Backpacking in Big Bend

Hikers at the rim
 
Big Bend National Park is a backpacker's paradise. For those who come prepared, there are hundreds of miles of trails, and vast expanses to explore. The following information will help you plan for your dream adventure.
 

Backcountry Use Permits

  • A Backcountry Permit is required for all overnight backpacking in Big Bend National Park.
  • Permits for Chisos Mountains Backpacking Campsite are available online through www.recreation.gov
  • Maximum group size is twelve if allowed at a designated campsite.
  • Refer to the Big Bend COVID-19 Updates Page for the latest information on available facilities and services.
 

Backpacking Group Size Limit

An organized group or individual party may not exceed a 15 person limit.
NOTICE: COVID-19 Group Size Limits: No more than 12

 

Chisos Mountains Backcountry Campsites

Overnight backpackers in the Chisos Mountains can choose from forty-two designated campsites. A backcountry permit is required. Your permit will designate your specific sites for specific nights. You may obtain a permit up to 6 months in advance via www.recreation.gov. (Please note: we recommend that the first thing you do on recreation.gov be to create an account, then select the campsites you're interested in.)

There are six Chisos backpacking campsites available for permitting in person up to 24 hours in advance at Panther Junction or Chisos Basin Visitor Centers.

 
 
 

Backpacking in the Desert

The most remote areas of Big Bend National Park are best left to experienced backpackers. Each year, park rangers respond to desert emergencies when hikers are not prepared for the heat and extreme conditions of the desert. Due to the complex topography and vague trails/routes, a topographic map and a compass/gps are necessary for some hikes. Not for novices, you will need to be fully equipped and physically prepared to pack your gear and water into the desert and camp primitively.

Most of the desert areas of Big Bend National Park are open to wilderness backpacking. A backcountry permit is required. Prospective desert backpackers will need to have all the gear necessary for a safe trip, and be prepared to describe a detailed itinerary to a park ranger. You will need to have backpacking gear and be prepared to hike for at least 30 minutes from any road, and be out of sight of any road. There is no camping near or along or adjacent to any road. Rangers will NOT issue backcountry permits without your clear detailed itinerary and overall plan, or for any trips deemed inappropriate, a major safety concern, or that would conflict with park regulations.

Popular desert trails that provide access to wilderness backpacking include: Mule Ears/Smoky Creek Trail, Chimneys Trail, Marufo Vega Trail Complex, Blue Creek Trail, Juniper Canyon Trail, Dodson Trail, Elephant Tusk, and Mesa de Anguila area.

There are strict limits to the number of backpackers allowed in each area of the park, and a variety of backcountry regulations that must be followed.

Some remote and very rugged backcountry areas of interest include:

 

Last updated: July 2, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129

Phone:

432-477-2251

Contact Us