Big Bend National Park is located in the south-central United States in the western corner of the state of Texas. The national park boundaries encompass an area of 1,252 square miles (3,242 sq km).
The name of the park was derived in the large bend in the Rio Grande River that occurs along the border between Mexico and the United States. The park includes 118 miles (190 km) of the river. Parque Nacional Canon de Santa Elena is a sister national park on the Mexico side protecting the common area between the two countries.
The elevations of the park range from 1,800 feet (550 m) near the Rio Grande River to the highest summit of Emory Peak at 7,832 feet (2,387 m). The river as carved through the desert area creating steep canyon walls that look over the river. The desert area is part of the Chihuahuan Desert that occupies in Mexico and the United States on both sides of the river.
Although Big Bend National Park sits in the middle of the desert, it is home to over 1,200 species of plants, with only 60 species being cacti. Apart from insects, over 600 species of animals call the park home as well.
One of the most desired species to see is the cougar or mountain lion. Other popular species include the coyote, the roadrunner, gray fox, peccary, jackrabbit, and the Mexican black bears. The golden eagle is one of the most notorious predator species taken down small mammals like deer and goats.
Big Bend Highlights
Exploring the desert, canyon walls, rock formations, and hoping for wildlife sightings are the highlight of Big Bend National Parks. The easiest way is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that drives through much of the park.
However, hiking and trekking are the best way to explore the nature of the park affords to visitors who make their way to this remote part of the country. Emory Peak is the highest point and trekking up the mountain is for those in better shape and more adventurous. It is not a hard trail but it is uphill.
The Windows trail follows a creek through the canyon to a crevasse between two rock walls. The creek goes on over the edge to the floor below, but the view through the rock walls is stunning out over the desert scenery below.
Trails of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend is a large national park with several opportunities to hike and explore the splendor of this Texas national park gem.
Window View Trail: This is an easily accessible trail that goes a distance of only .3 miles (.48 km) offering views of the peaks that surround the valley basin area.
Panther Path Trail: This is a short and easy trail that actually allows wheelchairs for the first part of the trail. It is a short and simple way to get a taste of the outdoors of Big Bend.
Lost Mine Trail: This trail is moderately rated with ascents that provide views out of Juniper Canyon and Casa Grande as well as Pine Canyon and Mexico’s Sierra del Carmen. The hike covers a distance of 4.8 miles (7.7 km). Hikers should take plenty of water.
South Rim Trail: This is a challenging hike that travels about 14 miles (22 km) that provides stunning views of the canyons and valleys below the rim.
Santa Elena Canyon: This is a moderately rated trail that ascends and travels a distance of 1.7 miles (2.74 km). It is the epitome experience of what hiking and exploring Big Bend is all about. It delivers stunning picturesque landscape views.
Big Bend Highlights
- Pine Canyon Falls
- Cattail Falls
- Santa Elena Canyon
- Emory Peak
- Window Trail
- Britannica, Big Bend National Park, https://www.britannica.com/place/Big-Bend-National-Park, retrieved March 2020.
- National Park Conservation Association, https://www.npca.org/parks/big-bend-national-park, retrieved March 2020.
- National Park Foundation, Perfect Solitude Big Bend National Park, https://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/big-bend-national-park, retrieved March 2020.
- National Park Service, Big Bend, https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm, retrieved March 2020.
- Texas Monthly, Big Bend National Park, https://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/big-bend-made-easy/, retrieved March 2020.