Big Bend National Park

March 10-16 – Extraordinary was one of many adjectives we used on a regular basis as we drove through the arid southwest Texas desert and mountains en route to, and then within, Big Bend National Park.  Impressive, amazing, vast, beautiful, remarkable, incredible, striking… I could keep going, but I think you’ll think the same when you see some of the sights we enjoyed while here.  

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park was formed on June 12, 1944, a week after U.S. troops stormed the beaches at Normandy.  The name was derived from a large bend in the Rio Grande River, the “Big Bend.”  The drive to get here is quite long, but well, well, did I say well? worth the effort!

View from South Rim Loop Trail
View from the South Rim
On the Hot Springs Canyon Trail we go
View from the entrance
Flowering Torrey yucca - their blooms can weigh up to 70 pounds!
Flowering Torrey yucca – their blooms can weigh up to 70 pounds!

I thought it might be fun to consider Big Bend National Park by the numbers:  

  • 7 is the number of days/nights we stayed at the park.
  • 33 miles is how far we hiked in the park, but Big Bend offers over 200 miles of hiking trails – from short, nature walks to mid-range hikes in the 5-14-mile range (which is what we did several times) to multi-day backcountry backpacking routes – this place is truly a hikers paradise!
  • 1,000+ is the number of miles the Rio Grande River forms the international boundary between Texas from Mexico; 118 is the number of miles that border the park.
  • 1,200 species of plants, 450 species of birds (we especially loved listening to their beautiful songs), 56 species of reptiles, and 75 mammal species – Big Bend is teeming with life in spite of the harsh conditions species must face here in the Chihuahuan Desert.
  • 801,163 acres; that’s 1,252 sq mi, making it the 14th largest national park by size.
  • 5 is the number of Visitor Centers – we visited them all and got our passport stamps.
  • 616 is the number of miles we drove while visiting the park.  One thing you do a lot of in Big Bend is drive, but the scenery is so spectacular and we enjoyed every minute in Toad!

We had a fantastic time in Big Bend, in fact, we extended our stay by two more days so we could visit the entire park; five days wasn’t enough.  We hiked several trails including one 12.4 mile hike up, up, up into the high Chisos (CHEE-sos) Mountains to the South Rim of the Chisos Basin.

We took several other hikes, but perhaps our favorite was a 6-mile out and back trail that ran through the desert and along the cliffs of the Rio Grande to a hot springs.

Wildflowers in Big Bend National Park
Roadrunners can run up to 20 mph pursuing lizards and small rattlesnakes, then they peck their prey to death with stunning blows from their beaks.

The wildlife and the wildflowers were incredible, unique, and beautiful way down here in the desert.  Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, were as tall and lush as they’ve been in years, per the Park Ranger.  The five-year drought stifled their growth in recent years, but a little bit of rain brought the desert into bloom.  We saw several little Roadrunners dashing about.  

These guys can run up to 20 mph, pursuing lizards and small rattlesnakes, then pecking their prey to death.

As I said before, I could go on and on about all we saw and all we did and all the fun we had in the Chihuahuan Desert and Chisos Mountains and along the Rio Grande here in Big Bend, but perhaps it’s best to just let the photos do the talking.