Big Bend National Park

Horseback Riding
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park (Eric Leonard/National Park Service)

Visitors to the park are welcome to bring and use personally owned livestock as long as they understand and abide by the rules and regulations governing the use of livestock. A day-use permit is required for all stock use and may be obtained at any visitor center, free of charge.

All gravel roads are open to horse riders. Horses are not permitted upon paved roads or the shoulders of the paved roads. Cross-country horse travel is permitted throughout the park, except in the Chisos Mountains area. Horse use in the Chisos Mountains is limited to the Laguna Meadow Trail, Southwest Rim (to the rack), and Blue Creek Trail.

Horses are not permitted on the interpretive nature trails in the park since they were only designed for foot travel. The short trails into Santa Elena and Boquillas Canyons are also restricted to pedestrians only. The Pine Canyon Trail in the Pine Canyon Designated Natural Research Area is closed to horses. Horses are not permitted in developed campgrounds, picnic areas, near eating or sleeping facilities, or other areas of concentrated visitor use. All areas of domestic water supply or other sanitation facilities are closed to horses.

Horses may not be taken into Mexico and brought back into the United States without proper authorization from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Backcountry riders must provide controlled overnight maintenance of their animals, including the provision of commercial feed. Grazing within the park is not allowed. Water must generally be hauled to the stock in the lower elevations of the park, where a semi-desert climate prevails. Stock may be watered at the Rio Grande and springs that are not utilized for domestic water supply. Check with park rangers for spring water flows in various areas of the park.

Areas of quicksand may be encountered along the streams, washes, and the Rio Grande. Desert vegetation such as lechuguilla and cactus can injure livestock. Reasonable consideration must be given to public safety. Stock loading and unloading sites must be selected with consideration to the safety of onlookers as well as the stock. Riders must slow their horses to a walk when meeting people on foot.

Permits are required for overnight camping. All backcountry campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, except for the Government Springs campsite, which you can reserve up to ten weeks ahead of time. If you are unable to arrive by 6 p.m. on the first day of the reservation at Government Springs, you should contact the park at 915-477-1158. Failure to do so may result in a cancellation of the reservation.


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