big bend national park entrance sign

RVing Big Bend National Park


If you’re looking to get a little more off the beaten path from the country’s more classic national parks, take a trip to one of the nation’s final frontiers. Texas’ Big Bend National Park, tucked into the state’s southwestern corner on the border with Mexico, offers amazing opportunities for those looking for an exciting vacation with their camper or RV rental. Plus, Big Bend National Park is one of the country’s least visited, meaning you’ll have thousands of miles of open space all to yourself. Here we’ll go through everything you need to know: camping with a RV in and around the park, suggested itineraries and all the exciting things awaiting you in Big Bend.


To get started, arriving at Big Bend National Park is no small feat. To achieve the sublime solitude within the park, you’ll have to drive quite a ways from any major town. If flying into Texas before your camper rental, it is best to fly to Del Rio or Midland, which are both about 250 miles from the park. It is also possible to fly to El Paso or San Angelo, which are 300+ miles from the park. Searching for RV Rental Big Bend National Park you won’t find much. So you may as well check, RV rental Midland, TX or RV rental El Paso  for better selection. Once you’ve arrived in Texas, good gateway towns are either Marathon, Alpine or Presidio, all of which are 100-150 miles from their nearest park


RV rental Big Bend


The NPS offers four different campsites available for RVs within the park borders. One of them, Rio Grande Village RV Campground, is reserved exclusively for RVs and offers 25 sites with full hookups. However, given the limited spaces, it is best to reserve well in advance, which you can do over the phone (1-877-386-4383 or 432-477-2293). Three other in-park campgrounds are open to RVs, but don’t provide full hookups. These are the Rio Grande Village Campground, the Cottonwood Campground, and the Chisos Basin Campground. Be sure to research beforehand, however, as some are not suitable for larger RVs and don’t allow generators. These sites need only be reserved during the peak season of November to April/May. See the National Park Services website for more information. If you can’t find a suitable campground within the park, you can also check out Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, at the far western end of the park, and Stillwell Ranch RV Park, just north.


Once you’ve found your overnight spot, take time to explore everything this amazing park has to offer. A great first stop is the Panther Junction Visitor Center at the park’s headquarters. Chances are your drive there will be an attraction itself. Three of the park’s five scenic drives start or end at Panther Junction. You can get there from the Rio Grande Village, Persimmon Gap and the Maverick Entrance Station. The complex offers backcountry and river permits, as well as special exhibits about the history and nature of the park. Here, you can also talk to rangers about hikes and other activities. Ranger-led hikes are highly recommended as they can provide more information and guidance for first-time visitors or less experienced hikers. There are also visitor centers at each major entrance and area of the park.


After checking in at the visitor center, take another drive on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a 30-mile route taking you to the Santa Elena Canyon, a breathtaking cliff edge 1,500 feet above the Rio Grande. From here there are hiking trails down into the canyon, or you can continue on the drive. Also along the way is the Castolon Historic District, where you can see Big Bend’s old ranches. As always, be sure to check road conditions on your desired route before your departure.


As with any U.S. national park, you can’t visit without taking a day hike. Thankfully, Big Bend National Park has something to offer for every difficulty level and has multiple different terrains. Depending on your preference and length of stay, you can pick and choose between desert, mountain and river hikes. There are also two short wheelchair accessible routes available. The park’s Chihuahuan Desert is best for beginners, and also offers many chances for birdwatching. The desert is where you’ll find most of the shorter and lower elevation hikes, although there are moderate and more difficult hikes available. Most are located either near a Visitor Center or off of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.


The mountain routes are for more experienced hikers, as all listed day hikes are of moderate or strenuous difficulty. However, the Chisos Mountains offer spectacular views no matter your experience with hiking, as one of the wheelchair accessible routes begins at the Chisos Basin Trailhead. For a medium difficulty hike, the favorites are the Window Trail (5.6 miles) and the Lost Mine Trail, which offer great views of the park and its flora. For advanced hikers, take the Emory Peak trail (10.5 miles), which leads to the highest point in the park. No matter the length or difficulty of your hike, always make sure to bring more than enough water and food, and monitor your health and that of your group’s.


rio grande river big bend np

Lastly, a trip to Big Bend National Park is not complete without a jaunt on the Rio Grande. The famous river, whose curving path gives the park its name, also marks the U.S. border with Mexico. Due to the river’s length and status as an international border, it is recommended to take tours using local outfitters. Popular companies include Angell Expeditions, Big Bend Boating and Hiking Company, and Big Bend River Tours, among others (The National Park Service website offers a complete listing). Between rafting, fishing and overnight, you’re sure to find a tour that suits your needs. The river is quite literally the cornerstone of the park, and it is one of the best vantage points to see the park’s majestic canyons and varied wildlife.


No matter what you end up doing in Big Bend National Park, be sure to end your day in a cozy campground, enjoying some of the best stargazing in the nation. To learn more about anything mentioned in this article, or to see more of what’s on tap at Big Bend, be sure to visit the National Park Service website, at