Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

Planning Your Visit to Big Bend

While the isolation of Big Bend National Park is a drawing point for many visitors, it also means that your trip must be well prepared and carefully planned.


Operating Hours & Seasons:


The park is open 24 hours daily, all year. The Panther Junction Visitor Center is open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., but may be closed on Christmas Day. The entrance stations and other visitor centers have variable seasons and hours.


When is it busy?

Big Bend is relatively uncrowded much of the year. Visitation is highest in March and April. The park is extremely crowded during spring break, which is usually the second and third week in March. Easter weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, and the week between Christmas and New Year's Day are also very busy. All lodging and campsites are usually full during these periods. Visitation is lowest in August and September.




Big Bend National Park is located in southwest Texas, hundreds of miles from the nearest cities and transportation hubs. There is no public transportation to or in Big Bend National Park. You can drive your own vehicle, or take a plane, train, or bus and then rent a vehicle to get to Big Bend.


Several highways lead to Big Bend National Park: TX 118 from Alpine to Study Butte or FM 170 from Presidio to Study Butte (then 26 miles west to park headquarters) or US 90 or US 385 to Marathon (then 70 miles south to park headquarters).


Distances between towns and services can be considerable. Always be sure you have plenty of gas, oil, food, and water for your trip. The park has four camper stores, but supply and selection can be limited. There are also small stores in the communities outside the park. The last major shopping areas (grocery and hardware stores) are Alpine, Fort Stockton, and Del Rio.



Entrance Fees:—for a single visit up to seven days


Vehicle: $20 for a seven day pass good at any park entrance.

Individual: (on bicycle, motorcycle, or group members) $10 for a

seven day pass.


Children 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge. Non-commercial groups, such as scout groups, pay $10 per person for everyone 16 years and older (instead of $20 per vehicle)



Arriving After Hours:


Big Bend is in a remote area, and most visitors drive long distances in order to reach the park. It is not unusual for visitors to arrive in the park after normal business hours. The park entrances never close, but the entrance stations and visitor centers are not open 24 hours.


Here are some things you need to know to prepare for arriving after hours.

When arriving after hours:


Entrance Fees

You may pay your entrance fee, receive a park map and information the following day at the Panther Junction Visitor Center between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Entrance fees can also be paid at any other open visitor center during your visit.


Camping and Lodging

Campers without reservations must self-register at the campgrounds: Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin, and Cottonwood. Check the campground map on the bulletin board at the entrance to each campground to locate the reserved and non-reserved sites.


Backcountry camping permits can only be issued during business hours at any visitor center; you cannot camp in a backcountry site if you do not arrive in time to obtain a permit.


For RV hook-ups, check at the Rio Grande Village store. For availability use a public phone or cell phone to call 432-477-2293.


Office hours at the Chisos Mountains Lodge are 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. For availability of rooms use a public phone or cell phone to call 432-477-2291.



Commercial Tour Fees:


Commercial tour groups pay an entrance fee based on the capacity of the tour vehicle. Golden Age, Golden Eagle and Golden Access passports are not valid for free entry with commercial tour groups (except for sedans).


Sedan (1-6 persons) $25 plus the individual entrance fee ($5) for each passenger*


Van (7-15 persons) $75


Mini-Bus (16-25 persons) $100


Motor Coach (26+ persons) $200


Note: Passenger capacity does not include driver.


*Individuals with a National Parks Pass, Golden Age or Golden Access passports, or the Big Bend Annual Pass, do not pay the individual entrance fee in sedans. However, the $25 commercial fee for the group still applies.


Bus Drivers Please Note:

The idling of buses while loading, unloading, or waiting for passengers to re-board is prohibited. Drivers must turn the engine off before passengers disembark and turn the engine on only after all passengers have boarded.



Entrance Passes:


The following passes for free entrance to the park are honored and available at the entrance stations or visitor centers. Click here to learn more about these passes.


Big Bend Annual Pass

$40—Allows unlimited entry to Big Bend National Park for one year from month of purchase.


Interagency Annual Pass

$80—Allows unlimited entry to all federal recreational lands for one year from month of purchase.


Senior Pass

$10—Lifetime pass to all federal entrance fee areas for people 62 years and older.


Access Pass

Free—Lifetime pass to all federal entrance fee areas for permanently disabled persons. more...


Older passes and passports

* Throughout 2007 the Golden Eagle Passport, National Parks Pass, and the new Interagency Annual Pass will be valid; the Golden Eagle Passports and National Parks Passes that were sold in 2006 will be honored until they expire.

* The Golden Age and the Golden Access Passports will continue to be honored for the lifetime of the pass holder, so both passes, along with the new Interagency Senior and Access Passes, will be valid for many years to come.





The old adage "if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute," often holds true in Big Bend National Park. While Big Bend generally has blue skies and warm days, the weather can change quickly and dramatically. You should be prepared for just about ANY type of weather at any time of the year.


Through the Year

Relative humidity is usually low. The rainy season extends from mid-June to October with locally heavy thunderstorms and some flash flooding. However, the water recedes rapidly and the rainy season can be a delightful time to visit the desert. Fall and spring are usually warm and pleasant. Summers are hot, although temperatures vary greatly between the desert floor and the Chisos Mountains; May and June are the hottest months. Afternoon and evening rains often cool the desert from July to October. Winters are generally mild, although periods of cold weather (including light snow) are possible. Winter visitors must prepare for a variety of conditions.


Elevation is Everything

Air temperature changes by five degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation you gain or lose; temperatures in the high Chisos Mountains can be 20+ degrees cooler than temperatures along the Rio Grande. Prepare for this kind of variation during your trip.


Dress for the Weather

A wide-brimmed hat, comfortable clothing, and sturdy walking shoes or boots are necessary for anyone planning to hike. Sunscreen is a must. Hikers must always carry plenty of water. One gallon per person per day is recommended.




Be aware that having a pet with you will limit your activities and explorations in the park. In addition, desert temperatures and predators are a serious threat to your pet's well being. Please consider the following points before deciding to bring a pet:


    * Pets are not allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Basically, your pet can only go where your car can go.

    * If you plan to hike, someone must stay behind with the pet, or you will need to make arrangements with a kennel service.

    * Pet owners are required to immediately remove and properly dispose of fecal matter deposited by their pets. Deposit bag of fecal matter in a dumpster.

    * Pets need to be on a leash no longer than six feet in length (or in a cage) at all times.

    * You are not allowed to leave your pet unattended in vehicles if it creates a danger to the animal, or if the animal becomes a public nuisance. There is no kennel service in the park.

    * Pet etiquette and park regulations require that you always clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles.

    * Predators such as owls, coyotes, mountain lions and even javelina can and do kill pets here. Even large dogs cannot defend themselves against predators. Extreme temperatures are also a danger.


Your pet will be much happier at home! 




We hope this information will be useful in planning your visit. We are continually working to upgrade facilities for accessibility and to improve park access for all visitors. While not all facilities are fully accessible, park rangers are happy to assist any visitor with special needs.


If you have comments or suggestions about facilities, services, or programs, please let us know. For more information, call Big Bend National Park at (432) 477-2251 (voice) or (432) 477-2370 (TDD) or write to: Superintendent, Big Bend National Park P.O. Box 129, Big Bend National Park, Texas 79834. 


Visitor Centers

The Panther Junction Visitor Center has reserved parking and is accessible by ramp. The restrooms, exhibit area, bookstore, information desk, pay telephone, and drinking fountain are fully wheelchair-accessible. A large relief map of the park is available and can be touched. A TDD is available on request. Rangers are on duty to answer questions and assist visitors.


The Chisos Basin Visitor Center has reserved parking and is accessible by ramp. The exhibits, restrooms, and drinking fountain are fully wheelchair-accessible. Information is available in a variety of formats including audio and visual. Exhibits and audio information are available in English and Spanish. Interactive computer exhibits are closed-captioned.


The Persimmon Gap Visitor Center has reserved parking and is accessible by ramp. The exhibits, bookstore, restrooms, pay phone, and drinking fountain are all fully wheelchair-accessible.


The Rio Grande Village Visitor Center has reserved parking and is accessible by ramp. The exhibit area, bookstore, audiovisual room, restrooms, and pay phone are designed for full wheelchair-accessibility.


The Castolon Visitor Center has reserved parking and is accessible by ramp. The exhibits, bookstore and restrooms are all fully wheelchair-accessible.



Cottonwood Campground at Castolon has wheelchair-accessible vault toilets. Although campsites are not accessible, some are level and useable by people in wheelchairs.


Chisos Basin Campground site #36 is fully accessible for wheelchair users. The adjoining restroom is also accessible.


Rio Grande Village Campground site #14 is fully accessible. The adjoining restroom is also accessible.


During busy periods, designated accessible campsites are reserved for disabled campers until 6 p.m. If the campgrounds are full an accessible site may not be available.


Picnic Areas

The Dugout Wells Picnic Area has accessible tables and an accessible vault toilet.


The Persimmon Gap Picnic Area has accessible tables and an accessible vault toilet.



Panther Path, a short, self-guiding nature trail at Panther Junction, is rough, but level and useable by people in wheelchairs. An accompanying brochure explains Chihuahuan Desert plants.


The Window View Trail, a 0.3 mile self-guiding trail in the Chisos Basin, fully accessible to wheelchairs, provides outstanding views of the window formation and the Chisos Mountains. A booklet explains the Chisos Basin.


Rio Grande Village Nature Trail boardwalk (the first 1/4 mile of the trail), is wheelchair accessible. The trail is an excellent place for observing birds and aquatic plants and animals. A self-guiding booklet is available.


Vault toilets at the Boquillas Canyon, Santa Elena Canyon, and Hot Springs trailhead areas are accessible, although rugged terrain precludes wheelchairs on the trails. The Santa Elena Canyon river take-out also has wheelchair-accessible vault toilets.



The Rio Grande Village Amphitheater is wheelchair-accessible. Rangers present evening slide programs frequently in winter and spring.


The Chisos Basin Amphitheater is accessible by ramp, although some grades are steep due to rugged terrain. The amphitheater itself is designed for wheelchair use. Rangers present evening slide programs on a periodic basis year-round.


The Panther Junction Auditorium is fully accessible for scheduled events.


The Cottonwood Amphitheater is wheelchair-accessible. Rangers present evening programs here in winter and spring.


Nature Walks presented on the Window View Trail are accessible. Most other guided walks are not wheelchair-accessible due to rough terrain.


Check weekly activity schedules for information regarding the accessibility of other ranger-led activities.


Scenic Overlooks

Most scenic overlooks and wayside exhibits are accessible to wheelchair users. Where possible, reserved parking is provided.


Concession Facilities

The Chisos Mountains Lodge gift shop and restaurant are wheelchair-accessible. Wheelchair accessible restrooms are available adjacent to the main lodge building. Some guest rooms are wheelchair-accessible, and some are equipped with visual fire alarms for hearing-impaired guests.


The Rio Grande Village Store is fully accessible, as are the shower facilities and laundry. The restrooms are equipped with grab bars, but are not fully accessible.


The Chisos Basin Store and the historic La Harmonia Store at Castolon are both wheelchair-accessible.


Contact Forever Resorts at (432) 477-2291 for more information about concession facilities.



The following rafting companies offer float trips for disabled visitors. Please contact them in advance.


Big Bend River Tours.....1-800-545-4240

Desert Sports.....1-888-989-6900

Texas River Expeditions.....1-800-839-7238


Access Passports

The Golden Access Passport is a free lifetime entrance permit to all federal parks, monuments, and recreation areas. It also provides a 50% reduction of camping fees. The Golden Access Passport is issued to United States residents who are blind or permanently disabled. Inquire at the Persimmon Gap or Maverick Entrance Station, or the Panther Junction Visitor Center.