One Day in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and most remote National Parks in the continental United States. Have only one day to spend at the Texas National Park and want to make sure you experience all of its highlights?

Read on for a Basic One-Day Itinerary for Big Bend National Park

The limestone walls of Santa Elena Canyon

1. Take Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon (~15 miles)

Start at the northwest entrance of the park and head down Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive towards Santa Elena Canyon.

On the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, watch as the moss-green river flows between the limestone walls while listening to the birds sing and wind rustling the riparian vegetation.

A large butte at Sotol Vista

2. Enjoy overlooks along the way (~ 20 miles)

Next, drive northeast and stop at the Sotol Vista and Tuff Canyon Overlooks before heading down Basin Junction towards Chisos Mountain Basin.

The top of Lost Mine Trail

3. Take a Hike (~ 25 miles)

Near the Chisos Mountains Visitor Center, hike one or several of the following trails:

Tip: If the lot at the trailhead for the Lost Mine Trail is full, drive down the road towards the Visitors Center and park at the pullout to the right. This took us just under 2 hours to complete.

Note: The Balanced Rock Trail requires driving down an 8-mile unpaved road.

Chisos Basin and The Window
Santa Elena Canyon

Is it just me, or does the shape of the ‘window’ uncannily resemble the space formed between the walls of Santa Elena Canyon?

The historic hot springs

4. Soak at the Hot Springs (~ 30 miles)

When you’re finished hiking, make your way to the far eastern portion of the park to bask in the Hot Springs. From the parking lot and along the short trail, ruins of historic settlements and petroglyphs can be seen among limestone walls and the bamboo forest. Nearing the springs, the tranquil sound of rushing water loudens.

Now contained by the foundation remains of the original bathhouse, the springs lay adjacent to the north bank of the Rio Grande. The relaxing feeling of the 105° F water, with mineral salts said have healing powers, would rival those of any world-class spa. If you don’t mind the smell,  slather some of the dark mud across your face for softer and smoother skin.

Rio Grande Overlook before sunset (Source: Love Your RV)

5. Watch the Sunset over the Rio Grande

(~ 5 miles)

Finally, end the day by watching the sunset over the Big River. To maximize your time at the Hot Springs, choose someplace nearby like the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail or Rio Grande Overlook.

Did this convince you to visit Big Bend or take a road trip to your local National Park? What did you most enjoy or want to learn more about in this post? Let me know in the comments!


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