What to do in Big Bend Ranch State Natural Area

Big Bend Ranch State Park, over 280,280.58 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness, extends along the Rio Grande from southeast of Presidio to near Lajitas in both Brewster and Presidio Counties. It was purchased from private owners in 1988. Embracing some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the Southwest, it encompasses two mountain ranges containing ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and waterfalls.

The park is open 7 days a week year round, with office hours from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is home for a tremendous diversity of animal and plant species, including 14 species of bats, several species of hummingbirds, and at least 11 other rare plants and animals, including Hinckley oaks and mountain lions. The park also maintains a small Texas longhorn herd, a remnant of the property's ranching heritage (not a part of the official Texas longhorn herd based at Fort Griffin).

Nearby include Fort Leaton State Historical Park, Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center, and the Big Bend National Park.

Entrance and Use Fees are different from most State Parks. For more details on Big Bend, call one of the three referenced contact points. For information on other state parks, call Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

Recreational Activities:

Rafting/Canoeing - Spectacular Colorado Canyon offers among the finest rafting and canoeing opportunities along the Rio Grande. Bring your own gear, or hire a commercial outfitter in nearby Study Butte, Lajitas, or Terlingua. If planning to continue a trip down river from Colorado Canyon into the canyons in Big Bend National Park, the necessary permits must be secured from the National Park Service.

Camping - Camping Areas are located at Madera (Monilla) Canyon and at Grassy Banks River Access along FM 170. Two group camping areas, Contrabando and Arenosa, have self-composting toilets. Ten (10) small, designated primitive campgrounds along the gravel park road in the back country are accessible to high-clearance vehicles only. Self-composting toilets are located at Madera Canyon and Grassy Banks; no other facilities, electrical hookups, water, or dump stations are available. Motor homes and large recreational vehicles may not be able to enter back country park areas.

Backpacking - The 19-mile Rancherias Loop Trail is available for serious backpackers. Campsites are designated, water must be carried, and all wastes must be carried out. Trail heads are located at both ends of the loop trail along FM 170, near the Colorado Canyon River Access.

Day-Hiking - Several short trails are ideal for day-hikes are available. Rancherias Canyon (9.8 miles round-trip) and Closed Canyon (1.4 miles round-trip) trails are accessible from FM 170, near the Rancherias Loop trail head. Two short hiking trails are located off the gravel park road in the back country, leading to Ojito Adentro and Cinco Tinajas. Plans are being made for the first portion of the Ojito Adentro trail to be wheelchair accessible.

Picnicking - Picnic tables are available at "the Tepees," a Texas Department of Transportation rest area on FM 170 about 10 miles north of Lajitas, and at Sauceda, the old Big Bend Ranch headquarters in the interior.

Fishing - Licensed fishermen may fish only at designated locations at the campgrounds along the river.

Swimming - Swimming is allowed only at designated locations at the campgrounds along the river; however, it is not recommended for health reasons.

4X4 Driving - Three short "jeep roads" leading to back country camping areas are currently available for 4-wheel drive vehicles.

The park additionally offers Seminars and Workshops, call for details.

Note: All vehicular access is by designated roads only; no cross-country travel. Mountain bikes are welcome to ride on 14+ miles of trails rated beginner, intermediate, and difficult.

The entrance at Fort Leaton is located 4 miles southeast of Presidio, on the River Road (FM 170).

Big Bend Ranch State Natural Area is located at an elevation of 4,149 feet (1265 meters). The park has mild winters from October through February with an average temperature of 80 degrees. Summers heat up to the 100s.

Current weather conditions can vary from day to day. For more details, call the park or Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

P O Box 2319
Presidio, TX 79845

Phone: 915/229-3416

  • Big Bend Ranch State Natural Area Travel Q&A