Trip Report | Big Bend National Park (+ What I Packed & Where We’re Headed Next!)

Last month I shared the first half of our Spring Break road trip through the unique West Texas towns of Alpine, Marathon and Marfa, and today I’ve got Part 2 of our adventure…Big Bend National Park!

As you venture south towards the border, the ranches get larger, the terrain more rugged, and the time between passing cars stretches further and further apart. The sky gets bigger and the landscape even grander. Big Bend National Park is larger than the state of Rhode Island, and you could easily spend a week hiking and exploring the rugged scenery, and not even skim the surface.

And when the sign says, ‘No services for 90 miles!’, it absolutely means no services! No gas, no water or snacks, and certainly no cell service!

But that’s part of what makes the depths of south Texas and the Chisos Mountains so special…wide open spaces and pure tranquility.

Big Bend National park river canyon

family trip to big bend national park

entrance to big bend national park texas

trailhead in big bend national park texas

scenic drive big bend national park texas

cactus flowers on hike big bend national park texas

storm in big bend national park texas

family vacation road trip to big bend national park texas
Hoodie | High-Top Sneakers

golf resort big bend national park texas

river running through big bend national park texas

canoeing in big bend national park texas

family canoe trip big bend national park texas
My Swimsuit | White Jean Shorts

rock formations in canyon in big bend national park texas

nature scenic view of big bend national park texas

family hike through big bend national park texas
Best Hiking Shoes

family canoe trip on river in canyon of big bend national park texas

Where We Stayed in Big Bend Area

The only lodging inside the park is Chisos Mountain Lodge, but the limited rooms book a year or more in advance. Many people stay in Marathon (70 miles away) and day trip to the park each day, but we opted for Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa (20 miles away) for the shorter daily drive.

The resort looks like the movie set of an old Western, and has a feeling of community, and full of large common areas where families congregate at the end of the day. Our kids had so much fun playing games and exploring the property. Lajitas Resort is a mini-town in itself…market, gas station, bakery, restaurant, first-class golf course, pool, nightly movies & smores…kind of like summer camp! Which is a good thing since there is literally nothing else for hours around!

We loaded up on breakfast burritos and sandwiches every morning, explored the Park and surrounding areas all day, and then convened for dinner and games at the hotel every night. Most nights we took a blanket to the golf course and just lay staring at the billions of stars. I’ve never seen anything like it!

The only downside of the hotel is the rooms are dark and a little tired, and the rates are completely absurd during peak seasons. But again, there are very few options if you want to stay close to the park. We spotted Terlingua Rentals (even closer to the park) and thought they were a really great option if you aren’t looking for all the amenities of a resort.

golf resort at big bend national park texas
Little Miss’s Romper | Mr. SP Tee | The Teen’s Tee

What We Did in Big Bend National Park

Best Hikes:
Santa Elena Canyon Trail // An easy two-mile hike leads between the towering walls of Santa Elena Canyon, where the Rio Grande Flows between Texas and Mexico

Window Trail //  This out-and-back trail is just over 5 miles, and leads you along the riverbed to the ‘window’ view. Or you can choose the 10-minute paved sidewalk trek out to the overlook.

Lost Mines Trail // Easy hike up a rocky path dotted with fragrant piñon pines, with towering stone formations and scenic lookout views of Mexico.

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive  //  Not actually a hike, but rather the road that leads from the Chisos Basin to Santa Elena Canyon, full of overlooks, scenic vistas, and following the Rio Grande with towering canyons.

Best Excursions:
Far Flung Company  //  Located in nearby Terlingua, they offer rafting, floats, and canoe trips down the Rio Grande (each depending on the water levels). They picked us up at the hotel and we had a fun afternoon floating the border of US and Mexico.

Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa  //  Rent a golf cart and drive the 18-hole course. It’s unbelievably gorgeous!

Best Drive:
El Camino del Rio (River Road)  //  A 60-mile stretch of desert highway connecting Presidio to Terlingua, National Geographic deems this drive in the Top 5 most beautiful in North America, and certainly the most scenic in Texas.

entrance to big bend state park texas

West Texas Road Trip By the Numbers:

800: Number of miles driven

3: Number of hotels

2: Number of times I lost my lunch from the elevation

1: Number of times we ran out of gas

Infinity: Number of stars visible in the remote desert skies

Countless: Memories made unplugging and exploring our home state.

family road trip to big bend national park texas

You guys have requested more detailed packing posts, so here’s a breakdown of what I packed for the week-long road trip that included flying, driving, hiking, rafting and in-town exploring. You can see the actual outfits in this post and this post.

what to wear on an airplane
Jean Jacket | Shirt | Joggers | Sneakers | Bag | HatSunglasses | Earrings

I never travel without a white tee, light jacket, sneakers, hat, and swimsuit. The rest of the pieces were mixed-and-matched to create several options!

what to pack in your carry on luggage
Jean Jacket | Shirt | Joggers | Sneakers

what to pack for a trip to big bend national park
Stripe Pullover | Field Jacket | Jeans | Sneakers

Salut! t-shirt | White Jeans | Similar Boots | Sneakers

Field Jacket | Leopard Sweatshirt | White Jeans | Similar Boots | Sneakers

Button Back Shirt | JeansShorts | Similar BootsSneakers | Hat | Bandana

Friday” t-shirt | Field Jacket | Shorts | Sneakers | Hat | Bandana | Sandals

active outfit for big bend national park north face fleece and hiking shoes
Workout Leggings | Sweatshirt | Hiking Shoes

‘Brilliant Turquoise’ Swimsuit (25% off!)| Shorts | “Friday” t-shirt | Sandals

Cardigan SweaterJeans | Sandals

cozy cute airport outfit for travel
Cardigan Sweater | Scoop t-shirt | Jeans | Sandals | Bag | Flap Clutch | Hat | Sunglasses | Earrings

It’s a lot of outfit combinations and layers, but only a handful of pieces…all of which folded neatly in my trusty packing cubes. (See my packing video with the travel bags here.)  

Sugarplum Travel Tip: In the same week, we experienced temperatures in West Texas from the 20s to the 80s, so plan and pack accordingly!

how to pack ebags in carry on luggage
Packing eBags

how to pack ebags in your carry on luggage
Packing eBags | Monogram Toiletry Bag | Hair Dryer

family hike in big bend national park road trip in canyon

See Part 1 of our trip, including Marathon, Marfa, and Alpine in this post. And all our travel adventures here.

big bend national park trip recap what to do where to hike and canoe

These family trips are highlights of my year, and memories I’ll always cherish. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw we surprised the kids with our next adventure over the weekend!

Mr. SP and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this month, and we’re so excited to travel to one of our long-time bucket list places….Kauai, Hawaii! We believe a strong, healthy marriage is the best gift you can give your kids, and its something we work hard on every day…so we decided to bring them along to celebrate the milestone as a family!

We leave Sunday, so leave me all your Kauai tips and faves!!

[More National Parks Posts]

National Parks Road Trip | The Itinerary
Trip Report | The Grand Canyon
Trip Report | Bryce Canyon
Trip Report | Zion National Park
Trip Report | Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend
Trip Report | Big Bend National Park
Trip Report | West Texas Road Trip
Our Favorite Hiking Spots in the United States
Road Trip Essentials


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