Big Bend National Park is one of my favorite places in all of Texas for both photography, hiking, and exploring. Located in west Texas where the big bend in the Rio Grande winds east on its 1,000 mile meander across southern portion of our Lone Star State, this park covers over 800,000 acres and borders Mexico. The area is home to more than 1,200 types of plants, as well as nearly 600 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals – many found only in this area. The Rio Grande serves as the border between Texas and Mexico, and flows for 118 miles through Big Bend.
The history of the Big Bend area has many twists and turns, but ultimately was names Texas Canyons State Park by the Texas legislature in 1933. Later that same year, the name was changed to Big Bend State Park. The United States Congress passed legislation in 1935 that led to the acquisition of the land for a national park. With Texas’ approval, the land was deeded to the federal government and because Big Bend National Park on June 12, 1944.
Springtime in Big Bend often means flowers, and the species of bluebonnet found only in Big Bend National Park (Lupinus Havardii) starts showing up in February. Wet winters often mean dramatic and colorful blooms in spring, not only of bluebonnets, but many sizes and shapes of wildflowers. Later in the spring, the Prickly Pear Cacti bloom with flowers of red, orange, and gold.
Hiking opportunities in Big Bend are tailor made for all levels of explorers. The South Rim loop offers a trail from 12-16 miles round trip, with a side trip to the tallest point in the park – Emory Peak (7,832 feet). From the edge of the South Rim, the Rio Grande passes 1,500’ below a cliff, and in the distance, the ancient remains of mountains in Mexico fade into the horizon. The Lost Mine Trail that originates near the Chisos Lodge in the middle of the park offers what is arguably the biggest bang for the buck. A five-mile round-trip leads up to amazing views of Juniper Valley and south into Mexico. One of my favorite trips is the hike to Mariscal Canyon. While only a little over seven miles round trip, there are only cairns to mark the way. But standing on the edge of this canyon and peering 1,000 feet down into Mariscal Canyon is an unforgettable experience. Another crowd favorite is Santa Elena Canyon on the western edge of the park. A short easy trail climbs .7 miles up into the canyon and allows hikers to enjoy views from the cliffs of this canyon popular that peer both into the canyon and back east towards the Chisos Mountains.