Tips and FAQs

Find your answer to the most frequently asked questions.

Cell phone service is spotty at best in the Big Bend. Some carriers don’t even come close. AT&T has the best regional coverage. Alltell works, and now that they’ve been acquired by Verizon, one assumes Verizon works. Sprint doesn’t seem to work. If anyone discovers otherwise, please contact us.

Big Bend National Park is open all day, every day, all year. . However, entrance stations are only staffed during normal business hours, and sometimes not even all of those. When the entrance stations are closed, visitors may enter the park and travel to their final destination for the day. Visitors are requested to then stop at the park headquarters and visitor center at Panther Junction at earliset convenience to pay fees and obtain a park pass. Visitor center hours are 8:00am to 6:00pm daily.

Water levels in the Rio Grande can fluctuate considerably over the course of a year, sometimes over the course of just a few minutes. The river is considered ideal for canoe trips about 90% of the time. The remaining 10% is split between being two high for canoeing and too low.  Inflatable rafts require a greater minimum flow to be able to comfortably get down river. During the last 2-3 years, rafting has been feasible about 65% of the time. Check with local experts for current conditions and availability.

The weather in Big Bend can change rapidly.  Get up to the minute weather reports >>

Backcountry permits are not required for hikes of one day or less. Backcountry use permits are required for overnight hiking or camping at one of the primitive back road camps, and cost $10 per permit. Backcountry permits must be obtained in person, and any changes must be also be made in person at any park visitor center. Please note:

• You must have your vehicle license plate number to obtain a permit.
• Requests for permits or permit changes will not be taken over the phone.
• Permits may be obtained twenty-four hours in advance of your backcountry trip; advance reservations are not possible.

ATV use is not permitted in Big Bend National Park. Backcountry road use in the National Park as well as in Big Bend Ranch State Park is limited to licensed, street legal vehicles.

Pets are allowed in Big Bend National Park, but

Be aware that having a pet with you will limit your activities and explorations in the park. In addition, desert temperatures and predators are a serious threat to your pet’s well being. Please consider the following points before deciding to bring a pet:

  • Pets are not allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Basically, your pet can only go where your car can go.
  • If you plan to hike, someone must stay behind with the pet, or you will need to make arrangements with a kennel service. The closest kennel service to the pakr is Red Woof Inn in Alpine 432.837.7475
  • Pet owners are required to immediately remove and properly dispose of fecal matter deposited by their pets. Deposit bag of fecal matter in a dumpster.
  • Pets need to be on a leash no longer than six feet in length (or in a cage) at all times.
  • You are not allowed to leave your pet unattended in vehicles if it creates a danger to the animal, or if the animal becomes a public nuisance. There is no kennel service in the park.
  • Pet etiquette and park regulations require that you always clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles.
  • Predators such as owls, coyotes, mountain lions and even javelina can and do kill pets here. Even large dogs cannot defend themselves against predators. Extreme temperatures are also a danger.

Winters in Big Bend are generally mild, with the occasional short cold snap. Usually, the skies are clear, and day time highs can run into the 70’s or higher. Under clear skies, however, it gets colder at night, often near freezing. Counterintuitively, it is colder along the Rio Grande at night than in the mountains. On such clear days, there can be a 40-50 degree difference in air temperature between dawn and early afternoon. Smart travelers, especially those participating in outdoor activities, will use the layer system to keep warm. Start off with insulating layers, then long sleeve shirt, then sweater or like jacket, then a shell on top. As the day warms, peel successive layers to find personal comfort level. Conversely, as the shadows lengthen in the evening, replace the layers. This makes for happy campers. Many visitors perfer the winter time for strenuous outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking. River trips can also be fun, but it is recommended to plan a river trip on the first day of the visit. In case the weather is cold, the trip can be put off a day or two while waiting on the inevitable warmer temperatures after athe brief cold snaps. Check out the Big Bend Weather feed.

Big Bend area accommodations will fill up for school spring break. Same is true for National Park Campgrounds. Same is true for activity providers such as river outfitters and horse stables. It is highly recommended to make reservations as early as possible, but for everything but Chisos Mountains Lodge inside the National Park you are probably OK if you wait until after the 1st of January. National Park campgrounds take reservations for half their spaces, the rest being first come, first served. Check out lodging and camping.