Coronavirus update (August 7th): Most areas of Big Bend National Park are open; exceptions include backcountry roads and trails, campgrounds, Rio Grande Village and Santa Elena Canyon
It is 24 miles from Panther Junction
near the main Big Bend National Park visitor center to Boquillas Canyon
in the southeast. The road (TX 118) crosses the eastern foothills of the Chisos Mountains
then follows a sandy wash towards the Rio Grande, descending steadily over a vast desert plain. Most of the land is rather featureless; there is a picnic spot and a short nature trail at Dugout Wells
, and several side tracks to primitive campsites but no notable landmarks, although out of sight in the wide basin to the east is Ernst Tinaja
, a natural circular waterhole in a short eroded canyon that features often in Big Bend photograph books. This may be reached by driving five miles along a rough 4WD track (Old Ore Road
), followed by a 1.4 mile hike.
Rio Grande Village
The road approaches the river at Rio Grande Village
, which includes a spacious campground, an RV site with full hookups, a gas station and a general store, all surrounded by tall cottonwood trees and dense thickets of bushes. Because of this riparian environment, sustained by the nearby waters, the land hereabouts is good for wildlife, including semi-tame roadrunners and herds of javelinas that often wander through the campsite.
The village tends to be busiest during the mild winter months, as in summer the weather is very hot, and rather humid. In spring the village is often the hottest place in the whole US. To the south, on the far side of the river, is the Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen
, which has a pretty setting with a few hundred pastel-colored houses scattered over a hillside beneath the imposing 6,000 foot high cliffs of Sierra del Carmen. A side road past the RV site leads to a picnic area next to the Rio Grande at the remains of Daniels Ranch
, also the start point for a 3 mile hike across desert slopes to the Hot Springs
. This natural warm water source is contained within a stone enclosure right beside the river, close to an abandoned settlement, and is reachable more easily by a gravel track (not for RVs), that forks off TX 118 shortly before Rio Grande Village. The limestone terraces just west of the road junction are a particularly good cactus location, and several dozen different species may be found here, including the rare ariocarpus fissuratus
East of Rio Grande Village, the highway continues a few miles across more uneven terrain, first passing the trailhead for the Marufo Vega
and Ore Terminal
paths - the first a testing 14 mile loop across remote, mountainous country, the second a slightly easier 4 mile trail to the remains of an ore processing station. One other junction along the road is with a short a side track to an elevated viewpoint of the river and Boquillas del Carmen, before it ends at a parking area for the short hike to the mouth of Boquillas Canyon
, the longest gorge along the Rio Grande.
Along the River
Upstream (west) of Rio Grande Village, the water supports a narrow band of greenery as it flows through quite empty land with only limited access by a few rough tracks. Twenty five miles from the village at the southernmost tip of its Big Bend, the river emerges from Marsical Canyon
, the middle of the three large ravines in the park. It is very inaccessible and isolated, and is usually only visited during rafting excursions down river. In the other direction from the village, the Rio Grande soon disappears into Boquillas Canyon and the cliffs do not fully subside until Black Gap Wildlife Management Area
18 miles east; a boat trip through here can last for several days.
TrailsDescriptions of all trails in the southeast