On my recent visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park, for the January installment of “Parks and Recs,” my friends and I stayed at the remote and primitive Vista del Chisos campsite, one of around fifty camping areas available in the park. You can get to a few of these sites in a passenger vehicle, but for most you’ll need high clearance or four-wheel drive (or both).
If you and your sedan want to toe in to sleeping in the park, try the appropriately named Grassy Banks campground. It’s right off FM 170 (but still feels isolated), has three sheltered sites and three that are open, plus a primitive toilet (bring your headlamp). It nestles up to a fairly deep stretch of the Rio Grande, whose ongoing journey through the reeds and over the rocks will lull you to sleep. Want a proper roof over your head inside the park? Consider the Sauceda Lodge Bunkhouse, an old hunting lodge that offers community facilities and thirty dorm-style beds, gals on one side, fellers on the other. Rates are $35 per person, plus the daily entrance fee to the park.
If you’d rather make a daytime visit to the park and then slumber in climate-controlled comfort, Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa is just up the road, an unexpected oasis complete with swimming pool, bar and restaurant, shops, and the occasional poolside peccary. Rates start at around $199.
And since you’re so close, you might as well drive twelve miles east into the tiny ghost town of Terlingua, where you can chat with the locals, pick up a “¡Viva Terlingua!” bumper sticker at the Terlingua Trading Company, and polish off a chili cheeseburger and a margarita at the Starlight Theatre.
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Where to Rough It (or Not).” Subscribe today.