My first time to Big Bend National park was over a long weekend this past summer of 2018. I originally was hesitant to go down to the southern border of Texas in the middle of June due heat issues but overall the weather wasn’t that bad. We actually where shocked at how chilly the nights got and how pleasant the weather was when hiking up the South Rim Trail.
We left Dallas-Fort Worth area on a Thursday to start our 10 plus hour road trip to Big Bend National Park. We had secured accommodations at the Rio Grande Motel inside the park at the Chisos Mountain Lodge. I could not recommend this location enough, since it is so centrally located inside the park and acts as a great base camp for however long you decide to stay.
The Chisos Basin area is not only a great centrally located part of the park but also the main trail head to start quite a few hikes including the South Rim Trail and the Window Trail. Besides the lodge, there is a great restaurant and general store that should stock most items you might have forgotten at home whether for the hike or camping portion of your trip.
The drive to Big Bend National Park from DFW is pretty dull to put it in nice terms. There is not much of anything to see or do the entire drive and just a handful of cities in between DFW and the park entrance. We took I20 all the way until turning on highway US-385 all the way to the park entrance. The only major cities along the drive will be Midland and Odessa if you are coming the DFW route, if you are coming from the Austin or San Antonio area you will probably not see anything until you hit Fort Stockton.
The entire trip is rather easy due to main highways navigating you all the way until the park entrance. The one thing I do recommend and advise is making sure to have a full tank of gas before leaving Fort Stockton where I10 and I20 meet. This is realistically the last major city you will see until you enter the park. Depending on the time of day Marathon, TX will have a gas station open but if you are doing the drive in one day you might get there too late and I wouldn’t risk it.
After Fort Stockton and if Marathon is closed, the next gas station will not be until you enter the park. While I didn’t fill up inside the park, it didn’t seem like a 24/7 gas station that accepted credit cards, meaning it would have to be open for you to fill up. Once again the moral of the story is make sure you have a full tank besides leaving Fort Stockton.
I do recommend to enjoy the drive after Marathon and get some photos, since its once of my favorite things to be driving in an area so desolate and empty. We only saw 2-3 cars from Marathon to the Chisos Lodge area and 1 of them was border patrol.
We didn’t arrive at the Chisos Mountain Lodge until late but luckily our friend had arrived earlier and gotten our room keys. The lodge office closes by 11pm so make sure you are there before or you might be camping or sleeping in your car that night.
While we did get in pretty late on Thursday, we decided to make the best of our time there and do the South Rim Loop Hike on the first morning. It made the most sense to knock this out first since the trail head is right behind the Rio Grande Motel and it would drain us the most of any other hike in the park.
The hike took us the better part of the entire day and we definitely where exhausted at the end. You can see my recap of the South Rim Trail Loop next!
After the hike we got back to the motel room, showered, and just did our best to hydrate after what was one crazy strenuous day.
We decided to have dinner at the restaurant located at the Chisos Mountain Lodge, which I will say was rather good. After dinner we just relaxed and spent the night watching the sunset close in over the Window Trail Hike which is rather close if you stay in the motel.
We woke up on what would be our last day in the park, exhausted, sore and defeated after what was one crazy hike on the South Rim. After packing and checking out of the hotel we decided to travel around the park a bit to check some view points and scenic drives.
I will have some recaps of my favorite scenic drives of the park next!
We ended up stopping at the Hot Springs in the park for a nice soak of our soar feet before heading out to Terlingua for breakfast/lunch.
We originally wanted to also see the Santa Elena Canyon but we underestimated just how big of a park this is and how long it would take to get there. It is definitely on the list for our next trip to the park.
We ended up heading to the Terlingua Ghost Town and grabbing lunch at a small Mexican restaurant and heading out to visit Marfa for our Instagram picture of the week!
The drive from Terlingua to Marfa is about two hours and provides some great views of Southwest Texas. We definitely enjoyed our time visiting the Prada store and had to take quite a few photos to mark the occasion.
We headed from Marfa to Fort Davis, which is about 30 minutes away, where we would spend the night, hoping to visit the McDonald Observatory for their famous star parties. Unfortunately for us a storm rolled in that night and rained out our plans. We ended up just staying at a great little hotel called The Hotel Limpia and playing board games and charades with some other guests.
This was a travel day which meant after sleeping in, we would embark on another 10 hour drive back to Dallas-Fort Worth.
Overall this was a pretty fun extended weekend trip and one I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to visit Big Bend National Park. We are definitely planning on going back since there is just so much to do but if you are short on time I would highly recommend the trip from almost anywhere in Texas or New Mexico.
If you have any questions or comments on Big Bend please let me know in the comments below! It is definitely one of my favorite parks and I cannot wait to go back in the near future. I highly recommend to check the guides and reviews linked above to learn more about the South Rim Trail and Fort Davis.
Have you been to Big Bend National Park? Any favorite stops? Any must do!? Leave it in the comments 🙂
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