Big Bend National Park

“I’d rather be broke down and lost in the wilds of Big Bend, any day, than wake up some morning in a penthouse suite high above the megalomania of Dallas or Houston.”  - Ed Abbey

Cold Splinters and Upstate are gearing up for a southern adventure down to Big Bend National Park towards the beginning of next month. It’s an area we’ve never experienced, so if you’re lucky enough to have spent a night or two in that “barren, sun-blasted, apparently lifeless, stone-bleak ocean of the Chihuahuan Desert,” drop me a line. Let me know where we should go (backcountry hot springs, please), and more importantly, where we shouldn’t.

MP3: Smog – Too Many Birds


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

10 Responses to Big Bend National Park

  1. Grant January 12, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    FIrst off – your gonna have fun. I’ve been maybe 5 times over the years. Last spring I went on a dash visit for my first time in 15 years taking the hike to Emory Peak. I suggest any hike from the Chisos basin.

    The thing I noticed being different from years ago is all the boarder patrol. Years ago I took my cyclocross bike in a boat and got rowed across to mexico. Road 20 miles in to lunch at some little town. No way you can do that now.

    While you are out that way I would take a hard look at going to Marfa. Can’t say enough about it.

  2. dominic January 12, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Do you need anyone to come along and photograph it? That sounds like a perfect winter escape from NYC. Have fun!

  3. Hans January 12, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Get in touch with John Wells and arrange a visit to his off-grid homestead in/outside Terlingua. His own website is here: Big story about him in New York Times here:

    Neat guide on Big Bend in Adventure Journal here:

    Everyone raves about the Gage Hotel in Marathon, but it may be a little too obvious to be interesting:

    Butch Hancock (of Flatlanders fame) lives in Terlingua. Or somewhere around there. Essential for any desert playlist: As is Tom Russell:

  4. Brian January 12, 2012 at 7:39 pm #


    I unfortunately haven’t made it to Big Bend NP, but have spent time in Marathon, which is nearby, and worth a visit if you have time. Have margaritas at the Gage Hotel, pick up some pastries at the Burnt Biscuit Bakery, have a coffee at Marathon Coffee, and listen to Basin Radio at 100.1 FM which broadcasts from Marathon. If you need to place to stay the Marathon Motel is great. Of course all of that is secondary to the hiking. Enjoy!

  5. Dan January 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    The hot spring in the park (hot springs historic trail) isn’t great as hot springs go but the location is fantastic (right ON the rio grande).

    There are hot springs right outside Marfa that were recently “fixed up” – not sure if it will meet your “backcountry” requirements but friends say that hardly anybody goes there. If you have 4wd then take Pinto Cyn Road to get there (not for the faint of heart but worth it).

    I agree with Grant about the Chisos Basin hikes. You definitely want to do the Window Trail and at least one other that will give height to overlook the Basin (ie Lost Mine) You cannot leave BB without hiking into Santa Elena Cyn. The drive there is amazing. There are so many other areas of the park to explore.

    Outside BB
    Terlingua – dont know the guy that Hans mentions above but this town is definitely worth at least a hello – if only for Hans’ friend and the cemetery (on the east side of town as you drive in from BB).
    Marfa – I’m sure you know about this town. The Chianti Foundation definitely delivers – do both tours, morning & afternoon. Food Shark truck lives up to the hype.

    I went to BB last year at this time and have lots of other hike tips for the park and surrounding areas. I also have friends that live part-time in Marfa that can give a further lowdown. Please feel free to contact me for additional info.

    PS – just found your blog a few months ago and love it. Thanks and keep posting

  6. Craig January 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    You’ll have a great time. There may be others but as mentioned above the hot springs in Boquillas Canyon are right on the bank of the rio grande. There is also a giant sand hill there that you can climb up and run down. While crossing the river to Boquillas, Mexico is tempting, you stand to get into a lot of federal trouble. This is a real shame.

    If you don’t scare easy, you might grab a copy of “Death in Big Bend” by Laurence Parent. Last time I was there a local gave me a copy. I read it when I got back East and, despite the subject matter, immediately started planning my next trip.

    You should definitely visit Terlingua. Drive into the ghost town, get a beer from the cooler in the store and drink it on the porch. You’ll almost certainly have some interesting company.

    Be safe and check the weather. It can be a little schizophrenic out there this time of year.

    Love the blog.

  7. Jeff January 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    I’m a regular BB visitor, and are some more suggestions:
    • Drive down Hwy. 170 for the deep red stone mountains on one side of the road and the Rio Grande on the other. Prettiest drive in Texas.
    • Go up to McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis. There are few larger telescopes in the US, and they regularly hold “star parties” at night. Check their schedule before you go.
    • Be sure to see the Boquillas and/or Santa Elena canyons. They’re our cathedrals.
    • Even other Texans think “there’s somethin’ not right” about folks out there. You will meet a character or two. Relax, they prolly won’t bite.
    • Do not fall for the Marfa Lights bullshit.

    Have a good’n!

  8. Lindsey January 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    barmorreah springs

  9. Jenn January 23, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Weird and wonderful area. I worked the rivers down there for a few years. My first night I went to a chili cook-off and drank prickly pear wine and learned to two-step to Dwight Yoakam. Kind of thought I could have left then and called it a day. Make sure to stop by La Kiva and get lost in the tunnels. Enjoy every moment.

  10. Jeff February 1, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Don’t go where the drug runners are. They will shoot you on the spot. Boom… dead.

Leave a Reply