Advice for Busy Times

Busy day at Santa Elena Canyon
Visitors waiting to park at Santa Elena Canyon.

When is Big Bend Busy?

Once relatively unknown, Big Bend National Park is now experiencing a major increase in visitation and with it a greater demand for both frontcountry and backcountry camping. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in even more visitors discovering the qualities of this special place. The primary visitor season is October through April. Thanksgiving, Christmas-New Years, Spring Break, and all holiday weekends see the most visitors.

Visitation has increased by 50% since 2016.
Annual visitation is now nearing 600,000 visitors per year.

Please plan ahead and consider visiting during other times of the year to maximize enjoyment of Big Bend, and the remote sense of peacefulness that it is known for.


Traffic Control and Limited Parking

During the busiest times, visitors will find limited parking at many of the park’s most popular areas and trailheads. Visitors to the Lost Mine Trail, Chisos Basin, Hot Springs, Boquillas Port of Entry, Boquillas Canyon, and Santa Elena Canyon Trail may experience delays. When all parking is full, rangers establish “one-in, one-out” traffic control measures in these areas. Visitors should have alternate itineraries planned. The park website is a great resource for trip planning.

campground full sign
From November through April, park campgrounds are full.

Be Prepared For Full Campgrounds

From November through April, the Chisos Mountains Lodge and all of the park's developed campgrounds will be full every night. There are no first come-first serve campgrounds in Big Bend. All available campsites require reservations. Campers can make reservations online up to six months in advance, with a limited number of campsites reservable up to 14 days in advance. Please make camping or lodging reservations to ensure that you have a place to stay before driving all the way to Big Bend.

There are NO overflow campsites or "boondocking" in Big Bend National Park, and no nearby public lands outside the park.

During this time, the park's primitive backcountry campsites also fill to capacity most nights.

If you plan on visiting Big Bend during these times and do not have reservations, it is best to come prepared with alternative plans for lodging or camping outside of the park. If you camp in parking lots or along park roadsides you will be cited.

What should I do if the park is full when I arrive?

There are several options for staying in private campgrounds outside of the park near both park entrances. For a listing of area lodging options, visit the website.

Last updated: December 13, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129



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