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Tips For Wandering Far West Texas

In Praise of Camping

Three sites for the sleeping-bag rookie. 

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Though the Chisos Mountains Lodge is the only hotel within the park, you can also secure a roof over your head in nearby Terlingua (say, at the rustic but charming La Posada Milagro), Lajitas (where the green at Lajitas Golf Resort is restorative in its own way), and Marathon (premium linens and a walk-in shower at the Gage Hotel quickly melt away a long day of hiking). Still, to truly
experience the West Texas desert, you’d do well to get down in the dirt at least a night or two. Here are a few sites that offer an easy introduction to tent and car camping in Big Bend. (A quick note about campfires: no ground fires are allowed in the park, illustration above notwithstanding.)

  • Cottonwood Campground – Unlike the Rio Grande Village “cramp-ground” (which you should avoid unless RVs are your thing), this spot near the end of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is a blessed generator-free zone with plenty of shade. With 24 sites, and picnic tables and grills the only amenities, it’s a nice compromise for those unsure about leaving their cars. Pit toilets on site.
  • Candelilla – This is desert car camping at its finest. Located on the southern end of Old Ore Road, with sweeping views of the Dead Horse Mountains, the primitive site is a quick 1.2-mile drive from the pavement, and you may not have to worry about high clearance (check with a ranger just in case). You’ll need a backcountry permit, but it’s a solo site, so you’ll have privacy. 
  • Juniper Flat – This forested plateau is only a mile from the Chisos Basin, which makes it ideal for novices and families to practice backpacking, pitching tents, and using a camp stove (not to mention the logistics of relieving oneself in the woods). A quick climb leads to three sites, each with its own charms and quirks. Backcountry permit required.

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