Big Bend is one of the few places you can still go to really get away from the crowds and noise of city life. When I gaze out over the vast Chihuahuan desert landscapes of Big Bend National Park, I imagine that early man must have seen these same views, these views that haven't changed for thousands of years.
We stayed at the Rio Grande Village area of the park. It is the only camping area in the entire park with full RV hookups. This was our 5th trip to Big Bend, but the first time we stayed in the park. On previous trips, we stayed at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas.
Also on previous trips, we visited the park in the winter. This time, we decided to go in late May. We discovered that Big Bend isn't much of a summer destination. The temperature at 6:30pm at the Rio Grande Village camping area was 104 degrees. We were very glad we decided to go for a campsite with full hookups.
Lost Mine Trail
In the Chisos Mountains area, the temperatures were much cooler, dryer and more tolerable. In fact, our hike up the Lost Mine Trail the next morning started with temperatures in the low 50s. The elevations are much higher in this part of the park and in the summer the temperature is much more tolerable than in the lower elevations.
The Lost Mine Trail was a perfect hike for late May. It is a moderately difficult 5.1 miles out-and-back hike that gradually increases in elevation approximately 1100 feet. One of the nice aspects of this hike is that it is uphill on the first half and downhill on the back half.
This hike features excellent views of Casa Grande, Juniper Canyon, Pine Canyon, and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. It was a little hazy during our visit, but we still were able to see some excellent views.
There is an abundance of dessert plant life along the trail. There were many beautiful cactus flowers like the ones shown below.
No matter where you are on the Lost Mine Trail, you are rewarded with stunning views. It took us several hours to get to the top because we frequently stopped to take pictures.
This video of the Lost Mine Trail provides a 360 degree view of the end of the trail, along with some footage that we took while hiking the trail. Even the video doesn't do justice to actually being on the trail and experiencing the cool air, sounds of wildlife, and the never-ending beautiful surrounding views.
A few short miles from the Lost Mine Trail head is the Chisos Basin area. It is home to the Chisos Mountains Lodge and Restaurant. The restaurant has very good food, the prices are reasonable, and the mountain views inside the restaurant are also excellent. The restaurant is shown on the left of the picture of Casa Grande below...
The Chisos Basin also has camping facilities available - mainly for tent campers. There are no electric, water or sewer hookups for RVs. The road to the Chisos Basin has several hairpin turns, so the park restricts camping to motor homes greater than 24 feet in length, and travel trailers greater than 20 feet in length.
Window View - Loop Trail .3 Miles
If you have hiked your limit for one day and just happen to be in the Chisos Basin, there's a great little hike called the Window View Trail. The hike is just .3 miles long and provides some excellent scenery, including the Window View.
While strolling along the Window View Trail, you'll find yourself surrounded by many of the well known peaks of Big Bend and the Chisos Mountains. The video below shows some of what you'll see along the trail.
After food and rest, you can browse the gift shop located in the lobby of the restaurant. The Visitor's Center nearby also provides some interesting information about the Chisos Basin, the wildlife in the area, and the plant life in the Chisos Mountains.
Rio Grande Village and Boquillas Del Carmen
In addition to the RV Park, the Rio Grande Village has several other campgrounds for tent camping available. While exploring that part of the park, we visited the Rio Grande Village Nature Walk. The park's maintenance crew recently completed a birding platform at the Beaver Pond.
As we walked along the floating platforms and connecting bridges, we saw several species of birds, ducks, and turtles.
Boquillas Del Carmen
One of the interesting places in the Big Bend area is the tiny Mexican town of Boquillas Del Carmen, located across the Rio Grande river from Big Bend's Rio Grande Village (formerly Boquillas, TX).
Before 2001, Boquillas Del Carmen had a population of near 300. Since the closing of the borders after the events of 9/11, the town's population has decreased dramatically. The town got virtually all of their revenue from people visiting Big Bend, once the borders closed, the town began to dry up. We visited Big Bend in 2009 and heard there were less than 10 people still living in the town.
Since it is illegal for the Mexican nationals living in Boquillas Del Carmen to cross the border, these unmanned arts and crafts displays appear in various places on the US side, and use the honor system for collecting payment from customers.
In 2011, a decision was made to reopen the border crossing to Boquillas Del Carmen. We saw evidence of this while we visited the area in May of 2012. From discussions we had with the park staff, the US side of the border crossing had been completed, but the Mexican side was not yet completed. No ETA on when that will occur. More on this...
We didn't bother venturing beyond the gate to see the actual US Port of Entry building. However we were able to zoom in on what looks like the POE on the Mexican side of the border. I don't recall seeing this structure in the past, but it could have been there. It looked like new construction.
In all of the photos that we took from the US side of the border, we never saw any people. Of course, it was over 100 degrees the day we were there. Perhaps the locals found cooler places to spend the day than walking down the hot streets in the middle of the afternoon.
Big Bend National Park and the surrounding area is vast and full of beautiful scenery. While writing this article, I recalled several other areas in the park we visited on previous trips that are also beautiful and unique.
Many books have been written about Big Bend National Park. You can find quite a bit of information online. Before you plan your visit, research what the park has to offer - you won't be able to visit the entire park in a week. You can find out more information about Big Bend by visiting their website. We look forward to our next visit, and hope that you enjoy yours.