Big Bend National Park
Deep in the heart of far west Texas lies Big Bend National Park–over 800,000 acres of solitude. It’s not easy to get to Big Bend, but it’s worth it.
Raft down the Rio Grande, skirting the border between Texas and Mexico. Explore the vast expanses of the Chihuahuan Desert. Climb into the lush Chisos Mountains and catch vistas 80 miles into Mexico. Stay overnight–in the lodge, a developed campground, or an isolated backcountry campsite–and witness some of the most brilliant night skies imaginable.
If your children love dinosaurs and fossils, be sure to check out the Panther Junction Visitor Center, which houses some fascinating exhibits about the dinosaurs that used to roam this area. Up in the mountains, the Chisos Basin Visitor Center has informative and powerful exhibits about the mountain lions and bears that roam these lands.
A few scenic drives can take you through the diverse biomes that make up this majestic park. Each of these routes includes many opportunities for hikes of all lengths–from short nature trails to rigorous multi-day backpacking trips. No matter what route you take, be sure to have ample supplies with you–a fueled-up car, food, and a lot of water.
Castolon Historic District
Take the 30 mile long Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and explore the west side of the park. You’ll drive deep into the desert, and through the Castolon Historic District, which offers a historical perspective on the region. Explore the visitor center exhibits and stock up on supplies at the historic La Harmonia Store.
The drive ends at the trailhead to the Santa Elena canyon. Take the trail to explore the canyon, and wonder at the sharp change from endless desert to 1500 foot high cliff walls and the flowing Rio Grande river.
Rising up in the center of the park, the Chisos mountains offer a striking contrast to the desert that surrounds them. Children will marvel at the cooler temperatures, lush vegetation, and array of mountain-dwelling wildlife that populate the basin.
There are some easy hikes for families with small children up in the mountains. The 0.3 mile Window View Trail is paved, and offers stunning views–try walking it at sunset.
The 4.7 mile Lost Mine Trail is a popular day hike for families with older children. Enthusiastic hikers can tackle the 14 mile South Rim hike, which provides vistas almost a hundred miles into Mexico on a clear day.
Visitors who prefer hotel-like accommodations can stay at the historic Chisos Mountain Lodge, the only lodge in the park. Camping in the Chisos Basin can be either at the campground or at the many established hike-in backcountry campsites.
Rio Grande Village
Rio Grande Village houses a campground and visitor center, and is a perfect launching point for exploring the eastern side of the park.
Families with children of all ages will enjoy the scenic and easy Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. Birding opportunities abound, and children can explore all manner of wildlife that populate these areas. Boquillas Canyon is a popular spot to explore and hike. After a long day adventuring, relax for a soak in the natural hot springs, which lie adjacent to the Rio Grande river.