As the largest state park in Texas, Big Bend Ranch State Park is more than 300,000 acres. The park follows the Rio Grande and is close to the Mexican border.
It is in such a remote area that it has been called El Despoblado, or “The Uninhabited.” That does not mean it is not rich in history.
For more than 10,000 years, people have settled near the water sources within the park. When visiting, you will find over 500 prehistoric shelters, rock art, and cooking areas all over the park.
This area formed around 25 million years ago, and it continues to develop today. The scenery within the park is breathtaking. Its diverse landscape ranges from river lowlands to plateaus, canyons, and mountains.
Activities at Big Bend Ranch State Park
The Big Bend Ranch State Park has many outdoor activities available to its visitors, with amazing views and starry night skies. Visitors can enjoy the two and four-wheel-drive roads, horseback riding, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, paddling, and more.
Stargaze at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Big Ranch State Park is an International Dark Sky Park as of 2018. This means that there are heavy restrictions on artificial light pollution, which is not hard since the park is remote and sits in the darkest area in Texas.
Make sure to walk along River Road to get the best stargazing spot. Trails like the West Contrabando Trailhead, Big Hill, and the Hoodoos are perfect and can be reached by car.
Hiking, Mountain Biking, and Horseback Riding at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Big Bend Ranch State Park has around 238 miles of multi-use trails. These can be used for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Most of the park can be seen on horseback (Mules are not allowed). Visit the Equestrian page for more information.
There are many trails for hiking and mountain biking. Most hiking trails are primitive, so make sure you always use a map and carry plenty of water.
- Ojito Adentro Trail, this one-mile trail crosses desert scrub and offers excellent wildlife viewing.
Cinco Tinajas Trail is a ¾-mile trail that offers views into a deep canyon with rock pools that hold water after rainy days.
The Puerta Chilicote Trailhead has many sub-trails that provide access to the Bofecillos Highlands and Fresno Canyon. Visitors can reach the trailhead in a two-wheel-drive car. From the trailhead:
- A five-mile (there and back) where hikers will enjoy great views of Fresno Canyon and the Solitario “flatirons.”
- The 3.2-mile Cerro Chilicote Loop Trail makes a great day hike.
- More experienced and adventure-driven hikers can make their way to connecting trails into Fresno Canyon, Arroyo Primero, and lower Arroyo de Los Mexicanos.
Keep an eye out for your calendar when booking your next visit, so you do not miss out on the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest.
For information on guided hikes or bike trips, visit the Outfitters page.
4X4 at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Park visitors with proper documentation can enjoy almost 70-miles of unmaintained dirt roads within the park. These roads were once used for water line construction, mining, livestock wrangling, and more.
Nature Viewing and Birding at Big Bend Ranch State Park
The park’s views are unbelievable. Its geology, plants, and wildlife make it an enjoyable stop for people of all ages.
Birders, in particular, tend to enjoy the area and take advantage of the grasslands, desert scrub, canyons, and riparian woodlands and thickets that provide a home to more than 300 bird species in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Wildlife at Big Bend Ranch State Park
You will find various animals within the park, including 30 different types of snakes, over 300 bird species, and around 48 mammals, including 16 other bat species.
When hiking, stay aware of your surroundings as mountain lions and black bears like to stroll by the park occasionally. Other mammals include grey foxes, kangaroo rats, jackrabbits, and desert cottontails. All of which are native to the Chihuahuan Desert.
The area offers many opportunities for all birders as they will be able to spot many birds near springs. The best birding spot is Ojito Adentro, where visitors can cross through the desert and the woodlands.
Plants at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Big Bend Ranch State Park is home to many different plant species. There are four major types of natural plant communities within the Northern Chihuahuan Desert.
- Riparian zone areas along rivers and creeks
- Mixed desert scrub consists of plants like cacti and Lechuguilla
- Desert grassland. Open juniper woodlands occur at the highest elevations of the Chihuahuan Desert and therefore do not occur in the park
Mixed desert scrub is the most prominent plant community within the park. It has replaced the previous dominant community – dessert grasslands.
The park used to be a working ranch. That is why overgrazing and browsing damaged many of the plant communities. Some livestock has been removed to attempt the recovery of the plants that were lost.
Shopping at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Don’t miss out on getting a little something to remember your adventures at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Stop by the park’s shop and pick from a selection of souvenirs, books, and more!
Camping at Big Bend Ranch State Park
There are many accommodation options if you choose the spend the night at the Big Bend Ranch State Park. Everything from drive-ups, hike-in primitive sites, and even equestrian sites can be accessed by vehicle (except backcountry).
Their campsites are peaceful and private, with great views all around. All of these areas (except for backcountry) come with amenities.
If you opt for more traditional lodging, the park recommends the Sauceda Bunkhouse, which charges $35 per person per night (daily fee not included). The bunkhouse is a former hunting lodge built in the 1960s.
You will need to bring your bed and bath linens; however, it does come with the following:
- Outdoor grill
- Fire ring
- Interior light
- Kitchen sink
- Stove with oven
- Coffee pot
- Table and chairs
- Bathroom Sink
13 years and older: $5 Daily
12 years and under: Free
Barton Warnock Visitor Center
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily
Closed Dec. 25.
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily
Closed Dec. 25
Sauceda Ranger Station
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Closed Dec. 25.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
East entrance | Barton Warnock
21800 FM 170
Terlingua, TX 79852
West entrance | Fort Leaton
FM 170 E.
Presidio, TX, TX 79845
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Big Bend Ranch State Park:
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