Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park
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Two Unbelievable Days in West Texas: Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park in West Texas, near the Mexican border, is perfect for a tranquil getaway soaking in some desert solitude. I’ve been to 16 (check this) National Parks (including Big Bend and Guadalupe National Park in my home state of Texas.)

Before you embark on a trip here let’s review some details about the park, how to get there, where to stay, and my recommendations on when to go and what to do during your two days in Big Bend National Park. Let’s dive in and get planning!

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About Big Bend National Park

It’s a little off the beaten path making it one of the less busy National Parks in the United States regarding visitation. Last year (2023) it ranked 40th (out of 63 National Parks.) 

Compared to other National Parks I’ve been to so far, the only other park I felt like we had so much of it to ourselves was during our RV relocation trip in 2022 (when we visited all three National Parks in the state of Washington) North Cascades was a beautiful and relaxing park to visit. 

Parking even for popular trailheads and areas was never an issue while we visited Big Bend National Park for two days at the end of May. 

Spending Two Days (or more) in  Big Bend National Park, you can expect to see three different landscapes: The Chisos Mountains, the Chuaiuan desert, and the Rio Grande River. This makes up for some distinct areas of the park to explore. 

Big Bend National Park: Getting There

Big Bend National Park is situated in Far West Texas, up against the border to Mexico. In fact, you can even cross the border at one point in the park if you bring your passport with you. So getting to this area of the state of Texas can be cumbersome. 

Not necessarily a budget option, but Lajitas Golf Resort actually has an airport you can fly into! Otherwise, you can road trip from many locations within Texas. The closest is Midland-Odessa where you can fly into MAF and rent a car from there, the second closest would be the most Western part of Texas, El Paso. 

Both require a decent drive from the airport to the Big Bend area. El Paso to Big Bend National Park is about a 4 hour and 15 minute drive of 287 miles. The drive from Midland is around 3 hours at just under 200 miles. 

Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park: Where to Stay

Due to the remote nature of Big Bend National Park, there are a few places close by you can stay including in the park at Chisos Basin Lodge. 

Lajitas Golf Resort

Nestled between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, Lajitas Golf Resort has many onsite amenities. Amenities such as a golf course, horses/stable riding, a pool, restaurant, and bar. They even have an RV park!

Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua, Texas is a popular area to stay where there are many vacation rentals available, however, keep in mind there aren’t many places for food and drinks in this area. It’s somewhat limited so be sure to plan ahead and pack a cooler. 

Alpine, Texas

Although a bit of a drive from Big Bend National Park. Since we were spending only two days in the National Park and exploring other areas of Far West Texas, we chose to stay in Alpine. (With our RV.) Big Bend is 80 miles south of Alpine, so a considerable drive especially if you want to hit the hiking trails early like we did. 

However, Alpine has several restaurants, bars, and more availability of shopping and stores. Plus, there was plenty to explore and do in Alpine itself!

Big Bend National Park: When to Go

Big Bend National Park is in the Chihuahuan desert. It is a very hot park to visit during certain times of the year!

North American summer (June-August) is the warmest time to visit. Even in May, some parts of the park reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making mid-day hiking very dangerous! It is absolutely imperative that if you visit during this time you’re well prepared. Before visiting, I purchased several SPF hoodies that were perfect for hiking in Big Bend National Park.

Keep in mind that some of the visitor centers (Rio Grande Village, Castolon, Persimmon Gap) are also closed during the summer months. 

July can also experience heavy rain and flooding. (Especially in the Chisos Basin.) Some hikes if sudden flash flooding occurs can be quite dangerous. It’s always best practice to check in with the Visitor Centers and Ranger Stations for weather updates and trail closures. 

According to a park ranger I spoke with, the best time to visit Big Bend National Park is between November and February for the most moderate and temperate weather when you can hike all day if you want on any trail. 

Big Bend National Park Day One

On our first day in Big Bend National Park, we drove from Alpine to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center Parking Lot where we left our vehicle. We were on the trail by 7 AM. Due to the heat, we decided to only do one hike per day. If we had visited during fall or winter, I would have done at least a few more hikes. 

The hike we chose was the Window Trail. Much of the trail was shaded since we started earlier in the morning, but we had multiple animal encounters. (Including a black bear!) It was the closest I’ve ever been to a bear while on a hiking trail. So, be aware that there are cougars and black bears as well as other animals present in Big Bend National Park. 

As we returned from the hike, there was a park ranger at the trailhead checking in with people just setting out on the hike to reduce the amount of heat-related rescues they would need to perform. 

Panther Junction Visitor Center

After checking out the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, we drove to the Panther Junction Visitor Center which is the park headquarters. 

We headed East in the park to the Rio Grande Overlook and Boquillas Canyon Overlook. There is a point of entry at Boquillas where you can cross the border from Texas into Mexico as long as you have your passport. It was closed when we were there, but we weren’t prepared to do it if we had the opportunity. 

This area of the National Park has some short hikes to Natural Hot Springs which would be amazing to explore during the cooler months. But, with the heat index well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we just checked out the many overlooks in this area of the park before leaving back to Alpine for the night. 

Big Bend National Park Day Two

Day two in Big Bend National Park head to the Western part of the Park. Make your way to the Santa Elena Canyon Trail. Although, it’s a shorter trail the views of the Rio Grande and the high canyon walls are worth the trek.

During our time here, the Rio Grande was at really low levels. So low that you could even walk out into the muddy river bed. If you’re spending more time in the Big Bend area and more than two days in Big Bend National Park many local businesses offer Rio Grande River floats. Due to the low water levels, this wasn’t even an option for us. 

The hike was busy with other people but definitely worth it to see the dramatic canyon cliffs. 

On our way back to Alpine, we drove on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive stopping at the signs indicating viewpoints. My favorite was the Mule Ears viewpoint. 

Beyond Two Days at Big Bend National Park

You can easily spend more than two days in Big Bend National Park especially if you plan on hiking some of the longer trails. During hotter months (like when I visited in late May) you really should only hike early and late to remain safe from heat stroke and exhaustion. When visiting National Parks, it’s best to do research in advance and be prepared here are some additional National Park Travel Tips to check out. 

Other hikes I would like to do if I had more time beyond two days in Big Bend National Park include: Lost Mine Trail, Emory Peak Trail, Balanced Rock, and Boquillas Canyon Trail. 

Nearby Big Bend National Park are Big Bend Ranch State Park, Lajitas Golf Resort, and Terlingua, Texas. So there’s plenty more to explore in the area and extend your time beyond two days in Big Bend National Park.

Since we stayed in Alpine, we also explored other areas of Far West Texas such as Fort Davis, Marathon, Balmorhea State Park, and Marfa. Spending a week in Alpine with our RV we were able to extensively explore far West Texas!

Mexican souvenirs near the rio grande lookout sitting on the ground in Big Bend National Park in Texas near Mexico

Final Thoughts: Two Days Big Bend National Park

Spending Two Days in Big Bend National Park during a hot time of year was enough time. However, if it would have been more temperate weather I would say 3-4 days would be the perfect amount of time to get in more time out on the hiking trails.

Although Big Bend National Park is in a remote part of the state of Texas, you can choose to stay at Lajitas Golf Resort, nearby Terlingua or my recommendation is Alpine due to the proximity of many other things to do beyond just the National Park. 

After visiting Big Bend, it exceeded my expectations as I continue to be amazed at the diversity of the terrain across the state of Texas.

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