Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Backcountry Camping: Old Ore Road – Big Bend

in Big Bend National Park Backcountry Camping

If you’re headed out to Big Bend and want to do some backcountry camping, Old Ore Road is one of our favorite spots since it gets very little traffic compared to other areas.

It is one of the hottest areas in the park, so keep that in mind if you are heading out there in the warmer parts of the year. We drove through there in July and the temperature was sitting at 118 degrees, while at the same to the temperature down in Rio Grande Village was only 105.

If you’re going to drive Old Ore Road, you’ll want a four-wheel drive vehicle with some good off-road or all-terrain tires. If you do have a four-wheel drive with off-road tires, this road would be considered easy.

Some people have told us they were just fine in a high-clearance two-wheel drive. You should talk Park Rangers first about road conditions before you try it though.

Old ore road is a 26 mile back country road and the trail can get pretty rough in spots. It has eight designated back country camping spots.

Old Ore Road

Old Ore Road

Remember, before you head out, you need to get a backcountry permit to camp at these sites. You should also remember prior to choosing your site, the closer to the Rio Grande you get, the hotter it’ll be. If you’re looking to camp on the North side of the trail, I’d suggest starting your drive on the South side at the entrance near Rio Grande Village. If you want to camp on the South side, start the trail at its entrance off of Dagger Flat Auto Trail, which is between Panther Junction, and the Persimmon Gap Entrance on the North side of the park.

Old Ore Road Entrance

North Entrance to Old Ore Road from Dagger Flat Auto Trail.

From North to South, below are the back country sites on Old Ore Road.

McKinney Spring Campsite

One Campsite. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 6 people.

McKinney Spring is the first campsite that you’ll see on the trail as you head South from the North entrance off of Dagger Flat Road. This is one of the more developed campsites, and being on the North side of the trail, the dust level isn’t as bad as some of the sites to the South.

McKinney Spring Campsite

Entrance Marker for McKinney Spring Campsite

Look for the iron markers to identify the campsite locations throughout Big Bend National Park.

Campsite Marker

Campsite Marker

The campsites now have bear boxes so that you can store your food in a safe place away from the wildlife.

McKinney Spring Campsite

McKinney Spring Campsite

Roy’s Peak Camp

Two campsites. Each site accommodates 2 vehicles and 6 people.

Roy's Peak Camp Entrance Marker

Roy’s Peak Camp Entrance Marker

Roy’s Peak is one of my favorite campsites on old ore road. You’ll find the remnants of an old homestead here.

Remnants of an old homestead near Roy's Peak Campsite

Remnants of an old homestead near Roy’s Peak Campsite

Abandoned Windmill Near Roy's Peak

Abandoned Windmill Near Roy’s Peak Camp

Like McKinney Spring, Roy’s Peak doesn’t have the dust issues that some of the other campsites have.

Roy's Peak Campsite

Roy’s Peak Campsite

Telephone Canyon Campsite

Two campsites.

Campsite #1 accommodates 1 vehicles and 6 people. Campsite #2 accommodates 2 vehicles and 12 people.

Telephone Canyon Campsite Entrance

Telephone Canyon Campsite Entrance

It starts getting a little more dusty here, but its not too bad.

 

This campsite area also serves as the trail head for Telephone Canyon Trail, which leads to the park boundary and Strawhouse Trail. Don’t even think about starting this trail unless you’re a very experienced hiker and well prepared. This is one of the most remote in the entire park.

Telephone Canyon Trail

Telephone Canyon Trail

The campsites at Telephone Canyon are a bit less developed than McKinney Springs and Roy’s Peak.  The sites are simply marked with stone boundaries.

Telephone Canyon Campsites

Telephone Canyon Campsites

Willow Tank Campsite

One campsite. Accommodates 1 vehicle and 6 people.

Unfortunately, when we went through Old Ore Trail to write this article, there were some weirdos hanging out around this area (one was jogging around in his underwear) and we didn’t get as many pictures as we wanted. We’ll update it a little more on the next trip.

Willow Tank Entrance

Willow Tank Entrance

Willow Tank Campsite has a little more vegetation than the other sites on Old Ore Road as it sits near seasonal streams (don’t count on them for a water source).

Willow Tank Campsite

Willow Tank Campsite

Ernst Basin Campsite

One campsite.  Accommodates 2 vehicles and 10 people.

Some maps show that there are two campsites here, but we could only find one.

Ernst Basin Campsite is fairly dusty, and with the light sand, can be extremely bright. Bring plenty of sun tan lotion and a good pair of sunglasses.

Ernst Basin Entrance

Ernst Basin Entrance

Ernst Basin - Dusty and Bright

Ernst Basin – Dusty and Bright

The campsites here are marked with stacked stones.

Ernst Basin Campsite

Ernst Basin Campsite

La Noria Campsite

Two campsites. Each campsite accommodates 1 vehicle and 6 people.

La Noria Campsite is hot, dusty and bright. Not a favorite, but it’s in a good location if you want to be near Ernst Tinaja.

La Noria Entrance

Once you turn onto the road for the La Noria Campsites, campsite #1 (29.252111, -103.027871) will be the first campsite you pass (on the right).

La Noria Campsite #1

The road will dead end into La Noria Campsite #2 (29.249794, -103.028402). This is a large area if you want to spread your campsite out.

La Noria Campsite #2


Ernst Tinaja Campsite

(29.252950, -103.018943)

One campsite.  Accommodates 2 vehicles and 10 people.

While it may sound like a good idea to grab this spot as your campsite, we don’t recommend it if you’re looking for something private. It’s hot, dusty, bright and everybody that goes down Old Ore Road is going to stop here to visit Ernst Tinaja. Not recommended unless everything else is taken.

Ernst Tinaja Entrance

Ernst Tinaja Campsite

Ernst Tinaja Campsite


Camp De Leon

(29.246873, -103.012295)

One Campsite. Accommodates 1 vehicle and up to six people.

This campsite is dusty, hot and bright and best suited for the cooler parts of the year. If it’s relatively cool outside and you’ve got a small group, this site is nice and private.

Camp De Leon Entrance

Camp De Leon


Candelillia Campsite

(29.212912, -102.996986)

One campsite. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 8 people.

This site is easy to get to from the Rio Grande Village side of Old Ore Road. If you have a high clearance two-wheel drive, you probably won’t have any problems getting to it from the South entrance to the trail.

Candellia Campsite

The Candelillia plant (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) that this campsite is named for grows in multiple spots around the area.

Candellia

This is the closest campsite to the Rio Grande, so expect it to be the hottest. It’s also very dusty on this part of the trail.

Candellia Campsite

Related Posts:

Hiking Big BendPrior to heading out to the backcountry in Big Bend, we recommend throwing a copy of the Trails Illustrated Big Bend Map in your backpack. The map provided at the entrance station is helpful, but not detailed enough for getting off the pavement and out into the boonies. It’s also helpful to have a copy of Hiking Big Bend, by Laurence Parent, if you plan to do any hiking while you’re out there.

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