BIG BEND National Park
“ The towering walls of Santa Elena Canyon , in places 1,500 feet high , offer a breathtaking view both from the overlook on the road and the trail up the canyon .”
For young explorers , the park provides Junior Ranger activity books — children fi ll out the appropriate number of activities for their age group , and after a chat with a ranger at the end of your trip , they will receive a ranger badge . Park rangers take this task very seriously ; they will kindly quiz your little ones and have them repeat the Ranger Oath before presenting them their badge .
Rio Grande Village is the hub of activity on the east side of Big Bend . Here , the low desert ecosystem meets the Rio Grande with sweeping river views , true desert fl ora and fauna , and fascinating cultural history . See both ancient petroglyphs and the ruins of an old health spa settlement at the Hot Springs before you soak in the thermal baths on the bank of the river . Those with adequate vehicle clearance can visit Ernst Tinaja , a rare geological feature that provides drinking water year-round to countless species . Ranger-led interactive lectures happen frequently at the amphitheater . Boquillas Canyon is a short , easyto-moderate hike over alluvial overlooks peppered with metates , depressions worn into the stone by ancient people grinding seeds and grain . It continues down along the riverbank , where towering forests of cane lend a tropical feel , before winding between the canyon walls . When the border is open , visitors with passports can go to the village of Boquillas and enjoy the local hospitality there . Boquillas has been an integral part of the Big Bend for a hundred and fi fty years ; visiting the tiny village is like stepping into a different century , and it ’ s a must-see cultural experience .
The ancient mud fl ows and colorful sandstone deposits on the east side of the park are where the majority of Big Bend ’ s fossil history has been uncovered . From seashells embedded in the stone bottoms of the arroyos to the massive Alamosaurus discovered there in 1999 , the eastern portion of the park is the place for lovers of paleontology .
This section of the park has extreme temperatures and
should be explored with caution during the hot months , May through October . The Rio Grande Village ranger station is only in operation during winter months . Always get a ranger ’ s advice before planning a hike in the desert .
The west side of the park is another world entirely , with sweeping grassy plateaus , fascinating volcanic formations and many traces of the history of human settlement in the region . The Ross Maxwell Scenic drive , which ends at Santa Elena Canyon , offers a number of hikes of varying degrees of diffi culty . It also provides access to the Chisos Basin backcountry from various points for the more advanced hiker and backpacker .
The towering walls of Santa Elena Canyon , in places 1,500 feet high , offer a breathtaking view both from the overlook on the road and the trail up the canyon . The Castolon Historic District which served as a barracks for miners until 1961 , is an excellent stopping point for a history lesson . Though the store burned in 2019 , the historic district still offers a fascinating glimpse into the Big Bend ’ s recent past . Food and supplies can still be obtained there , and the ranger station is manned throughout the winter and spring . For those interested in ranching history , the Sam Nail Ranch and Homer Wilson Ranch are short side hikes close to the road , where pioneer life can be seen up close . The Chimneys