Let me just say that Big Bend National Park was never on my radar until we moved to Texas. Everyone wants to visit The Great Tetons, Yellowstone, or Bryce Canyon- but Big Bend? Never even heard of it. But I am SO glad we were able to take a long weekend and enjoy what Texas as to offer. If you’re in the area, Big Bend is a must see. I’ll show you a few reasons why…
The drive there was not really what I would call enjoyable, you kind of just feel like you are in the middle of nowhere to be honest. But once you start seeing the the mountains in the distance it really does feel serene. We decided to stay in Terlingua Ghost Town. Ted has also been obsessed with Terlingua because of the movie “Shooter.” I literally can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase “Unmarked graves out past Terlingua…”
There is honestly not a lot to do in Terlingua- but we did find some pretty good food! The BBQ at DB Rustic BBQ was spot on- and they had live music too! We also had drool-worthy pizza at Long Draw Pizza- just thinking about it makes me want more. I have heard great things about the Starlight Theatre for dinner but every time we tried to go the line was enormous and let’s be honest- its too hot to wait outside in the Texas heat for an hour to eat dinner. The Terlingua Trading Co definitely is the spot to stop for all of your souvenir needs. You also have to visit the famous Terlingua Cemetery!
Now- what to do in Big Bend! The park is very close to Terlingua but it really does take a solid 30 minutes to get to any of the trails once inside the park.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail– 1.7mi round trip trail that takes you right along the Rio Grande River. We were able to walk right down the river bed as it was low tide and mostly all dried up. Along the hike we saw a few goats and sheep grazing off the trail. It was HOT but we were pleasantly surprised that it was not crowded when we went.
Lost Mine Trail– 4.8 mile round trip trek that provides panoramic views of the park. In my opinion if you are going to do any hike in the park- this is the one you should do. It really gives you a full view of the park and what it has to offer. Do it first thing in the morning as the mountain side provides plenty of shade as the sun is rising. There is very little parking here but we were able to find a spot when we arrived around 730am.
Rio Grande Village Natural Trail– 1 mi easy loop that provides a different view of the park. You walk thru the wetlands and get to see the Rio Grande from a different view. Be sure to wear bug spray as its along the water and the bugs love it!
Hot springs– .6 mi round trip- We were a little disappointed in the hot springs and did not get in the water but it was still cool to see and it was a really short hike. Now- the drive down to the trail- SKETCHY. This is also why we did not do the Balancing Rock hike as the road is said to be even more sketchy.
Boquillas Canyon Trail– 1.4 mi round trip giving views of the Rio Grande and you can see across the border to the town of Boquillas, Mexico.
We were told about a few other hikes as well- but even the park ranger said that if you do The Lost Mine Trail- you get the same views as some of the much longer hikes in the park. If you are looking to see the views without a long hike the Ross Maxwell Drive is also full of scenic pull offs and gorgeous views along the way.
We rented a cute little airbnb and disconnected for the weekend. The cell service in the entire region is pretty non existent but we did have wifi while at the airbnb. There are plenty of options to rent in Terlingua including- campers, teepees, mini studio homes, yurts, houses, rooms at the lodge, and A-frame mini homes. When booking your lodging remember to take into account how hot it is going to be while you are there. It was well over 100 every day we were there and I could not imagine camping, or staying anywhere that did not have a well equipped AC unit. Don’t forget to grab a blanket and lay it out to stargaze as the night sky here is breath taking. I can’t remember the last time I saw so may twinkling stars in the sky.
Take a day trip to Mexico!
Ted was not able to accompany me to Mexico due to work restrictions so I made the trip alone and it was plenty safe to do solo. You can cross the border from inside the National Park (be sure to take your passport!) Once you get to the border there’s a guy with a rowboat that you can pay to take you across the Rio Grande River to Mexico. It cost $5 and it included you trip back. From there you can choose to rent a donkey, horse, or ride in the back of a pick up with anyone else looking to go into the town of Boquillas. I chose to ride a donkey ($10) into town and I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. (there are also wild donkey along the way!) You are also provided with a tour guide that accompanies you and shows you the way. (don’t forget to tip your tour guide!)
In the town you can buy souvenirs and eat at the family restaurant. Each day their menu changes but they always have ice cold margaritas waiting for you! The town of Boquillas has about 350 people and they are 150 miles from any major city in Mexico. Getting back across the border couldn’t have been easier. Just be sure to know what items you cannot bring back and have your passport ready.
Be sure to pack plenty of water and whatever food you may want for hiking as there’s not much in the area. Theres a small grocery store in Terlingua but that’s about it. The biggest thing I would suggest is to just enjoy it. Something about being surrounded by nature and not having cell service is just kind of…nice, ya know?!
Protip- get engaged!