Primitive Dirt Roads In Big Bend National Park

Historic Remnants
Rusted Automobile at Mariscal Mine
If you have a high-clearance, four wheel drive vehicle, Big Bend's primitive dirt roads provide many opportunities to get off the beaten path and explore the remote corners of this park. Some of these roads traverse bedrock and washes, making them extremely rough. A slow speed is mandatory for safe passage. Be prepared with plenty of water, a jack, and good spare tire. On these isolated, infrequently patrolled backcountry roads, a disabled vehicle can become a life-threatening situation.

Protect Big Bend. Always stay on established roadways. OFF ROAD DRIVING IS PROHIBITED.

road guide

Road Guide

Guide to Backcountry Roads of Big Bend National Park
25-page, full-color guide to the highlights and natural/cultural history of Big Bend as experienced along the backcountry roads. Thoroughly revised mile by mile, this new edition now includes GPS coordinates as well as mileage logs along with information for mountain bikers, color photographs throughout, maps of the Glenn Spring and Mariscal Mine historic areas, and more roads!
Be Safe on Backcountry Roads
Check here for safety tips when traveling on backcountry roads.
Mountain sunset
Mountain sunset

Glenn Springs Road

16 miles (26km)
The Glenn Spring Road skirts the east side of the Chisos Mountains, then bounces over the southwest corner of Chilicotal Mountain to Glenn Spring, a lush desert spring. Here in 1914 a large candelilla wax camp was constructed. The numerous dry washes along this road may become extremely rough after heavy rains, making four-wheel drive necessary. As it descends from Glenn Springs to the River Road, it generally becomes smoother.

Pine Canyon Road 4 miles (6km)
From the Glenn Springs Road this short road climbs gradually into Pine Canyon and provides access the Pine Canyon Trail.
Juniper Canyon Road 5 miles (8km)
From the Glenn Springs Road this short road leads to the Juniper Canyon Trail and Dodson Trail junction. This road is rocky and and usually requires 4WD.
Ernst Tinaja
Ernst Tinaja

Old Ore Road

26 miles (43km)
Used in the early 1900s to transport ore from Mexican mines to the railroad station at Marathon, the Old Ore Road generally follows the route used by mule and pack trains a century ago. This road is rough and requires a sturdy vehicle to negotiate. The road has excellent views of the Chisos Mountains across the Tornillo Creek drainage to the west. Ernst Tinaja, five miles from the southern end of the road, is a popular destination.
Rock formation along River Road East
Interesting geology

River Road

51 miles (82km)
River Road traverses the southern portion of the park, roughly connecting the areas near Rio Grande Village and Castolon. While generally following the course of the Rio Grande, the road runs a considerable distance from the river, especially in its mid-section near Mariscal Mountain. You cannot actually see the river along the River Road unless you take a side trip to one of the primitive roadside sites located next to the river. Due to its length and usually rough road conditions, allow a full day to drive from end to end. Primitive roadside campsites (permit required) located along the road, allow for extended exploration. The west end is lesser used, and generally in a rougher condition. Unless you have full confidence in your high-clearance vehicle, consider backtracking from the Mariscal Mine and coming out through the Glenn Spring Road. River Road crosses numerous washes, and is often
impassable after rains.
Protect Big Bend. Always stay on established roadways. OFF ROAD DRIVING IS PROHIBITED.
Black Gap Road
Black Gap Road

Black Gap Road

8.5 miles (14km)
This challenging road connects the Glenn Springs Road with the River Road. This road is not maintained, and 4-wheel drive is required at all times. Review a selection of Black Gap Road photos for insight into the conditions of this route.

Last updated: April 30, 2019

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


(432) 477-2251

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