Big Bend National Park - December


Oct 7, 2014
Big Bend has always been on my "to do" list, and I'm helping plan a trip for a group of college students during winter break.

The logistics of getting there are tough, and I'd to hear about route suggestions, water availability, and any other advice from those who've backpacked there. Ideally, looking for a 3-4 day trip.


Jan 9, 2013
One of my life-defining trips was a backpacking trip to Big Bend. Was probably only the 2nd time I'd gone backpacking and the 1st I'd ever been in the desert Southwest. I feel in love with the desert and the memory of driving into the park, seeing javelina crossing the road, St. Elena Canyon to my left and canyons stretching off to my right in the glow of a March sunset is one I will treasure for the rest of my life. Its been over 14 yrs and I often feel like I'm still on that road. I can honestly say I wouldn't have the passion for the backcountry and the SW if it weren't for my trip to Big Bend.

A buddy of mine and I drove to Big Bend from Chicago. What a drive. Took us about 26 hrs including a quick nap at a rest stop in OK someplace. The logistics are tough, but for me, an Ohioan who never really explored anything remotely like it, the journey GETTING there was fun. Its in the middle of nowhere for sure, but I really enjoyed the drive along the southern part of Texas. Plains of scrub oak, etc. You get the picture.

Anyways, I'm rambling. We initially had planned a 3 day loop around Chisos basin but I ended up getting the flu the 1st day in and we ended up just car camping at a campground and doing small day hikes.
Whatever you do, do not miss the hot springs on the Rio Grande. Ended up going there one night. Great times.


Mar 16, 2015
Water is ALWAYS a concern in Big Bend. The Outer Mountain Loop is the premier backpacking trip there, I'd say, although add the South Rim to that (it's probably another day.) You may have to cache water, or carry a lot. There's a very narrow window where you have a chance at finding water along the trail naturally, and depending on the year, it may not be reliable.

One of the nice things about Big Bend is it's relatively easy to see a lot of cool stuff, and get solitude, even without backpacking, though. I tend to think of it as a park more suited to staying in the lodge for a week and doing various day trips. Some are not to be missed, like Boquillas canyon, The Window, Emory Peak, The Mule Ears, the Grapevine Hills, the slot canyon just outside Terlingua in Big Bend Ranch State Park, etc.


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
I did a loop trip there over New Years back in 2009. I don't remember my route exactly (no maps in front of me), but it was a 5 day trip. I started up into the Chisos, then dropped down behind them, and looped through some hills, before climbing back up to the rim trail. Really cool trip. I saw black bears up high, and it snow flurried on me.

Water was an issue. There are reliable water sources along the way, but I remember carrying quite a bit. I stashed 2 gallon jugs of water at a food box close to the road. The backcountry office there can tell you specifics. Maybe give them a call. But they will definitely fill you in before you start the trip.

Its definitely a great trip to do. I'm hoping to do it again in the coming year, as well as explore a little more of the park. Good Luck!
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Aug 6, 2015
Join Big Bend Chat. Everything you need to know and more about Big Bend NP.
The park was very wet after the spring deluge this year. The springs should still have water in them. The park service web pages will have current information. The Big Bend Chat Forum will have up to the minute info in various trip reports.
Will you be driving? From what direction? I can help with routes across Texas. Caution: Avoid Houston, Austin, DFW & San Antonio between 6am and 8 pm.
One more thing. How large is your group? The park limits groups to 15. Read the rules on the Big Bend NP web page.
Be safe. Have fun.


Sent from somewhere around here.
Last edited:


Oct 2, 2014
The Chisos Mtns in the national park are really spectacular. If you aren't busy hurrying to your water cache on the Outer Mtn Loop, there are a lot of places to sit & enjoy the scenery. I always thought the big rock patio by campsite SE3 was the best view in Texas.

The Rancherias Loop in Big Bend Ranch State Park is a great 3-4 day trip where you camp by water sources and don't have to lug a lot of water. Used to be a very quiet trail - don't know these days. Big Bend Chat is the place to find current info.
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