Big Bend National Park is arguably the crown jewel of Texas.
Spanning over 800,000 acres, this remote national park (over 200 miles from the nearest major city) is truly one of the last frontiers in the contiguous United States.
Not only does Big Bend encompass the entire Chisos Mountain range, but it’s also home to three mammoth canyons, carved out by the powerful Rio Grande, as well as miles upon miles of rugged yet beautiful desert.
Although there are a lot of great ways to explore Big Bend, camping is perhaps the ultimate way to experience the silence and solitude of this sprawling natural wonderland.
Here’s how to find the best camping in Big Bend National Park.
Best Campgrounds in Big Bend National Park
Camping in Big Bend is a special experience whether you pitch a tent or haul an RV. With four diverse campgrounds, including an RV park with full hookups, every camper is sure to find a campsite that suits them.
Here are the best campgrounds in Big Bend National Park:
Chisos Basin Campground
Dates Open: Year-Round
# of Sites: 60
Chisos Basin Campground has 60 total campsites. 26 are reservable ahead of time. No hookups are available, the campsites are small, and the roads are narrow. Although best suited for tent camping, trailers up to 19 feet and RVs up to 24 feet are welcome.
The campground is located in one of the park’s most popular and scenic areas. It’s nestled among towering, rocky cliffs high in the Chisos Mountains. Excellent hiking trails are available just minutes from the campground as well as Big Bend’s only in-park restaurant at the nearby Chisos Mountain Lodge.
Learn more about Chisos Basin Campground.
Dates Open: Year-Round
# of Sites: 24
Cottonwood Campground has 24 total campsites. No advance reservations are available. All sites are first-come, first-served. Although there are no hookups or RV dump station (and generators are prohibited), the campground is spacious enough to accommodate most RVs and trailers in addition to tents.
Tucked away in the southwestern corner of the national park, this Big Bend campground is quiet and peaceful. Although it’s small, it rarely fills up thanks to its remote location. But that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. The proximity to the Rio Grande and the shade from dozens of cottonwood trees makes this desert oasis the perfect place to escape the often scorching Texas heat.
Learn more about Cottonwood Campground.
Rio Grande Village Campground
Dates Open: Year-Round
# of Sites: 100
The most popular campground in Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande Village Campground has 100 total campsites. Out of these, 43 are reservable in advance. Although no RV hookups are available and most sites are only large enough for tents, RVs up to 40 feet are welcome in select spots.
Part of what makes this campground so special is its location next to the Rio Grande. It’s tucked away in a scenic part of the national park with shady cottonwood trees all around. The campground is just a short drive from the famous Boquillas Hot Springs, one of the best hot springs in Texas.
Learn more about Rio Grande Village Campground.
Rio Grande Village RV Campground
Dates Open: Year-Round
# of Sites: 25
Rio Grande Village RV Campground is home to the best RV camping in Big Bend National Park.
Although RVs are allowed at other Big Bend campgrounds, this RV Park is the only in-park location with full RV hookups. It can also accommodate even the largest RVs and has an RV dump station. Advance reservations are available for 20 of the sites. The remaining 5 are available on a first-come first-served basis.
Not only will Big Bend RV campers enjoy the scenic location, just minutes from the Rio Grande and directly beside the Rio Grande Village Campground, but many of the park’s most popular attractions, such as the stunning Boquillas Canyon, ae located nearby.
Learn more about Rio Grande Village RV Campground.
Backcountry Camping in Big Bend National Park
Big Bend boasts a large variety of backcountry camping opportunities for those that want to explore its vast undeveloped areas. Your options include:
- Backpacking – 42 designated backcountry campsites are available for those backpacking in Big Bend National Park.
- Primitive Roadside Campsites – At least 10 primitive campsites are available along Big Bend’s many primitive backcountry roads. These offer campsites a great way to experience the backcountry without backpacking in. Many of the campsites are located on improved dirt roads while some are located on primitive dirt roads.
- Wilderness Camping – A handful of wilderness campsites are available to those backpacking in areas of the national park without designated backcountry campsites.
- Horse Camping – Several backcountry campsites in Big Bend are able to accommodate horses (especially the primitive roadside campsites). Hannold Draw even has a corral large enough to accommodate up to 8 horses total.
- River Rafting – Rafting as well as canoeing and kayaking are among the best ways to experience camping in Big Bend. Several riverside campgrounds alongside the Rio Grande are available for those on multi-night river excursions.
Know that a backcountry use permit is required for camping in all backcountry areas, including backpacking campsites and primitive roadside campsites.
Because of its remote location and extreme environment, it’s very important to follow proper backcountry preparation and safety best practices when backpacking in Big Bend National Park.
These best practices include proper food storage, carrying enough water (and knowing where to locate backcountry water sources), and knowing how to identify the signs of flash floods as well as how to avoid camping in potential flash flood zones.
Of course, following all Big Bend backcountry rules and regulations as well as adhering to the leave no trace principles are also of utmost importance.
Winter Camping in Big Bend National Park
The best time to go camping in Big Bend National Park is in the spring or fall.
It will be warm during the day (but not too hot) and never too cold at night. However, the nights can get a little chilly due to the high elevation, so plan accordingly.
Spring is the best time to visit Big Bend if you hope to observe the beautiful desert wildflowers in bloom.
Summer, on the other hand, is perhaps the worst time to visit. Temperatures regularly skyrocket to over 100°F during the day. If you do visit in the summer, it’s extremely important to stay well hydrated at all times. You should also wake up early to get in activities, like hiking, before peak daytime temperatures.
Camping in Big Bend in winter actually isn’t so bad. In fact, if you can put up with a little bit of cold, it’s a positively beautiful time to visit the park. Stargazing in Big Bend during the winter is hard to beat.
Unlike many national parks, winters in Big Bend typically aren’t extremely cold. The weather is generally relatively mild with infrequent cold snaps that bring freezing temperatures and sometimes a little snow. Winter days often hover around 70°F but plummet to around 32°F at night thanks to the national park’s mountainous location.
Despite the relatively mild winter weather, it’s still essential to come prepared for winter camping with a quality winter sleeping bag and a winter tent. A tent heater is also useful for getting through cold mornings and evenings at the campground.
Best Lodging in Big Bend National Park
Camping in Big Bend isn’t for everyone. Luckily, a single lodge is available for those that prefer to stay indoors rather than brave the outdoors overnight.
Here is the best lodging in Big Bend National Park:
Chisos Mountain Lodge
Dates Open: Year-Round
# of Rooms: 72
Chisos Mountain Lodge is the only lodge/hotel in Big Bend National Park.
It’s located in the scenic Chisos Basin underneath towering rock formations. Visitors enjoy beautiful views of the basin as well as the surrounding Chisos Mountains.
This Big Bend lodge is open year-round and boasts 72 total rooms. In addition to a selection of motel and hotel rooms, the lodge also offers five cottage rentals. Known as the Roosevelt Stone Cottages, they are the most popular accommodations at the lodge – so make sure to book early.
Chisos Mountain Lodge has a gift shop and general store. It’s also home to the only restaurant in the national park.
Learn more about Chisos Mountain Lodge.
Best Things to Do in Big Bend National Park
Camping is just one of many ways to enjoy Big Bend. Don’t forget to check out the following activities to experience this beautiful Texas national park to its fullest.
Here are the best things to do on your Big Bend National Park camping trip:
- Hiking – Day hiking is one of the best ways to explore the mountains and rivers of Big Bend. Over 150 miles of trails are available to hikers of all skill levels. The Window View Trail and Lost Mine Trail are two of the best hikes in Big Bend.
- Backpacking – For the adventurous, backpacking in Big Bend will take you into areas few other visitors get to see. A few of the best backpacking routes include the Mesa De Anguila Trail and the Marufo Vega Trail.
- Scenic Drives – Perhaps the most popular way to see the park while camping in Big Bend is to take a scenic drive. Explore more than 100 miles of paved roads to see many of the park’s most famous sites without getting out of your vehicle.
- Horseback Riding – Horseback riding is another popular way to see Big Bend National Park up close and personal. Bring your own horses or join a guided horseback tour via a local outfitter. Big Bend is perfect for short day rides as well as overnight horseback riding excursions.
- River Adventures – Rafting, kayaking, and canoeing in the Rio Grande are all very popular in Big Bend. Bring your own watercraft or join a guided expedition via a local outfitter. You can even camp overnight on a multi-night river rafting trip through this Texas national park.
- Bird Watching – Few places in the United States are better for birdwatching than Big Bend National Park. Although there are a ton of great spots to see birds, Chisos Basin is an excellent place to see a variety of species, no matter the time of the year.
- Wildflowers – Go camping in Big Bend in early spring to take in the beautiful wildflower blooms. Hundreds of wildflower species exist in the park. Late summer to early fall is another time to experience the majesty of Big Bend wildflowers
- Boquillas Hot Springs – Make the trek to Boquillas Hot Springs for a unique way to enjoy the day while camping in Big Bend National park. The natural geothermal pools rest at a hot 105°F and are accessible most of the year (although the river is sometimes too high). A short 1-mile roundtrip hike is required to reach the hot springs.
- Stargazing – The remoteness of Big Bend National Park and its desert location make it the perfect place for stargazing while camping. In fact, it has the least light pollution of any national park in the contiguous United States.
- Ranger Programs – Big Bend offers a variety of ranger programs throughout the year, including guided walks, campfire talks, stargazing with telescopes, junior ranger programs, and so much more.
For more ways to fill your time while camping in Big Bend, check out the national park service’s things to do in Big Bend page.
Find the Best Camping in Other National Parks!
Going camping in a different national park other than Big Bend?
Then our national park camping guides are for you. Although we’re constantly adding new guides to our collection, a few of our current most popular include:
- Grand Teton National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Mount Rainer National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
Our state camping guides are also helpful to plan your Big Bend camping trip. In addition to our guide to the best camping in Texas, other popular state camping guides include:
And, make sure to check out our RV rental tool and our guide to renting an RV if you plan to rent an RV for your Big Bend camping trip.
Happy camping! Let us know if you have any more questions!
Sunday 17th of November 2019
Big Bend is one of my bucket list places to go.
Just the pictures of the different campgrounds in this article are beautiful.
Winter camping isn't my forte, but the picture with the snow is something else. I might just have to try it!