Camping at Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park Sign

After a disastrous camping trip back in 2016, we threw away our shredded tent and purchased a teardrop trailer a few months later. From that point forward, our camping trips were with our camper in tow. That changed in September 2021 when we decided to go camping at Big Bend National Park.

When looking at camping options at Big Bend, we decided to forgo the developed campgrounds. We wanted the true camping experience and opted for a backcountry campsite instead. Specifically, we reserved a primitive roadside campsite off of Old Ore Road. This decision was mostly due to the fact that we wanted to have a little fun in the Jeep. Old Ore Road is unmaintained and requires high clearance. It certainly did not disappoint!

Getting to the Campsite at Big Bend

Old Ore Road

With a brand new tent loaded in the Jeep, we made the 8 hour drive to Big Bend National Park. Once inside the park, it took an additional hour or so to drive up Old Ore Road to our campsite.

The road lived up to the expectations of the warnings mentioned on the national park’s website. Unmaintained, very rocky, and there had been a few washouts at some point after a heavy rain. It was slow going, but so much fun as we kicked up dust and drove over rocky terrain. The mountain views were certainly an added bonus.

Camping at Big Bend National Park

Bird’s eye view of our campsite

Once we made it up the road, we found the pull off to our campsite and set up our tent. It was late afternoon/early evening at that point, so we opted to pull out our food for dinner and relax.

At the Campsite

Our campsite was phenomenal. It was windy, but we had hills on both sides of us which shielded us from the worst of it. We had a bear locker for our trash, but kept our cooler and other food in the car. The campsite was truly primitive with no other campsites or people nearby. We had no phone service so we were able to fully disconnect.

The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.

Deep in the Heart of Texas, Don Swander

Big Bend National Park is a dark sky park and it certainly did not disappoint. Once night fell, the sky filled with stars. The only app I’ve paid money for within the last several years is Sky Guide and it really came in handy identifying the different constellations and stars. We spent much of our time at night staring up at the sky and sipping on drinks.

The Big Bend sunsets are an experience of their own. On our last evening, we headed up to an unofficial overlook just down the road from our campsite. We brought along our camping chairs and enjoyed the colorful view.

Big Bend Sunset

Hiking

Since it was September, the weather was still hot, so we didn’t do as much hiking as we would have liked. We did take a short morning hike on the Chisos Basin Loop Trail which is about 2 miles in length. While short, there are plenty of views of the Chisos Mountains. Considering it’s a desert park, I didn’t expect the vegetation to be so lush. There are plenty of trees and greenery making it a good home for black bears, mountain lions, and plenty of smaller critters. With only knocking out 2 of the 150 miles of trails, we certainly have a reason to make the trip back!

One of the views from Chisos Basin Loop Trail

Terlingua

We made the drive out of the park to check out Terlingua. Terlingua is an old mining ghost town with about 110 residents as of 2020. It’s a very small, but unique desert town. There are some food trucks, artsy shops, and even a couple of restaurants and bars. There are plenty of roadside attractions you’ll see as you drive through. We didn’t stay long, but I’m glad we took the time to drive out there. I haven’t encountered another town quite like Terlingua.

Around the Park

After our Terlingua outing, we headed back to the park and spent the next couple of hours driving around, exploring and seeing the sights. We found a maintained primitive road which took us to Santa Elena Canyon which is a must-see at the park. One side of the canyon is on U.S. land and the other side is Mexico, with the Rio Grande River running through.

Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park

After Santa Elena Canyon, we drove up the main paved park roads and took our time making our way back to Old Ore Road and our campsite. We pulled off at a couple of scenic overlooks and saw quite a bit of what Big Bend has to offer.


Our camping trip at Big Bend National Park was a success. I highly recommend this park and the backcountry campsites to anyone interested in exploring national parks. While we still have and use our camper, I’m looking forward to many more backcountry camping experiences.

All photos in this post were taken by writingbylj and may not be used without permission.


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