4-Day Itinerary for Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is in southwest Texas and includes the entire Chisos mountain range and a large swath of the Chihuahuan Desert. Due to the remote nature of Big Bend, two of the days are travel days and two of the days are fully spent in the park. Fear not, the two travel days allow you to explore plenty of things along the way!
How to Get There
The two closest major airports are in El Paso, TX (4.5 hrs way) and Austin, Tx (almost 7 hrs away). Which on you pick will depend on which coast you’re coming from. This itinerary is to and from El Paso, TX.
Where to Stay
You have two options on the west side of the park – Lajitas and Terlingua – and one option on the north side of the park, in Marathon. Terlingua is closest but doesn’t offer many options; we stayed in Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa instead and really liked it. If you stay in Marathon you will be the farthest away and you should reverse day 1 and 4.
Day 1 – Travel from El Paso to Lajitas via Marfa and Presidio
Make your way from El Paso with detours in Marfa and Presidio.
In Marfa, look out for the Prada Marfa permanent sculptural art installation. In Presidio, stop by the Fort Leaton historic site. Just past Presidio, you will be driving through Big Bend Ranch State Park. There are plenty of pullouts to stop, stretch your legs and enjoy the views!
Once in Lajitas, consider a zip line tour. The outfit is right on the resort so it’s easy to do once you’re checked in.
The most popular trail in the park is Lost Mine Trail. It’s less than 5 miles round-trip with about 1,000 ft of elevation gain, so it’s not too strenuous. Start early because the small parking lot at the trailhead fills up fast. Lost Mine is a great introduction to the Chisos Mountain area of the park.
Next, head to the Rio Grande where you will be crossing into Mexico via a row boat! Be sure to bring your valid passport for the crossing. Once you’ve crossed, you can walk/ride a burr/hope into a car for a visit to the Mexican village of Boquillas. Alternatively, you can just come back and hike nearby Boquillas canyon in the park. Big Bend is not the only national park you should bring your passport on – more ideas in this blog post!
Take the Ross Maxwell scenic drive from the Chisos Mountain section of the park down to the Rio Grande. These 6 stops are a must. At the end of the scenic drive, hike into Santa Elena canyon! On your way out of the park, stop by High Sierra Bar & Grill in Terlingua and get their award-winning Texas chili.
Day 4 – Travel from Lajitas to El Paso via Marathon
On your way out of town, check out the Fossil Discovery exhibit before exiting the park going North towards Marathon. Marathon itself is worth a quick stop – don’t miss the historic Gage Hotel.
If you have more time, add on the 3 national parks in New Mexico using this itinerary, which also begins and ends in El Paso.