see along the way. Here are some of the best major sights, aside from the natural wonders, in Big Bend National Park.

Fossil Discovery Exhibit

Big Bend’s geological footprint is chock-full of fossils—over 1,200 kinds to be exact. Shockingly intact dinosaur fossils have been found in the park, including a giant pterosaur, tyrannosaur, hadrosaurs, and a giant alligator. The Fossil Discovery Exhibit teaches the next generation of paleontologists and curious adults all about the areas entrancing fossils and diverse geology.

Homer Wilson Ranch

The Homer Wilson Ranch is a historic homestead nestled within Big Bend and touted as one of the largest in all of Texas at the time it was established in 1929.

Terlingua, TX

Terlingua is an eccentric little desert village that was once an original mining settlement located on Big Bend’s doorstep. Pop in to see the eerie ghost town and grab a souvenir to commemorate your trip at the Terlingua Trading Company. A prickly pear margarita at the Starlight Theatre Saloon is just the cherry on top.

Marfa, TX

One of the most quirky enclaves in the Lone Star State is Marfa, Texas, less than a three-hour drive from the entrance to Big Bend. Home to a flourishing arts scene, a surprising foodie scene, and the infamous Marfa Lights, Marfa can’t be missed on a trip to West Texas.

Are there any national parks or state parks near Big Bend National Park?

While Big Bend National Park is the star of the show in this region of Texas, there are a couple exciting day trips that are worth your while. Here are the best state parks near Big Bend.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is a continuation of the beauty and awe-inspiring scenery and environments you’ll find in Big Bend National Park. If you’re still craving more after your trip through the national park, this is the place to seek out. From mountain biking the rocky trails to channeling your inner cowgirl on horseback, Big Bend Ranch State Park has a lot to offer the adventurous outdoorsmen.

Balmorhea State Park

Craving a reprieve from the startling desert heat? Only two hours from Big Bend is the tranquil Balmorhea State Park, known for the world’s largest swimming pool that is fed entirely by natural springs. This is the perfect place to set up camp and cool off in the middle of the desert.

Where are the best places to eat near Big Bend National Park?

For its remote location in the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park has a surprising variety of delicious restaurants and saloons to grab a meal. Sip a prickly pear margarita and reward yourself with chicken fried antelope after a hard day’s hike. Here are some of the best places to eat near Big Bend National Park.

Chisos Mountain Lodge

(Big Bend National Park)

Located in the heart of the park, the Chisos Mountain Lodge offers a breakfast buffet and Tex-Mex specialties for lunch and dinner. This is the only restaurant within the park itself and also a great spot to stock up on ice, water, ice cream, snacks, and other goodies before making camp.

Bad Rabbit Cafe


The Bad Rabbit Cafe, housed within the Terlingua Ranch, is a great place to grab country-inspired dishes like chicken fried steak and fried okra, as well as cheeseburgers and fries. The perfect meal after hiking all day. There’s even live music in the evenings!

Starlight Theatre Restaurant & Saloon


A historic landmark in isolated Terlingua, TX, the Starlight Theatre Restaurant is a permanent fixture near the historic and spooky ghost town. They feature a full bar with specialty margaritas and local dishes like the Texas Antelope Burger, mesquite smoked brisket, and their famous Terlingua chili.

Candelilla Café


Tucked away in tiny Lajitas, TX is the Candelilla Café. Their delicious menu of American favorites with a Texas twist includes ocotillo bites, tortilla soup, and the Lajitas fajitas. The Thirsty Goat Saloon, right next door, also serves up homemade pizzas and other bar food.

12 Gage Restaurant


One of the only upscale restaurants near Big Bend National Park, 12 Gage is an ode to rustic but elegant fare like fried quail and beef tenderloin. Their wine list is also curated and extensive.

What are some camping mistakes to avoid when camping near Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend National Park is a stunning wilderness with sweeping views of mesas, cacti, and the undulating Rio Grande River cutting its way through the desert. The national park is remote and isolated, making it extremely important to heed local warnings. Stop by the visitor center on arrival to talk with park rangers, get their perspective on current park conditions, and learn of potential dangers. Here are a few things to take into consideration before camping near Big Bend National Park.

Not Bringing Enough Water

The best rule to follow if you’re wondering how much drinking water to bring along is a half liter an hour for each member of your group—possibly even more if you’re doing a strenuous activity in the desert heat, like hiking.

Sun Protection

Heat and sunstroke are one of the most common problems hikers and campers run into when recreating in Big Bend. The sun can be sweltering in the months of June through September. Even just feeling thirsty means you might already be dehydrated. Bring plenty of water along for everyone in your group.

A great tool for making sure you stay hydrated while hiking around is a water bladder that can easily slip into your day bag. Always bring electrolyte replacement when hiking in desert and hot climates. Water alone often isn’t enough to replenish your body’s salt levels.

Fire Safety

Campfires are not allowed anywhere in Big Bend National Park. While this may be disappointing, it’s crucial to protecting the beautiful but arid environment. Be extra cautious when cooking food over charcoal or gas stoves that embers and small flames don’t leap away.

Wildlife Safety

Rattlesnakes, peccaries, black bears, and mountain lions—these are just some of the potentially dangerous animals you might encounter when camping in Big Bend National Park. Proper food storage is one way to ensure that curious and hungry animals won’t wander into your camp. Making noise while hiking can help let animals know you’re coming.

What wild animals might I encounter while camping in Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend National Park is an incredible destination for animal lovers and bird watchers alike. From collared peccaries to bobcats, you’re bound to see a myriad of wildlife on a camping trip to the park. Some of the mammals you might see include big brown bats, black bears, gray foxes, and coyotes. The Mexican long nosed bat, an endangered species, is also found in Big Bend National Park and. You might see them feasting on agave nectar. Dozens of lizards scurry through this desert landscape like Texas horned lizards and Leopard lizards. Catfish are common in the depths of the muddy Rio Grande River and a few endangered species like Big Bend Gambusia and Mosquitofish might also make an appearance.

Potentially dangerous wildlife also call the park home. Rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and black bears are the most common threatening species you might encounter. Keep your distance and more often than not these creatures won’t approach you. Steer clear of areas where you hear the telltale rattle of a snake, and fight back if mountain lions or black bears try to attack.

What kind of camping is available in Big Bend National Park?

There are both developed and backcountry campsites available, depending on your needs. Backcountry camping will require a permit obtained before the start of your trip, so keep that in mind while planning. There are only four developed campgrounds within the park itself, and all sites require a reservation well in advance.

What are some benefits to camping outside of Big Bend National Park in a private campground?

Camping near Big Bend National Park in a private campground affords that little touch of luxury that goes far in making you feel at home in the great outdoors. Clean bathroom facilities, hot showers, playgrounds, and community gathering spaces are just some of the features you can expect from a private campground versus the often primitive facilities found within the national park itself.

Private campground options are plentiful near the national park. Some of the best include the Midland RV Campground and the Maverick Ranch RV Park, which has a golf course, pool, and dog park.

Is there free camping in Big Bend National Park?

There are 64 primitive campsites sprinkled throughout Big Bend National Park. They all require you purchase a backcountry permit ahead of time to use them. This means that they’re not technically free, although fees are minimal. These can be secured online or in person at the visitor center. The trick is that they must be reserved 24 hours in advance of your stay. Primitive RV sites are limited and only a few can accommodate large vehicles. Boondocking and dispersed camping aren’t allowed due to the fragile desert environment.

Camp Guides