Backpacking in Big Bend

Hikers at the rim
 
Big Bend National Park is a backpacker's paradise. For those who come prepared, there are hundreds of miles of trails, and vast expanses to explore. The following information will help you plan for your dream adventure.
 

Backcountry Use Permits

A Backcountry Use Permit must be obtained from a visitor center in advance for overnight backpacking trips.

 

Backpacking Group Size Limit

An organized group or individual party may not exceed a 15 person limit.

  • In the Chisos Mountains: There is only one Chisos backpacking campsite that can accommodate a group this size: it may be necessary to split the group to other campsites. Groups may split into separate campsites however the 15 person size limit cannot be exceeded.
  • In the desert: Groups over 15 people will also need to split up and backpack into separate, non-adjacent zones.
 

Chisos Mountains Backcountry Campsites

Backpackers in the Chisos Mountains can choose from forty-two designated campsites. A backcountry permit is required. Your permit will designate your specific sites for specific nights. Permits are available in person at Panther Junction and Chisos Basin Visitor Centers up to 24 hours in advance.

NEW: As of February, 2020 a selection of the most popular Chisos Mountains Backpacking campsites is now available for online permits up to 180 days in advance.

The sites available for online permitting are:
Juniper Flat 1, Boulder Meadow 1-4, Pinnacles 1-3, Toll Mountain, Boot Canyon 1-4, Colima 1-2, Juniper Canyon 1, East Rim 1-9, South Rim 2-4, Blue Creek 1-2, Laguna Meadow 1, 2, 4, Laguna West 2-3.
Permits are available online for these sites through www.recreation.gov, or the recreation.gov call center at 1-877-444-6777

 
 

Backpacking in the Desert

The most remote areas of Big Bend National Park are best left to experienced backpackers. Each year, park rangers respond to desert emergencies when hikers are not prepared for the heat and extreme conditions of the desert. Due to the complex topography and vague trails/routes, a topographic map and a compass/gps are necessary for some hikes. Not for novices, you will need to be fully equipped and physically prepared to pack your gear and water into the desert and camp primitively.

Some of the desert areas of Big Bend National Park are open to wilderness backpacking. A backcountry permit is required. Prospective desert backpackers will need to have all the gear necessary for a safe trip, and be prepared to describe a detailed itinerary to a park ranger. There are limits to the number of backpackers allowed in each area, and a variety of backcountry regulations that must be followed.

Desert Backpacking Zone Map
Map of Big Bend's wilderness backpacking areas indicating nightly capacities.


Some remote and very rugged backcountry areas of interest include:

 

Last updated: February 27, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

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

Phone:

432-477-2251

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