Big Bend National Park spans hundreds of thousands of acres in Southwest Texas, swallowing an entire mountain range, slices of the Rio Grande, and endless desert. The landscape is scattered with resilient, spiky flora and wild animals, and summer brings intermittent Texas thunderstorms. During the day at low elevations, in the Chihuahuan Desert, the sun is hot enough to kill, but high up on Emory Peak, nighttime temperatures plummet dramatically. It isn’t for the faint of heart.
But once the sun falls behind the mountaintops, the sky turns luminous with stars. Big Bend boasts the least amount of light pollution of any national park in the country. On cloudless nights, the Milky Way galaxy shines overhead. Because of that, there’s nowhere else in Texas with stars like Big Bend’s.
Adventurers canoe through Santa Elena Canyon, where over time, water has carved great halls out of stone. At some places, canyon walls tower over a thousand feet above the Rio Grande. They stop to explore side canyons, and eat lunch on sandbars, protected in calm currents. Or, they hike, some ambitiously on the 30-mile Outer Mountain Loop. Others set off early in the morning to avoid the heat, and breathe in the sight of Juniper Valley spread out below the Lost Mine Trail before noon.
Two of Big Bend’s five visitor centers are open during the summer, and it’s crucial to talk to park rangers to take advantage of guided tours and to plan safe travel. Big Bend is not kind to unprepared travelers.
After long days in the Texas wilderness, stay overnight in the park with Big Bend Glamping, where they offer a variety of lodgings, from cabins and teepees and trailers, even a couple of dome tents, all at their Chinos Campground.
Or, for a relaxing and gentle reintegration into civilization while visiting Big Bend, stay at Eve’s Garden. A bed and breakfast and ecology resource center at the park’s Marathon, Texas gateway Eve’s Garden is a huge adobe house with a pond, tea room, and expansive indoor gardens. Six of their seven open right out into their interior courtyard, filled with flowers year-round. The seventh, the orchard room, looks into their fruit orchard. It’s an oasis right outside Texas’ most challenging landscapes.
Originally published as part of the May/June 2021 Weekend Getaways Issue. To all those who crave starlight, beaches, and summer breezes: Texas highways are calling you. From rugged stone canyons to the kind comfort of hill country, Texas destinations are ready to welcome weary travelers. If you’re feeling cooped up this year, it’s time to run free.