Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Backcountry Camping: Paint Gap Road – Big Bend

in Big Bend National Park Backcountry Camping

If you want to do some camping away from the main camp ground at Chisos Basin, but you don’t want to go too far, Paint Gap is a good spot. You can even get to the first three campsites in a car. You’ll need a four wheel drive with good off-road tires to go much further though.

There is a bit of traffic on the road since it’s so close to the main campground, but it gets light once you get to the rougher parts of the road.

To get to the entrance, just head west from Panther Junction (Park Headquarters) a few miles. It’ll be the second road on your right.

There are four campsites total on Paint Gap Road. The first two that you’ll encounter are big enough for a small RV and will easily fit a tent.

Paint Gap Topo Map

Paint Gap #1

(29.373350, -103.293546)

Accommodates 1 vehicle and 4 people

Paint Gap Campsite One

Paint Gap Campsite One

Paint Gap #2

(29.388277, -103.302788)

Accommodates 2 vehicles and 6 people

Paint Gap Campsite Two b

Campsite Two

When we came through here taking pictures for this post, there were rabbits everywhere.

Rabbit on Paint Gap Near Campsite Two

Rabbit on Paint Gap Road Near Campsite Two

Paint Gap #3

(29.388889, -103.303331)

Accommodates 1 vehicle and 4 people

Campsite three is a little rockier, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting to it.

Paint Gap Campsite Three

Paint Gap Campsite Three

If you’re in a car, this is the last stop. The road going forward gets very rough with large cobbles and some sharp rocks. Street tires wouldn’t hold up very long here. If you’re in a low clearance vehicle, you could very easily puncture your oil pan.

Paint Gap High Clearance

Take it seriously

It doesn’t look bad from this sign, but you won’t get far before the road gets rough, and there aren’t any turnarounds.

Paint Gap Rough Road

It gets much rougher than this

If you’ve got the vehicle and tires for it. This is a great drive.

Paint Gap #4

(29.397397, -103.304253)

Accommodates 2 vehicles and 6 people

Once you get a little way down, you’ll see campsite four on the right.

Paint Gap Campsite Four

Paint Gap Campsite Four

This is a good tent camping spot. You’ll want to bring along plenty of padding to lay on since there are a ton of rocks out here.

After campsite four, you’ll find the ruins of an old homestead next to a small canyon that had water in it when we passed through.

Paint Gap Homestead

Abandoned Homestead at the end of Paint Gap Road

Water Well and Trough

Abandoned Water Well and Trough

Paint Gap Canyon

All that green tells me that there’s a source of water down there. The challenge would be getting down.

This is pretty much the end of the road, but its a great spot to take a break, hang out and look at the amazing colors of the Tornillo Creek area.

Paint Gap Hills

Overlooking Tornillo Creek

Unfortunately, my little camera just doesn’t do it any justice at all. You’ll just have to go out there and see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.

Don’t forget, before heading out there, you need to get a backcountry use permit prior to using these sites.

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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