Choose Your Backcountry Adventure: Backpacking, Primitive Roadside Campsites, River Trips, and Horseback Riding
Big Bend National Park is a backpacker’s paradise, with hundreds of miles of trails and vast expanses to explore. But it’s not just about backpacking – visitors can choose from various backcountry adventures, including primitive roadside campsites, river trips, and horseback riding.
Backpacking in Big Bend: Tips and Regulations
Backpacking is one of the most popular activities in Big Bend, but it requires preparation and adherence to regulations. Visitors must obtain a backcountry permit, and the maximum group size is 15 people. The Chisos Mountains are the most popular backpacking area, with 42 designated campsites. Visitors can obtain permits up to six months in advance online or in person at the visitor centers.
Primitive Roadside Campsites: Off the Beaten Path
For those with rugged vehicles, primitive camping in designated roadside campsites might be the perfect adventure. However, these sites are not for everyone, and visitors must be aware of the vehicle size and capacity limits. Only a few sites can accommodate large RVs and trailers, and there are no amenities like toilets or shade. A backcountry use permit is required, and permits for the most popular sites can be reserved online.
River Trips: Floating the Rio Grande
Floating the Rio Grande is a unique and breathtaking way to see the park’s canyons. Visitors can choose from half-day floats or multi-day excursions, depending on the river levels. A backcountry permit and specific equipment are required for day-use and overnight river trips. Landing on the Mexican bank of the river is considered an illegal crossing and could result in fines and jail time.
Horseback Riding: Exploring the Park on Horseback
Visitors can bring and use horses in the park, but a backcountry use permit is required. Horses are not allowed on paved roads or road shoulders, but cross-country travel is permitted in most areas. Visitors must bring their own feed and water for their horses, as grazing within the park is not permitted. Camping with horses is allowed at several primitive road campsites, but visitors must remove all horse manure and feed remnants.