Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park
Chisos Mountains Big Bend National Park
This is our second visit to Big Bend.  We visited last year for a few days, but only scratched the surface of this huge National Park.  It begged for a return visit.  So, this time I planned a five day stay during our southwest road trip.

Big Bend is one of the most remote and most diverse places in the US.  From Marathon, which is in the middle of nowhere, its about 70 miles of driving through the desert to get to the park headquarters.  And once you're in the park its at least a another 20 mile drive to get to anywhere.  It's got deserts, river valleys, canyons, and high mountains.  Its loaded with wild life and wild flowers.  Its all these things that makes it a beautiful place and one of my favorite National Parks to visit.

Rio Grande Village RV Park
We used the Rio Grande Village area of the park as a base for our visit.  Spring time, more specifically March, is a busy time for Big Bend.  The weather makes it an ideal time and the spring break school vacations make it popular with families and vacationers.  The campgrounds are usually full during mid March so we had booked our reservation about 10 months in advance.  We stayed in the one and only place in the park that has RV hook ups.  In Rio Grande Village there's a parking lot with 25 spots for RV's.  Its an ok place to stay as we used it just as a place to park and sleep.  During the days we (along with most of the other campers) were out hiking and exploring in the park.

Hiking is perhaps the most popular activity in the park.  There are numerous hikes from short and easy to strenuous and difficult.  Due to my colitis, we chose some short and easy ones.

We hiked into Boquillas Canyon on the eastern most eastern end of the park.

Boquillas Canyon
  We hiked the Hot Springs Trail to the Rio Grande overlook.

Hot Springs Canyon
 We drove over to Castalon at the western edge of the park,

Cerro Castellan

and to Santa Elena Canyon.

J. Dawg at Santa. Elena Canyon
We drove up to Chisos Basin (the mountainous area of the park) with the RV (not recommended for RV's over 24 ft), which was very dramatic.  We did fine with my 26 ft RV but I'm not sure I'd try it with anything larger.  Once we got to the basin, we found it was packed with no spaces to park an RV or car so we had to do a turn around and didn't get a chance to do any hiking.  At least we have something for  return visit.  Here's a dashcam video of the drive up to the Basin.

Although Big Bend is one of the least visited National Parks, it was busy during our stay.  We were able to get to every place we wanted other than parking at Chisos Basin.  The weather was fair during our stay with a couple sunny days, a couple over cast, and some spots of rain.  The weather is varied and unpredictable in the park.  There can be a 20 degree different between the river areas and the mountains.  It can be hot and sunny on one end and cool and raining on the other.

One treat we got to experience while in the park were the Blue Bonnets.  The were in full bloom along most of the roads down at the lower elevations.  For wildlife, we saw Common Black Hawks, Roadrunners, Jackrabitts, Vultures, and one lone Diamond Back Rattlesnake curled up right in the middle of the road.

Here's some more pictures I took from around the park.

Clouds over the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains (taken from Daniels Ranch)

Chisos Mountains
Sotol Point
Desert Marigolds, Blue Bonnets, and Ocotillo
Blue Bonnets and Yucca by the road side
Rio Grand Village with Chisos Mountains in the distance
Ocotillo with Sierra Del Carmen's in the background
Catus on the Hot Springs Trail

We also did a day trip to Boquillas in Mexico, which I wrote about in this post - Return to Boquillas Del Carmen.

We did a lot of things but there was a lot we didn't do, like kayaking down the Rio Grande, hiking in the Chisos Basin, or exploring the numerous off road areas.  But perhaps we'll do some of that next time.  Overall, we had a great visit to Big Bend.