Big Bend

The Big Bend region of Far West Texas is the most scenic, the most remote, and the least populated in all of Texas. From whatever direction you come, it’s a long way to Big Bend; but as anyone that has made the drive will tell you, it is well worth the trip. The open space, the sky, the mountains, the canyons, and the river all blend together to make an incredible landscape.


There are several different regions in Big Bend. We are in the process of updating the website to give each region its own page. But for now, here is the breakdown:

  • National Park - the main draw in the region and the location of most of the rivers and trails
  • State Park - a newer, more rugged area with an abundance of hiking and biking trails
  • Terlingua/Study Butte/Lajitas - the "towns" in the region with most of the hotels and food
  • Presidio - the largest city in the region and the end point of the scenic river road drive


There is a lot to do and see in the Big Bend region. You could be there for weeks and still not do it all. The lists included here are just a few recommendations, but feel free to do additional research.

What To Do

Big Bend is an adventurer's paradise, with tons of options for outdoor activities. This could definitely be a longer list, but here are a few of the most popular activities.


River Road


The section of highway between Terlingua and Presidio is considered one of the most scenic drives in Texas. There are several places to stop and admire the views. The narrow road is not ideal for travel at night, but you can catch particularly impressive views around sunset.




There are over 150 miles of trails in the region. Ranging from short handicap-accessible hikes you can do in an hour or less to considerably more technical hikes that take all day. It is strongly advised to do your research and match your hike to your physical abilities. Along with biking and floating the river, hiking guides are available if desired. A few recommended hikes:


  • Window trail – probably the most famous of the Big Bend hikes, the Window trail starts from the parking lot of the Chisos Mountain Lodge and leads to a dramatic overlook nestled between 2 large rock outcroppings. There is a smaller and more accessable Window Loop Trail that is a paved sidewalk going in a loop near the trailhead of the larger trail.


  • Santa Elena Canyon – most of the pictures you have seen of Big Bend are likely that of Santa Elena Canyon. The canyon is on the southwestern edge of the park on the Mexico border. It can be accessed from Terlingua or the park. The trail is short and relatively easy, with great views of the river and the canyon walls


  • Lost Mine – this 4.2-mile hike is one of the more popular trails in the area and is located on the road between the park entrance and the Lodge. Fantastic views, but it can get a bit crowded at peak times, and parking can be a challenge.


  • Emory Peak – Emory Peak is the highest point in Big Bend, and the trail provides some of the best views in the park. It is definitely a more challenging hike, at around 10 miles in length and an ascent of almost 2500 feet, Hirking time is between 5 and 7 hours. 




With the extensive trail network throughout the parks, there are over 100 miles of biking trails in the parks. If you are looking to rent bikes, or are interested in guided bike tours, contact Desert Sports


River trips


Depending on the amount of water in the river at the time of your trip, floating the Rio Grande will offer some of the most breathtaking views in the entire region. There are several options from guided tours to bring-your-own-boat adventures. Unless you have done this before, it is strongly advised to hire one of the local tour guides to plan your trip.


Jeep tours


There are several companies that offer guided 4x4 tours of the area. With over 250 miles of paved and dirt roads in the area, there is a lot to explore.


Ross Maxwell Scenic Loop


There are many scenic drives through the Big Bend region, but the Ross Maxwell Scenic Loop is the best way to see a dramatic cross section of the park. It starts at Panther Junction and leads down to Santa Elena Canyon with several lookout stops in between. Total drive is around 30 miles.


Where to Stay

Given the region's remoteness, natural beauty and camping options, many people prefer to camp rather than stay in a hotel. That said, there is a surprising amount of great lodging options, varying wildly in price. 




  • Chisos Mountain Lodge – located in the middle of Big Bend National Park, this is the favorite of many repeat visitors to the area. The challenge here is the availability. Unless there is a last-minute cancellation, reservations need to be made months and sometimes years in advance. Holiday weekends are almost impossible. That said, if you can get in, it is well worth the wait.


  • Holiday Hotel – an old restored hotel in Terlingua, it is in the center of town and adjacent to the Starlight Louge and the gift shop. The main hotel has a series of surprisingly nice motel-style rooms. The Perry Mansion on the hilltop about 100 yards up the road and has a few larger, slightly more upscale rooms. Definitely the best hotel (vs. AirBnb) option in Terlingua.





  • Basin campground - A great improved campground that is central to several of the best hiking trails.



Where to Eat

As the most remote region in Texas (and one of the most remote in the entire US), it can sometimes be a challenge to find food or groceries. Do your research in advance, and if you don’t see much you like, it is advisable to bring your own.


Starlight Theater


The heart of the Big Bend nightlife, there is usually a lot going on here. Surprisingly good food – a mix of “ranch food” (beef, chili, etc) and Mexican food. Plan accordingly during holidays and Spring Break.


DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ


Served out of a trailer in Terlingua, DB’s serves some of the best BBQ in the area. Limited hours: Wednesday thru Saturday 11 AM 6 PM.


Taqueria el Milagro


Excellent Mexican food in the middle of Terlingua. It's a short walk from the "city center" (Starlight).


Mountain View Restaurant


Located on the grounds of the Chisos Mountain Lodge, this is the only restaurant inside the park. Considering its remote location, the food is better than expected. If you can get a table near the windows, the views are fantastic. Plan for crowds during holidays and Spring Break.




A local chain grocery store with a location in Presidio. The best place (and the only place) to get groceries in the area.