From the Rio Grande to the Chisos Mountains: A Information to Large Bend Nationwide Park in Texas


Positioned on the border of Mexico within the southwest nook of Texas, Large Bend Nationwide Park presents loads of tenting, climbing, backpacking, rafting, and extra.

Acknowledged as a novel and beautiful panorama value defending, this space the place the Rio Grande River bends within the west of Texas was preserved as a state park in 1933. Ten years later, in June of 1944, it turned Large Bend Nationwide Park.

It protects the Chihuahuan Desert and the entire Chisos mountain vary — in truth, it’s the solely nationwide park to guard a whole mountain vary.

This park has at all times had folks and animals residing off the land. There are archeological websites, mining and ranching artifacts, sea fossils, and even dinosaur bones. The Quetzalcoatlus — at one time the biggest flying creature on the planet — was present in Large Bend in 1971, and there’s a particular exhibit of its bones contained in the park.

This text will cowl find out how to get to the park, when to go, the place to go, and what to do — so you may simply plan your subsequent nationwide park expertise in Large Bend.

A Information to Large Bend Nationwide Park in Texas

panther junction visitor center
Panther Junction Customer Heart; (picture/Xiaoling Keller)

Tips on how to Get There

The Midland and El Paso airports are your greatest choices for flying, however then you’ll need to get a rental automotive to drive one other three and a half or 5 hours, respectively.

There are just a few facilities within the park, small comfort shops, and two gasoline stations (at Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village), but it surely’s nonetheless a good suggestion to refill on gasoline and meals earlier than you enter the park.

When to Go to

One of the best time to go to is from fall to spring in the course of the milder months. My boyfriend and I went on the finish of July this previous 12 months (which was method too scorching), however luckily, my first time visiting was in March a earlier 12 months — when the temperature is cooler but it surely’s nonetheless sunny.

The place to Go and What to Do

There are 4 customer facilities within the park. Persimmon Hole Customer Heart is the primary customer middle you’ll see in the event you enter by way of the north gate. It’s open seasonally, usually from November 1 to Might 29. You may choose up a map as you head into the park.

Panther Junction Customer Heart is in the course of the park’s fundamental roads, and folks go to to select up Junior Ranger booklets, cease on the reward store, mail a letter on the publish workplace, take the quick nature stroll, and refill on water. It’s open year-round, and that is the place you’ll get backpacking and river use permits issued.

Chisos Basin

Bhisos Basin
Chisos Basin from Emory Peak; (picture/Xiaoling Keller)

Chisos Basin Customer Heart is 10 miles Southwest of Panther Junction. The street going up into the Chisos Mountains is steep with sharp curves, so it’s not really helpful for trailers longer than 20 ft or RVs over 24 ft. You may choose up your backpacking allow right here, as lots of the trails start from this location.

The Chisos Basin Campground has 56 campsites; reservations are required. Two-thirds of the websites are reservable as much as 6 months to the date and the opposite third are reservable as much as 14 days prematurely. There are additionally seven group campsites in Chisos Basin for teams of 9 to twenty. Reservation info for these campsites might be discovered at recreation.gov.

The Chisos Mountains Lodge presents 72 non-smoking rooms, a restaurant, laundry companies, and restricted Wi-Fi. Test nationalparkreservations.com or name (855) 584-5295 for dates and charges.

Backpacking site
Juniper Flat backpacking web site; (picture/Xiaoling Keller)

Backpacking

My boyfriend and I want backpacking after we can, so we spent 3 nights backpacking a loop that included Emory Peak (the best level within the park) and the South Rim in Chisos Basin.

There are a whole bunch of miles to backpack and particular websites to order. You may acquire a allow as much as 6 months prematurely on recreation.gov or go to the Panther Junction or Chisos Basin Customer Facilities for a walk-up allow.

Santa Elena Canyon, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is a can’t-miss exercise when visiting Large Bend Nationwide Park. The drive culminates on the Castolon Customer Heart is within the Castolon Historic District, which reveals historical past from the farming and navy days. This vacation spot is 35 miles from Panther Junction. Folks usually cease right here on the best way to Santa Elena Canyon.

The customer middle is just open within the cooler months (November 1 to Might 29), and you’ll choose up your river use allow there.

Chisos mountains view
View of the Chisos Mountains from the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive; (picture/Xiaoling Keller)

Mountaineering

Whereas there are quite a few overlooks alongside the drive, Santa Elena Canyon is the hike it is best to make time to do. The start is gorgeous because the Rio Grande goes by way of the canyon partitions. The path is brief and steep at first however then ranges out as you observe the river into the canyon.

Outdated Maverick Highway is likely one of the many backcountry roads within the park, and it connects Santa Elena Canyon to Maverick Junction. The street is a 14-mile, tough dust street with just a few primitive campgrounds. Keep in mind to order a backcountry allow for these websites.

Rafting

There are 5 completely different canyons to drift by way of on the Rio Grande with various levels of problem: Boquillas (as much as Class II), Mariscal (shorter canyon with Class I-III), Santa Elena (Class I-II), Sizzling Springs and San Vicente (Class I-II), and The Decrease Canyons (tougher, Class II-IV).

It’s essential to have a backcountry allow and particular boating gear for any journey on the river. The completely different canyons provide choices for float or raft journeys anyplace from 2-10 days. Sizzling Springs Canyon is closed to in a single day tenting, permitting day journeys solely.

Rio Grande Village

The Rio Grande Village Customer Heart is 20 miles east of Panther Junction, and you’ll choose up river permits there too. A village retailer proper down the street presents a small choice of items, and showers and laundry (for a payment) subsequent door.

The Rio Grande Village Campground has 93 websites; reservations are required. A bunch tent web site can also be accessible with reservations, and an RV-specific campground with 25 full hook-up websites is down the street.

You may journey to Boquillas, Mexico, for a small payment by taking a ship over the Rio Grande after which strolling into city. Test the seasonal dates to see if the border crossing is open, and bear in mind your passport. There are additionally scorching springs in that space to get pleasure from.

Lastly, in the event you like dinosaurs, go to the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, the place the 35-foot-winged flying Quetzalcoatlus hangs from the exhibit ceiling. This cease is correct off Route 385, the street that connects the city of Marathon to Panther Junction.

Large Bend Nationwide Park in Texas: Conclusion

Santa elena canyon
Mountaineering into Santa Elena Canyon; (picture/Andrew Taulbee)

Large Bend was a park that I had not heard a lot about previous to my go to, however I completely cherished it. Backpacking within the Chisos Mountains was one of the best ways to benefit from the park for my first expertise, and I used to be excited to return this previous summer season.

I like to recommend selecting one space to expertise — Rio Grande Village, Chisos Mountains, or Santa Elena Canyon — every day of your go to. Nearly all the things requires reservations and permits, so it is best to plan forward. I additionally advocate planning your go to for the spring or fall (exterior of the excessive warmth of summer season) to get pleasure from this stunning park.

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