You Can See Mexico From Here – Big Bend National Park

This winter David and some of his best friends decided to fly to Texas so we could visit Big Bend National Park. This has been on our backpacking group’s “bucket list” for quite a while and is one of the places that we could visit without worrying about freezing weather.

Big Bend is one park that is not near any major cities and it requires some driving to get there. The two nearest commercial airports are in Midland, Texas or El Paso, Texas. The prices for car rental, etc., were less expensive in El Paso so that is where we met before renting an SUV.

We typically pack tents, camp stoves, and sleeping bags in our luggage so we can camp in the national parks themselves. This has worked very well for us and we have been able to visit such wonderful places such as Glacier, Denali, Yosemite, Arches, and Zion National Parks.

It took a good bit of the day to fly into El Paso from the East Coast, so the first night we stayed in the small town of Alpine, TX. I have no idea how this small desert community got this name. One of the things we did learn about Alpine, from a local, was that she was there to go to “rodeo school” to become a rodeo clown.

The next morning we headed toward Big Bend passing through the town of Marathon, TX and stopped there to visit the historic Gage Hotel. It was a great stop and a place we would love to book a stay in the future. The town is even smaller than Alpine but has this hotel that sets it apart. As you can tell from the photos, it would make for a holiday.

Upon entering Big Bend National Park, the first stop was the Fossil Discovery Center. This open air venue houses various exhibits of the area’s prehistoric past. Since it was early in the season, we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed seeing various dinosaur remains and other displays in the building. For children who love prehistoric animals, this place would be especially interesting

We made our way up to the Chisos Mountains to setup for the night. The Chisos Basin area is a result of volcanic activity and has carved out a large “hole in the ground” that has a campground, visitor center, and lodge within the basin.

The most prominent view from the basin is the Casa Grande mountain.

At over 5,000 feet of elevation above sea level, the campground is one of the coolest spots in the park as well. One of the park’s popular hikes is the Window Trail. The trailhead begins at the campground.

The Window Trail follows a wash that leads to a dramatic pour over at the end of the trail.

The water flow and volcanic activity has created unusual rock formations that are easily visible along the way. The well maintained trail also has sections with rock steps.

There are multiple dirt roads that lead to interesting sites to explore within the park. The Palm Canyon road is one of these and it is beautiful. There are primitive campsites along this road that have to be some of the best in any park. At the end of the road is the Palm Canyon Trail.

Another one of these dirt roads is the Dagger Flats road. A ranger recommended that we explore this area for its unique landscape and plant life. There is a guided brochure that can be downloaded to explain various features along the way. This sparsely traveled way was interesting to check out.

Yet another primitive road is Grapevine Hills. At the end of this road is the Balanced Rock Trail. It was an easy hike that has interesting rock formations on each side of the trail. This popular short trail ends at an amazing rock formation.

Another popular trail is the Lost Mine Trail. This hike afforded some of the best views of our trip. From the trail’s high point there are 360 degree views of the Chisos Mountains and beyond.

The Old Ore Road leads to a unique formation called Ernst Tinaja. The trail follows a large wash that contains several “tanks” that collect water during infrequent rains. A wash is a riverbed that only flows during times of rainy weather. Big Bend has many of these that are so common in the desert Southwest.

The park contains signs of past inhabitants of the area. One of these is the Dugout Wells homestead in which the wind turbine has been restored now to pump water into a small area for the benefit of the wildlife there.

Big Bend National Park resides within the 250,000 square mile Chihuahuan Desert. This desert which spans two countries is one of the most diverse and contains plants found in no other location. It has been amazing for me to see how different deserts can be. We have been able to visit places such as Organ Pipe National Monument, Joshua Tree National Park, White Sands National Park, and Arches National Park. All of these have very different environments but are within four of the United States deserts. These are the Sonoran, Chihuahaun, Mohave, and Great Basin deserts. You can select the links above to view some of the photos from those ecosystems.

There is just too much to see and do to fit this large park into one post. Next we go down to the Rio Grande to explore, float, hike, and and visit Mexico.

2 thoughts on “You Can See Mexico From Here – Big Bend National Park

  1. Glad you got yo visit the Chisos area. We also enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit on our trip in April 2021, however we were disappointed when we were not allowed in the Chisos area because of a fire. By the way, we were able to cross the Rio Grande river in the Santa Alena canyon and actually stand on the Mexican shore line. Big Bend was a surprising park.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I remembered that you had visited Big Bend! The water was particularly high in the river while we visited and it would not have been possible to cross at Santa Elena but i can surely see that you could. The trail crossing was blocked because of the high water and everyone had to cross upstream to access the trail. Soon our next post on Santa Elena will be coming out. It was a great place to take pictures.


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