Big Bend National Park camping

Big Bend National Park Camping | The Ultimate Guide to Big Bend Camping

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Big Bend National Park camping is largely first-come, first-served. There are several maintained campsites within the park that offer advanced registration, as well as backcountry and primitive roadside sites, and wilderness camping. 

Big Bend National Park encompasses the entire Chisos mountain range, as well as a large portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. Located in southwest Texas, this park borders Mexico and is rich with history. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, Rio Grande rafting, and so much more.

Popular attractions in Big Bend National Park:

Big Bend National Park camping

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  • Emory Peak
  • Lost Mine Trail
  • Window Trail
  • South Rim Trail
  • Window View Trail
  • Santa Elena Canyon Trail

When Do Most People Go To Big Bend National Park Camping?

The most popular time to visit this famous National Park is between March and May, when the days are warm and sunny—but not too hot just yet. Nighttime and evening temperatures tend to be more moderate. Plus, the pitch-black night sky offers superior stargazing opportunities.

Fall is another good time to visit, between October and December temperatures are generally milder. Although rare, there is a possibility for snow in the winter.

Summer season (June through August) is incredibly hot—after all, you’re in the desert. The heat tends to be milder in the Chisos Mountains region. Hikers are discouraged from exploring more strenuous hikes in the peak of summer. Between June and October there’s an increased risk of rain.

Big Bend National Park Camping: Maintained Campsites

There are four developed Big Bend Campgrounds: Chisos Basin, Cottonwood, and Rio Grande Village, as well as the Rio Grande Village RV Campground.  You will need a backcountry permit, which you can obtain at Panther Junction and Chisos Basin Visitor Centers. You can get a river use permit at Rio Grande Village and Castolon Visitor Centers.

Visitors can stay in the park at the same site for up to 14 nights in a row, that applies to both backcountry and front sites. Visitors can stay for up to 28 total days in any given year.

Chisos Basin Campground

Big Bend National Park camping

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Open: All year

Elevation: 5,400 feet

Camping Fee: $14 per night

Website: nps.gov/basin_campground

Chisos Basin Campground offers 60 sites, 26 of which can be reserved ahead of time. The remaining sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no hookups at this campground, but there are flush toilets, grills, picnic tables, and dump stations, as well as running water.

The narrow and winding roads that lead into the Basin make it difficult for trailers and RVs over 20’ to navigate. Also, campsites are relatively small, and so Chisos Basin is best for small vehicles and tents. Included in the 26 sites up for reservation, there are 7 group campsites with a maximum occupancy of 14 persons.

Additional Information: Generators are allowed between 8 and 11am, and 5 to 8pm. With applicable passes, the $14 per night camping fee goes to $7.

Reservations: To reserve one of the 26 sites available ahead of time, call 877-444-6777, or visit recreation.gov/Campground/

Cottonwood Campground

Big Bend National Park camping

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Open: Year-round

Elevation: 2,169 feet

Camping Fee: $14 per night

Website: nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/cottonwood_campground

This 24-site Big Bend campground has no hookups, although it offers pit toilets, picnic tables, grills, and running water. There is no dump station and generators are prohibited.

There is one group site available for reservation ahead of time. The group site can accommodate up to 25 people, and there’s a minimum occupancy of 9 people. The group site is walk-in tent camping only. There is a nearby area for parking vehicles.

Private campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reservations: To reserve the group campsite call 877-444-6777, or visit recreation.gov

Rio Grande Village Campground

Big Bend National Park camping

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Open: Year-round

Elevation: 1,850 feet

Camping Fee: $14 per night

Website: nps.gov/rio-grande

The Rio Grande Village Campground offers 100 sites, 43 of which can be reserved ahead of time between November 15th and April 15th. Campsites are tucked away in a large cottonwood grove that sits across the way from the Rio Grande.

There are showers within walking distance, as well as a camp store. None of the 100 sites come with hook-ups, but there are flush toilets, picnic tables, grills, and some overhead shelters. Plus, a nearby dump station can be accessed.

Of the 43 sites available for advanced registration, 4 cater to groups. These walk-in, tent-only sites can accommodate between 20 to 40 people (based on site). There is a 9-person minimum occupancy for all group sites. Generators are permitted between 8am and 8pm.

Reservations: To reserve a site call 877-444-6777, or visit recreation.gov

Rio Grande Village RV Campground

Big Bend National Park camping

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Open: All year

Elevation: 1,800 feet

Camping Fee: $33 per night

Website: nps.gov/rgv_hookups

Looking for Big Bend National Park Camping with hookups for your RV? You’ve found the right place! Rio Grande Village RV Campground offers 25-site concession-operated RV spots with full hookups, including electrical, water, and 3-inch sewer connection. Twenty of these sites are available for reservation, and five sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

This campsite is filled with open spaces, as well as a paved lot surrounded by grassy tree-lined edges. Rio Grande Village RV Campground is operated by Forever Resorts, Inc., and offers the only campground in Big Bend Park with full hookups.

The $33 fee covers two people. Additional campers are $3 per person, per night. The size of the parking lot may prohibit trailers or RVs longer than 40’ at certain times.

Reservations: Reserve your spot by calling 877-386-4383 or 432-477-2293. You can also register at the Rio Grande Village Service Station.

Big Bend National Park Camping Backcountry Permits

There are many undeveloped regions of Big Bend National Park, offering countless opportunities for backcountry camping. Seeking peace and solitude, along with untamed wilderness? This is the way to adventure! The park maintains a group size limit of 15 persons for backpacking. Only two campsites at Chisos Mountains can accommodate a group of this size.

Pop in the visitor center during operating hours to obtain a river use permit, as well as permits for primitive roadside camping and backpacking through the park. Permits are only issued in person and must be obtained prior to backcountry camping. Permits are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Plan so that you always have a backup plan in place, especially during busy season.

Types of Backpacking Opportunities 

After obtaining a backcountry permit, the following opportunities are available:

Backpacking: Check out the primitive campsites located throughout the Chisos Mountains Trails—offering some of the most spectacular views of Big Bend.

Primitive Roadside Campsites: Skip the developed campgrounds and stick to nature by camping at one of the primitive roadside campsites found throughout Big Bend.

Wilderness Camping: You don’t have to stay at a designated campsite. Instead, make your own route and camp just about anywhere you want in the vast remote areas of Big Bend.

Horseback Riding: Visitors are welcome to bring their horses. Several backcountry campsites offer corrals and accommodations for horses.

River Trips: A river use permit allows you to explore the water-filled canyons of the Rio Grande with rafting, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities.

Big Bend National Park Camping: Popular Backcountry Campsites

Some of the best backcountry campsites in Big Bend are situated along one of three hikes: The Outer Mountain Loop, Mesa de Anguila, and the Marufo Vega Trail. These areas are best left to experienced hikers and backpackers. It is highly recommended to bring a compass and topographical map when embarking on your journey.

The Outer Mountain Loop

Big Bend National Park camping

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This difficult primitive trail has significant elevation changes and totals 30 miles, with the option for an additional 5 miles. It generally takes around three days to complete the loop, which circles through the Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon, Dodson, Blue Creek, and Laguna Meadows trails. This area is recommended to experienced hikers only.

Most hikers start at the Chisos Basin and move in a clockwise direction. Along the way there are two locations that offer bear-proof storage boxes: Blue Creek/Homer Wilson Ranch and the Juniper Canyon Trailhead.

Stay hydrated! Most emergency issues in this region relate to dehydration. It gets incredibly hot in the summer, at which time hiking this loop is not recommended. From May through October, it is just about impossible to bring enough water to remain hydrated on these strenuous trails. Don’t rely on the natural seasonal springs for water. Carry in at least one gallon of water for each person in your party.

Learn more: nps.gov/outermountainloop

Mesa de Anguila

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This remote and isolated region of Big Bend National Park Camping provides solitude and incredible views. In fact, this region is so remote that it’s often difficult to determine the difference between main trails and animal trails.

Some sections of the trail are overgrown, and only experienced desert backpackers should attempt to navigate this section of the park. Even the most experienced hikers are encouraged to bring a detailed topographic map, available for purchase at the park bookstore.

Learn more: nps.gov/mesadeanguila

Marufo Vega Trail

Big Bend National Park camping

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This trail makes an excellent day hike and an equally great overnight backpacking trip. The 14-mile loop joins two ends of the popular desert trail. This trail is poorly maintained and overgrown with low desert vegetation. Keep in mind, this trail frequently reaches temperatures over 100 degrees F, and offers no water or shade. Local river water is not potable.

Attempting to hike this section of desert in late spring or summer can turn deadly and is not recommended. Even in cooler months, bring a hat and other protection against the sun, as well as lots of water. Start hiking early in the morning to help beat the heat.

The trail gets its name from Gregorio Marufo, a man who used to graze his goats along the river. It’s a sweet backstory, but this trail is no easy feat to accomplish. Hikers are heavily encouraged to purchase a topographic map of the area at the Big Bend Natural History Association bookstore.

Learn more: nps.gov/marufovega

Big Bend National Park Camping: Primitive Roadside Camping

There are a variety of primitive roadside campsites in Big Bend. Most are located on improved dirt roads that can be accessed via vehicle. After a storm or wet weather, a 4-wheel drive vehicle may be necessary to access most primitive roadside campsites.

Croton Springs

Big Bend National Park camping

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This primitive roadside big bend national park camping can accommodate 2 vehicles and 6 people, no horses.

  • No shade at either campsite, minimal groundcover
  • Great views of the Chisos Mountains, you can see Croton Peak and Slickrock Mountain to the north. From camp, you can walk to Croton Spring and Wash.
  • The two camp sites at Croton Springs are separated by a parking area and could potentially accommodate a large group split up between the two sites.

Learn more: nps.gov/croton-springs

Grapevine Hills

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There are five unique campsites at Grapevine Hills—

GH-1 can accommodate up to 3 vehicles and 20 people, no horses.

GH-2 & GH-3 are connected and can each house 2 vehicles and 6 people, no horses.

GH-4 & GH-5 offer space for 2 vehicles and 6 people, no horses.

  • No shade at any of the five campsites, minimal ground cover at all sites except GH-4 & 5.
  • Enjoy views of the Chisos Mountains at all Grapevine Hills campsites.
  • Government spring is near GH-1.
  • GH-2, 3, 4 & 5 offer spectacular views of the Grapevine Hills and the Rosillos Mountains in the distance.
  • GH-4 and 5 offer the best sunset views of the Deadhorse and Sierra del Carmen.

Learn more: nps.gov/grapevine-hills

Hannold Draw

Big Bend National Park camping

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The Hannold Draw (HD-1) campsite accommodates up to 3 vehicles and 20 people. There are corrals on-site that can house up to 8 horses.

  • No shade at this site
  • Enjoy great views of the Chisos Mountains to the north and the Sierra del Carmen range to the east.

Learn more: nps.gov/hannold-draw

K-Bar

Big Bend National Park camping

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There are two distinct camping sites at K-bar, including KB-1, which accommodates up to 2 vehicles and 6 people, no horses. There’s also KB-2, which accommodates 2 vehicles, 6 people, and up to 4 horses. K-Bar Road is located two miles to the east of Panther Junction Visitor Center on the route to Rio Grande Village.

  • No shade available at either site
  • Enjoy prime views of the Chisos Mountains to the northwest, and panoramic views of the desert and surrounding mountains.

Learn more: nps.gov/K-Bar

Nine Point Draw

Big Bend National Park camping

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There is one campsite here that can house 2 vehicles, 8 people, and up to 4 horses. This campsite is near the Persimmon Gap Entrance Station and is 22 miles north of Panther Junction.

  • No shade and sparse vegetation
  • This site offers great views of Dog Canyon, located to the east.
  • This is the closest primitive campsite to the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center.

Learn more: nps.gov/ninepointdraw

Old Maverick Road

Big Bend National Park camping

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This stretch of road with primitive roadside camping stretches between Maverick Junction and Santa Elena Canyon. The 14-mile improved dirt road runs past the Terlingua Creek badlands. There are many historic sites on this roadway, which gradually takes you into the Rio Grande and Santa Elena.

Primitive campsites in the area include Rattlesnake Mountain, Ocotillo Grove, and Terlingua Abajo. 

Learn more: nps.gov/oldmaverickroad

Paint Gap

Big Bend National Park camping

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There are four distinct campsites at Paint Gap, PG-2 and PG-4 offer room for up to 6 people and 2 vehicles.  While PG-1 and PG-3 can accommodate 4 people and 1 vehicle. None of the sites at Paint Gap offer corrals for horses.

  • No shade, thick vegetation at PG-2 and PG-3. You’ll find the most shade at PG-4 during the early mornings and late evenings. 

Learn more: nps.gov/paintgap

Big Bend National Park Camping: Primitive Dirt Roadside Campsites 

In addition to primitive roadside campsites, there are primitive dirt road campsites located throughout Big Bend National Park. These sites require a four-wheel vehicle to locate and are unsafe to RVs and sedans.

Glenn Springs Road

Big Bend National Park camping

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Glenn Springs Road ropes around the eastern slopes of the Chisos and ultimately leads to Glenn Springs Historic Site. This road offers access to Pine Canyon, Juniper Canyon, and Black Gap roads.

There are eight primitive dirt roadside campsites located in the area. Learn more: nps.gov/glennspringsroad

Old Ore Road

Big Bend National Park camping

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Old Ore Road is 26-miles long and offers a trip back in time—as much of Big Bend park does. In the 1900s this historic road was used to transport ore from Mexican mines to the Marathon railroad station. Here you’ll see incredible views of the Chisos Mountains and Tornillo Creek, as well as a chance to pass through the foothills of the Deadhorse Mountains.

There are nine unique primitive campsites off Old Ore Road. Learn more: nps.gov/oldoreroad

River Road

Big Bend National Park camping

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River Road welcomes you to the southern half of Big Bend—this is remote backcountry at its finest. During your trip make sure to check out the Mariscal Mine ruins where many old structures still stand today. It generally takes between 5-7 hours to explore this 51-mile road, but with so much to see people commonly make a longer trip out of it.

There are eleven backcountry campsites along the way. Learn more: nps.gov/riverroad

Big Bend National Park Camping: Wilderness Camping Sites 

Big Bend National Park camping

Mesa de Anguila
NPS Photo/Reine Wonite

Prefer to camp in the great wide open? You don’t have to settle in at a designated campsite. With a backcountry camping permit, you can backpack overnight in areas of the park without designated campsites. Before heading out, you’ll need to specify your intended destination(s) for each night of your stay.

For more information, plus rules & regulations for wilderness camping in Big Bend National Park, visit: nps.gov/wildnerness-camping