You Need To Explore Big Bend National Park. Here's Why.

Add one of the least visited and most isolated national parks in the lower 48 to your bucket list.

By: Alex E + Save to a List

Big Bend National Park may not be the easiest national park to access, but the sheer size and beauty of Big Bend is right on par with the best national parks in the nation. I spent two amazing days trying soak up as much of the park as I could. I drove straight from New Orleans and made it as far as I could before sleeping in my truck on the side of the road. Just the drive itself before I even entered the park was full of coyotes and mule deer crossing the road and by far the most stars I've ever seen. No cell phone service and no ambient light for miles made it feel like the old west in history books. My plan was to wake up, make some instant Jet Boil coffee and get some great sunrise photos of the morning light hitting the beautiful mountain peaks and the Rio Grande. I was able to capture some of the most dramatic sunrises and sunsets I've ever seen. The red and burnt orange mountains silhouetting the horizon was absolutely breath taking. The beautiful landscape, ability to "get off the grid," and endless amounts of adventures are just a couple reasons you need to add Big Bend to your bucket list! 

1. The Night Sky

Certified by the International Dark-Sky Association as one of only 30 dark-sky parks in the world, and on the USA Today's top ten list for darkest national parks. Big Bend is quite possibly the darkest place in the lower 48. It's not hard to notice the difference between the normal night sky and looking up while in Big Bend. You see more star light than darkness and shooting stars are as normal as breathing! Hike, mountain bike, or drive to the darkest areas this great nation has to offer.

2. The Isolation

Big Bend is 1,250 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island. With around 300,000 visitors per year that breaks down to around only 821 visitors per day. That means every visitor could have 1.5 square miles entirely to themselves! Obviously people will congregate around certain parts of the park, but if you go on a backpacking trip, its not uncommon to go 3-5 days without seeing another human being. Be aware, this parks isolation is serious! Mountain lions, bears and snakes are more common than visitors, and the dry desert heat can be relentless. When you check in with park rangers to get your permit, be prepared for the ranger to ask detailed questions about where you will hike, camp and how prepared you are. The rangers will also take pictures of you, your gear and soles of your hiking boots. Too many unprepared hikers have wandered off into this beautiful land and never return. Don't let that scare you, let that prepare you!

3. The Sunrise and Sunset

Its hard to beat the sunrise or sunset in Big Bend simply because of all the colors in both the sky and on the ground. The sky lights up the clouds in pinks and purples, while the light hitting the burnt orange and red desert landscape is surreal. You will regret not remembering the camera on this trip! Don't be lazy and wake up before the sun to get some of the most dramatic sunrises I've ever captured. Camp next to the Rio Grande for even more dramatic sunset shots, especially if a rare storm is rolling in.

4. The Wildlife

Obviously with the limited impact by man in the area, the wildlife thrives. Mule deer roam as normal as cattle, coyotes curiously scurry around, snakes bask in the warm sun, 14 species of scorpions call Big Bend home, black bears frequent campsites and mountain lion tracks were fresh on trail the day I arrived. This place offers a very wild side on and off trail. Even if you simply drive around Big Bend and don't get on trail, you are still guaranteed to see some form of wildlife. Wildlife still truly owns this part of our wild world!

5. The Rio Grande

This wild, scenic, and powerful river provides life to the desert and fun for all visitors. Visitors can swim, canoe, kayak, SUP, and white water raft the 69 miles of river inside the park. The river also cuts the dramatic Santa Elena Canyon with amazing 1500 vertical walls along the U.S. and Mexican border. The Santa Elena hike is short and offers great picturesque shots. The area around the beautiful river acts as an oasis in the middle of the desert. The landscape transforms from the dry desert into a green and cool landscape. The Rio even cuts out sections of sandy beaches to relax and picnic on. 

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Starry Nights and Sun-Soaked Canyons at Big Bend National Park

The Outbound Collective

The Top 8 adventures in Big Bend National Park

Korey Taylor

5 Can't-miss national parks in the Southern US

The Outbound Collective