Need advice about camping in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
November 17, 2007 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I would love some help deciding whether to spend the first week of December camping in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Agreed, it's not the best time of year but gotta take vacation. I live in Virginia, so camping in a place I've never visited before is part of the appeal. If anyone has camped in Big Bend, please advise regarding best trails, what to expect, weather and appropriate gear. Or talk me out of it if you can suggest a better, warmer camping destination for this novice camper.
posted by just another other to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It all depends on the weather. Obvious, but profoundly true.

Ms. fcm and I spent a wonderful several days there last January, but we got the one week in the month where the sun was out consistently, the daytime temp went into the 50s, and the trails were pretty dry until the ice line. So watch the weather and plan accordingly. But be prepared for the weather to wipe you out and have some other things lined up to do. (Not that there's much of that unless you like modern art and weird snobs in the desert, in which case there's Chinati/Judd-land in Marfa).

Here is the thread where I solicited advice for that trip. A lot of good suggestions are there. We really liked the Holland Hotel in Alpine (especially if you can get the "Crow's Nest" room). We didn't camp, and not many people seemed to be doing so. It was certainly getting down into the low 20s (early January) even at lower altitudes. You might want a nice hotel room after a day or two on the trail.

Off to the Arctic now.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:36 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

That said, if you've never been, Big Bend is one of the most amazing places left in America.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2007

The thing about Big Bend is that it's really big (like, as big as Delaware). It covers a lot of territory and terrain. The Chisos Basin is very pretty, but will likely be colder than anywhere else in the park. When I camped there (around Christmas) my air mattress became brittle and cracked because of the 15° overnight low, and I was not a happy camper. I wrote about my experience here. The threat that fourcheesemac links to has a lot of good info.

Make sure to book your campsite in advance.
posted by adamrice at 2:01 PM on November 17, 2007

I found this big bend specific forum when googling: "big bend" camping death.

Big Bend can be a very dangerous place. People die there every year. I had a very prudent friend and experienced camper get in real trouble there.

Its beautiful and I love the park - I would recommend it to everyone. Just please head the warnings and stay safe.

Marfa is awesomely weird. You might meet an alien. Or pehaps, someone who believes they met an alien.
posted by GPF at 3:02 PM on November 17, 2007

Big Bend is awesome. I camped there over Christmas a couple of years ago. I say do it. But, be prepared for cold nights and short days (it is winter and all). I think that we camped at a drive up "remote" site or something. I'd highly recommend it. It wasn't in a was dispersed camping...but we could drive our truck up to the site. Cars could make it most of the way up that road and I believe to some of these same campsites.
There is one super popular hike...Mountain something, that is well worth it--maybe it was Emory Peak?
Here is the camping that I was talking about.
posted by fieldtrip at 4:39 PM on November 17, 2007

We spent New Years 2001 on the Mesa de Anguila out on th west end by Lajitas. Cold at night, warm to cool by day and always beautiful.

Bring the makings for toddies and enjoy yourself.
I've heard wonderful things about the Holland Hotel in Alpine for a place to stay when you get off the Mesa (or out of the Chisos or the desert).

I say do it.
posted by Seamus at 6:45 PM on November 17, 2007

Go! Don't let GPF scare you with the "Big Bend can be a very dangerous place." EVERY PLACE on Earth can be a very dangerous place!

Just realize you'll be in a desert-type mountain environment with black bears, maybe a cougar, deer, javelinas, scorpions, maybe rattlesnakes (it's probably too cool for them to be slithering about). Whatever you do, take lots of water. This is a dry, dry place. And please obey the National Park Service rules.

If it gets too cold in the park, don't go to Marfa for refuge. It's a snobbish town. Go instead to Alpine (stay at the Holland OR the funky 1950s-style Antelope Lodge) and eat at La Casita -- best Mexican food in the area. Alpine is very friendly and a very pretty town. It also has an awesome blues/rock bar, Railroad Blues. Or stay in Terlingua/Study Butte. Terlingua is the site of the world-famous chili cookoff, and a very weird place. Some folks who moved there in the 1970s did so because they do not want to be found by, oh, some authority or another.

OK, I got off track. But DO go to Big Bend and have a spectacular time. (And don't forget to stop in Alpine.)
posted by Smalltown Girl at 3:33 PM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for their excellent contributions to this thread. I greatly appreciate all of your suggestions...will post back post-trip.
posted by just another other at 6:29 AM on November 19, 2007

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