Big Bend National Park
The park is open 24 hours daily, year-round. The Panther Junction Visitor Center is also open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but may be closed Christmas Day. Other visitor centers have variable seasons and hours.
Three paved roads lead to the park:
1) U.S. 385 from Marathon, TX, to the north entrance
2) State Route 118 from Alpine, TX, to the west entrance
3) Ranch Road 170 from Presidio to Study Butte, and then State Route 118 to the west entrance
Big Bend National Park headquarters is located 70 miles south of Marathon, TX, and 108 miles from Alpine, TX, via Hwy. 118.
There is no public transportation to or from the park. Amtrak serves Alpine, TX, 108 miles to the north. Bus service is available to Alpine and Marathon. The nearest airports are in Midland, TX (230 miles to the northeast), and El Paso, TX (325 miles to the northwest).
There are four visitor centers: Persimmon Gap, Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, and Rio Grande Village. The Panther Junction and Chisos Basin Visitor Centers are open year-round. All visitor centers provide information, backcountry permits, and limited exhibits.
Lodging and Camping
Chisos Mountain Lodge is operated by National Park Concessions, Inc. For reservations call 915-477-2291.
There are three developed campgrounds: Rio Grande Village (100 sites), Chisos Basin (63 sites), and Cottonwood (31 sites). All have water and restrooms, but no hookups. Campsite occupancy is limited to eight people and two vehicles, or one RV plus one vehicle.
Groceries, cold drinks, camping supplies, and film are sold at the Basin, Rio Grande Village, Castolon, and Panther Junction. The Chisos Mountains Lodge has a gift shop. Minor auto repairs can be obtained at Panther Junction. Saddle horses, pack animals, and guides can be arranged for in the Basin with the Chisos Remuda by calling 915-477-2374 or by writing Chisos Remuda, Basin Rural Station, Big Bend National Park, Texas 79834.
Carry drinking water in desert country. Hikers require four liters (one gallon) per day per person; start your return trip before half your water is gone. Treat spring water before drinking and don't drink the river water.
High water is a threat during the flash floods that may follow summer thunderstorms. You must be prepared for this, because a flash flood may travel down the watershed to you even though you were not rained on. Flash floods make roadway dips potential death traps. If you are caught in high water on the road, drive slowly to avoid stalling your engine. Campers must also take precautions against flash flooding. Do not camp in washes and arroyos, because they could turn into swirling rivers while you sleep. And you can't count on having the warning of raindrops to wake you.
The park contains copperhead snakes and four species of rattlesnakes, although the poisonous reptiles are seldom seen in daylight. To avoid them, stay on trails after dark and use a flashlight, and avoid bushes and damp areas. Tarantulas, contrary to horror films, will not bite you unless you annoy them. The park species of scorpion is not deadly, though you should get prompt attention if you are stung.
About two dozen mountain lions live in Big Bend National Park. Also called panther, cougar, or puma, mountain lions are most often seen in the Chisos Mountains. Lion attacks on humans are rare, yet two have occurred since 1984. If you encounter an aggressive lion, hold your ground, wave your arms, throw stones, and shout. Never run.
You are unlikely to encounter a black bear, although a small population lives in the Chisos Mountains year-round. As you hike, pay close attention to the path ahead. Survey the landscape for wildlife. Keep a clean camp. It you encounter a bear, give it plenty of room. Report all mountain lion and black bear sightings to a Ranger.
Medical Services (or lack thereof)
There are no doctors or nurses in the park. The nearest hospital is Alpine, 174 kilometers (108 miles) from park headquarters. A paramedic service is available at Terlingua, 42 kilometers (26 miles) from park headquarters. Carry your own first-aid supplies (including tweezers).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication