Welcome to the Big Bend! We want you to feel prepared and confident while you explore the vast wild lands of Brewster County!
Big Bend’s climate can be very different than what visitors are used to. The dryness of the desert can be misleading since sweat quickly evaporates.
It is equally surprising how chilly it can be once the sun sets – deserts are poor at retaining heat during the night, even though temperatures can soar during the day.
Additionally, the elevation is unexpectedly higher than most places in Texas. Marathon is at a cool 4,055 feet while Terlingua sits at 2,890. Elevations along the river range from 1,800 feet to a whopping 7,830 feet at Emory Peak in Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park. For comparison, elevations at Fort Worth and San Antonio are about 650 feet, and Houston is a mere 80 feet above sea level!
These factors can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water during your stay and being prepared for changing Big Bend weather conditions.
The number one rule is to carry plenty of water. It’s a good idea to bring water with you wherever you go, whether you are taking a road trip or planning several days of camping and hiking, or just out for a day hike.
- Carry at least one gallon per person per day
Protect yourself from the sun! It’s a good idea to avoid hiking during mid-day heat in the summer months, and to bring a long sleeve layer along for extra sun protection. Hikes are more enjoyable when you feel prepared, and these tips are a good starting point.
- Wear a hat, long hiking pants, long sleeves, and sunscreen
- Wear sturdy shoes – hiking boots are recommended
- Let someone know where you plan on going and when you plan on being back. When in the parks, it’s always a good idea to check in with park rangers
- Bring along a map and compass
- Take only pictures, leave only footprints!
- Carry a flashlight, first aid kit, and signaling device (whistle and mirror)
- Avoid narrow canyons and dry washes; flash floods can occur
- Stay low and avoid ridges during lightening
- If you get hurt or lost, stay in one place to conserve water and energy. Signal for help using whistle or mirror. Mark a large “X” on the ground that can be seen from air
Big Bend country is renowned for its scenic drives. Besides following the Texas road motto to “Drive Friendly,” here are some other things to keep in mind.
- Pay attention to speed limits, and remember, the speed limit is 45 mph in Big Bend National Park
- Pull off the road to take pictures – do not stop on roadways. Watch for designated pull-offs, which often coincide with beautiful vistas – they make great places to pull over!
- The mountainous stretches are twisty and curvy – drive with caution
- Share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists, and watch for pedestrians when in the parks and villages
- Take a break at one of the many roadside picnic stops or roadside historical markers
- Park roads have limited shoulders, and some are steep and winding and require extra caution. The road to the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park is not recommended for RVs over 24 feet or trailers over 20 feet
- Backcountry roads require vehicles with good tires, including at least one spare and a working jack; some roads require a high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle. Take extra water, food, and sleeping bags when venturing on backcountry roads, and check with park rangers for conditions
- Keep an eye on the fuel gauge. Gas stations are located in Marathon, Study Butte, Alpine, and at Panther Junction in Big Bend National Park, but there are long stretches of road between each of these places!
- Select a designated driver before drinking alcoholic beverages
Always observe fire ban rules, and remember, the park does not allow wood or ground fires. Exercise caution when using gas stoves, charcoal grills, or smoking cigarettes; restrictions may apply to the use of these heat sources during drought conditions.
Exercising a little caution can go a long way! We hope to hear about your adventure – visit our Facebook page @VisitBigBend to join the conversation!
For more tips, including on what to do on (extremely rare) wildlife encounters, go here.