Just Another Tumbleweed In Big Bend

“THIS is in Texas?”

The chill in the air and the thick fog blanketing the road ahead felt like a cruel joke after making our way to Texas from the frigid Northeast. Just the day before, we excitedly stowed away our twenty degree sleeping bags and winter layers in exchange for warm weather bedding and sandals. Winter storm Jupiter was drenching the West Coast while sending a damp cold-front to cover most of Texas. We arrived to our camp spot to find a cold, soggy picnic area to call home for the night. 

After spending our Sunday morning sipping coffee and listening to the rain, we packed up and decided to do some exploring. This drive echoed the many other lonely roads of Texas and we were glad to have taken a friend’s advice to stock up on groceries, gas and water. Bands of rain from Jupiter were still sweeping the area. Our directions lead us in and out of multiple rain bands as tumbleweeds danced across in front of us. The wind was beginning to make us feel like just another tumbleweed blowing into Big Bend. 

The feverish bout of rain finally broke as we made our way to the park entrance. In an instant, we were taken from the monotony of driving in Texas to a beautifully dynamic, sprawling desert scape. The long, long drive into the unknown had been well worth it already.


We didn’t see many options for free camping around Big Bend so we opted for some roadside camping inside the park. You must obtain a permit for camping at the visitor center, which was $12 for up to 14 days. You also have to choose all of your preferred spots in advance. The rangers were generally very helpful and were able to guide us a bit since we were first-timers. We decided to start from the east end of the park and camp our way to the west end. 

Rice Tank

Beautiful, flat, open spot with a great view of Mt Nugent. 

Camp de Leon

It was absolutely stunning here at sunset. This is another flat, open spot with lots of space to hike around. We loved the way the sunset brought out the life and color of the surrounding plant life. 

La Clocha

We chose La Clocha #2 and this spot was our least favorite. It's a bit tucked away, which was great for privacy but lacked the open views we like. 

Paint Gap 

We chose Paint Gap #4, which was another pretty spot that was tucked away between two hills. We camped here with friends we met in the park for a night. Watching the Milky Way move up from behind a hill and over us was unbelievable! 

Ocotillo Grove

This spot has an incredible view of Santa Elana Canyon and we actually had enough service to call our moms! 

One of our favorite parts about Big Bend were all of the primitive roads and 4x4 trails. We love the challenge and getting a little nervous. Pretty much all of the primitive roads say “4x4 Required” at the start, but not all of them actually are. When you go to the ranger station at Panther Junction they can tell you which roads really require 4x4, which require high clearance, and which ones should be fine for any car. They also have pictures of some of the worst roads so you can get a feel for it before you drive 20 miles into the desert and then can’t go any further. 

Final Tips

  • Fires are not allowed in the park. 
  • There is a gas station inside of the park (which is pricey) and also a couple of stores for light grocery shopping and a laundromat. 
  • Water filling stations are available at Panther Junction Visitor Center with a daily limit/person. We had to work for a couple of days during our stay and found the WIFI at this visitor center to be pretty decent! 

That's all we've got. Now go get out there!