When is Big Bend busy?
Big Bend National Park is experiencing an increase in visitation and with it a greater demand for both frontcountry and backcountry camping. The park is busiest on extended weekends related to Federal holidays, during the weeks of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Years holidays, and especially during spring break which occurs during most of March.
At these times visitors can generally expect the Chisos Mountains Lodge and all of the park's three frontcountry campgrounds to fill each day, with increased demand for backcountry campsites that often fill to capacity as well. If you plan on visiting Big Bend it is best to come prepared with alternative plans for lodging or camping outside of the park.
Parking areas for popular trails and destinations in the park may also become congested during busy periods. Please obey traffic and parking laws in these areas and be courteous to other visitors. If a parking lot is full consider visiting another trail or point of interest in the park and returning when the area is less busy.
What should I do if the park is full when I arrive?
There are several options for staying in private campgrounds near either of the park's two entrances or in hotels in the surrounding area. For more information on camping, lodging and other activities outside the park please visit the VisitBigBend.com website.
Visit the camping page for information about camping in the park. See the weather page for local forecasts, park notices, and campground updates.
Frontcountry vs. Backcountry Camping
- Frontcountry camping refers staying in any one of the park's three developed campgrounds: Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood.
- Backcountry camping is any overnight trip to the park that is not spent at either the Chisos Mountains Lodge or one of the park's three developed frontcountry campgrounds. All overnight trips including river trips, backpacking, or staying at a roadside site on the park's unimproved roads require a backcountry permit.
How does backcountry permitting work?
Permits for backcountry camping, river use or using stock animals in the park must be obtained before the intended backcountry use. Permits are issued in person only during normal visitor center hours, and may be obtained up to 24 hours in advance of the trip. If all the backcountry campsites are full for the night you arrive in the park you may still be able to receive a permit for backcountry camping beginning on the second night of your trip.
Some things to know about backcountry permits:
- Most backcountry campsites in the park are only accessible to high clearance vehicles, and four-wheel-drive may be required depending on weather conditions in the park.
- Visitors traveling with RV's or camping trailers should be aware that few backcountry sites can accommodate these vehicles and that generator use is prohibited in the backcountry.
- Permit cost is $12 for overnight use ($6 with a Senior or Access pass). There is no charge for day-use river or stock permits.
- Permits are issued on a first come, first-served basis. During peak visitation periods permits are in high demand, and most sites will be taken, so please plan alternative itineraries and campsites.
- Permits may be written for up to 14 consecutive nights. Day-use river and stock permits may also be written for multiple consecutive days.
- Permit changes may be made without an additional fee provided no new days are added to the itenerary. Permit changes must be made in person.
Backcountry use regulations and group size limits apply. Visit the backcountry use page for more information.
Backpacking Group Size Limit
An organized group or individual party may not exceed a 15 person limit. There are currently only two Chisos campsites that can accommodate a group this size: it may be necessary to split the group to other campsites. As permits are issued only on a first come, first-served basis, it is best to plan ahead, and have alternative itineraries in mind, especially during peak visitation periods.