Backcountry Regulations

Southwest 4 (SW-4)
Backpackers in the Chisos

NPS Photo/Big Bend National Park


YOU are responsible for protecting the resources of YOUR park;
these regulations are strictly enforced.

  • A backcountry permit is required before you occupy any campsite in Big Bend National Park.
  • Use or discharge of firearms is prohibited. All wildlife is protected by federal law.
    Possession of other weapons, traps, or explosives is prohibited.
  • Groundfires and wood fires are prohibited in Big Bend.
    High Chisos and Wilderness Camping—use containerized fuel stoves only.
    Backcountry Roadside Campsites—use only pressed charcoal briquets within a BBQ grill. Pack out all evidence of cold charcoal ash.
  • Food Storage
    All food, water, food products, food trash, unclean cooking utensils and other aromatic items must be stored in a hard-sided vehicle, or where provided, a bear resistant storage locker. If backpacking in the open desert, attend your food, water, and aromatic items by keeping them packed up and within immediate reach. Consider preparing and eating food a distance from your sleeping area. Keep your campsite clean at all times.

    The caching of food and water is prohibited unless items are stored within a bear resistant storage container that has been certified and approved by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) or the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). For more information visit the backcountry food storage page.
  • Contain your trash and pack it out.
    Animals are attracted to trash. Use bear proof storage boxes when you are away from your site and pack out all trash when you break camp, including cigarette butts and toilet paper.
  • No pets on trails or in the backcountry.
    Pets may harm or be harmed by wildlife and can attract predators. Pets are not allowed on park trails; pets can go only where vehicles go.
    Read more about bringing your pet to Big Bend.
  • Do not take shortcuts on trails.
    Cross-country hiking is allowed, but when on a marked trail, do not take shortcuts.
  • Collecting or disturbing any natural or historical feature or object is prohibited.
    Leave park features intact for others to enjoy.
  • Contaminating natural water sources and their surroundings is prohibited. Camp at least 100 yards from any water source.
    Desert water sources and springs are fragile and vital for the plants and animals that depend on them for survival. Soaps, oils, skin lotions, and food residues from bathing and washing can seriously impact water quality. Minimize your impact to areas surrounding springs, seeps, and other temporal water sources.
  • Camp within designated sites.
    Set up tents only on bare ground, not plants, within the designated area outlined by rocks, logs or brush.
  • Generator use is not permitted in backcountry campsites.
    Natural quiet is a protected resource; help preserve a quiet wilderness experience.
  • Camping Limits
    Visitors can stay in the park up to 14 consecutive nights in either a front or backcountry site, with a limit of 28 total nights in the park in a calendar year.
    • Campers can occupy a specific site up to 14 total nights in a year.
    • Between January 1–April 15, visitors are limited to a total of 14 nights in the park.
Backpacking Group Size Limit
An organized group or individual party may not exceed a 15 person limit.
  • In the Chisos Mountains: 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. Groups may split into separate campsites however the 15 person size limit cannot be exceeded.
  • In the desert: Groups over 15 people will also need to split up and backpack into separate, non-adjacent zones.
  • Wilderness camping: Be at least 0.5 mile and out of sight from any road and at least 100 yards from any trail, historical structure, archeological site, dry wash, or cliff edge.
    Backpackers will need to hike for at least 30 minutes to reach the minimum distance from a road. There is no camping along or near any park roads.
    Minimize your impact to the natural landscape.
  • Bury human waste at least 6 inches deep. Pack out toilet paper.
    Human waste is unsightly and unsanitary. Carry a digging trowel. Locate latrines 0.25 mile from any water source and well away from camp. Pack out toilet paper.
    • Campers on the South Rim (SR) and East Rim (ER) campsites in the Chisos Mountains are required to pack out human waste using a waste disposal kit, such as PETT, Cleanwaste, WAG bags, Restop II, or similar commercial products. The contents of the bag are safe for disposal in trash receptacles and landfills, and the bags provide a lightweight, sanitary way to pack out waste.
  • Motorized vehicles and bicycles are permitted only on designated public roads.
    Off-road vehicle travel causes visual and environmental damage.
  • Do not feed wildlife.
    Feeding wildlife is illegal; it often results in rangers having to destroy the animal. Keep food, ice chests and cookgear in a hard-sided vehicle or food storage locker where provided. Don't leave food containers or packs unattended.

Last updated: February 14, 2024

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Mailing Address:

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



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