The namesake bend in the Rio Grande isn’t the only enormous thing around here—this colossal park encompasses more than 800,000 acres of spectacular canyons, the mesmerizing Chihuahuan Desert, the awe-inspiring Chisos Mountains, and unexpectedly temperate woodlands. It’s the kind of place that words can’t quite describe, and photos can’t even do it justice. Phrases like “majestic peaks” and “rugged beauty” barely begin to illustrate the Big Bend experience, but they at least offer a glimpse into this ultimate “must be seen to be believed” destination.
Big Bend is the kind of place where you feel compelled to pull your car over every half a mile to snap a photo of the endless succession of stunning scenes. Play some appropriate West Texas soundtrack music (Willie Nelson complements the scenery quite nicely) and marvel at the jagged peaks, desert cacti, and sweeping vistas. Just be sure to occasionally keep your eye on the road—the switchbacks on the way to Chisos Mountain Lodge are dramatic hairpin turns with a 10 mph speed limit.
Speaking of speed, other parts of the park are much more open, and it’s easy to find yourself cruising at 70 mph en route to the hot springs or the dramatic Santa Elena Canyon . It’s OK to slow down. One of the greatest aspects of being in Big Bend is leaving the city and daily routine behind you. It may also be tempting to set an itinerary with goals of hikes or destinations to accomplish within a certain amount of time, but try not to get too caught up with an agenda. Some of the best experiences you’ll have will be just sitting on a mountainside or relaxing at your campground. The absence of power lines, utility poles, billboard ads, and litter is cathartic, and the cleansing effect on your mind is equally therapeutic.
Sometimes it’s necessary to get in touch with civilization and there are a few places in the park where this is possible. Wi-Fi service is accessible on the porch of the Chisos Mountains Lodge, and mobile phone service is slightly more reliable—just not in low-lying areas or around mountain peaks.
Aside from missing your email or favorite TV show, the only negative associated with Big Bend is its remote location—a blessing and a curse, since it’s inconvenient to get to but wonderfully isolated and peaceful. Once you’ve experienced its many unique charms, you’ll be able to justify the long drive for many future visits to this unrivaled natural masterpiece.