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Big Bend National Park is a Must - For Everyone

Backpackers, Kayakers, Photographers, Car Campers - this place needs to be on your list.

By: Katie Johnson + Save to a List

I'm only a backpacker. A day hiker. A wanderer. A stare-er of all things beautiful. 

But I can assure you this place does not disappoint. 

I just spent a week in the backcountry of Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas. This is one of the last, truly remote, wild corners of the continental United States. 

The mountains, canyons, vistas, wildlife, and the Rio Grande are all there waiting for you!

I spent most of my time backpacking in the Chisos Mountains. These gorgeous mountains are full of life and enormous sights around every switchback. You can pick any trail here and not go wrong with it, but if you want my recommendation, you have to hike Emory Peak. It's the tallest peak in the Park with a 360 view. Even if it's foggy from the clouds, the feeling of being up there is unbeatable. 

The Hot Springs trail was a unique experience as it's adjacent to the Rio Grande and has several historical buildings. You'll see palm trees, little lizards everywhere, and if you go at a time when the Rio Grande isn't flooded, there will be a nice hot spring for you to soak in. 

However, the Southrim Trail was my absolute favorite. This takes you along the edge of an enormous precipice that opens up into the most invigorating view of endless mountains, hills, and creeks -- stretching for as far as you could possibly imagine. The horizon melts into the landscape and you simply cannot take your eyes off it. We camped and ate a couple meals here and were in awe of it's absolute majesty. 

What's great about Big Bend is you don't have to choose. If you want mountains, water, or desert, it's all there. We camped a couple nights in the low desert and were astounded at the remoteness and ample wildlife. 

Honestly, I'm still speechless about this place. But here are my key take-away's:

  • The Moon
    • The moon was SO bright, it felt like a night light. It seriously kept us from sleeping sometimes. Absolutely no light pollution leads to some amazing night skies -- be ready!
  • The Vastness
    • Big Bend is no misnomer. It can take more than an hour to drive to different trailheads. There is gas at the park but it's very expensive, so definitely fill up right before you head into the park. It seemed that no matter how far we drove, we still weren't covering that much distance. That's how huge this place is. And that view from the top of Southrim? It was never ending! There's just so much!
  • The Wildlife
    • I'm still disappointed we didn't see any bears or javellinas. But that means the bear boxes are working. We did see several deer that were hardly scared of us and hung out with us for a bit in the mountains. There are so many birds! From the top of Southrim, we were at eye-level with the clouds and had birds flying above us so close that we could see their detailed under-bellies. Some birds are also very adamant on getting your food. One beautiful blue bird flew right up to me to try to get my gorp. 
  • The Mountains
    • The Chisos are so, so cool. They stand alone in this huge desert, yet are teeming with life and resources. We went during a peculiar October week where they were getting a lot of rain, so we saw them in full bloom. Flowers, trees, leaves, everything was open. There were also plenty of opportunity for water as  the flowing streams and creeks within had reached capacity. 
  • The Rain
    • This one was a very unique experience. It rained on us nearly every night we were there. One night though, it wasn't rain per se, it was a downspurt. The ranger told us this happens when a cloud envelops you in the mountains and every now and then just releases water for a few seconds. This was such a neat experience. The cloud around us, combined with the moon, created this illuminated haze around our spot, with water droplets every now and again. 

I'm confident in saying that I Found My Park! I will return some day and I will always recommend this gorgeous place to any and all who may listen to me. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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