Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Backcountry Camping – Old Maverick Road – Big Bend

in Big Bend National Park Backcountry Camping

Old Maverick Road is probably the best maintained dirt road in Big Bend National Park although the park does recommend a high clearance vehicle for it. The last time we went down the road, we saw a couple of lower clearance vehicles on it. Be very careful if you do take a lower clearance vehicle, there are some rough spots.

Old Maverick Road Map

For a larger, more detailed map of Old Maverick Road, click here.

To get to the North Entrance of Old Maverick Road, start at the Study Butte/Terlingua park entrance on Highway 118. Take a right on Old Maverick Road a couple of hundred yards past the entrance on the right (29.293831, -103.494755).

Beginning Old Maverick Road

Be very careful driving on this road, there are a couple of blind corners and we saw a few people that were driving far too fast when we were out working on this post.

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

Rattlesnake Mountain Campsite

Accommodates 1 vehicle and 6 people

(29.254961, -103.532577)

The first backcountry campsite that you’ll see, heading South from the North entrance, will be Rattlesnake Mountain on your right (about 3.6 miles). This campsite, like all campsites off of Old Maverick Road, is set well back from the roadway. You shouldn’t have to worry too much about noise and dust.

The backcountry campsites off of Old Maverick Road aren’t marked with the large markers like other campsites throughout the park. They’ve instead used the simple, small, signs like you see below.

Rattlesnake Mountain Entrance

This campsite is set in a flat dusty area, so if you have high winds, you’ll have to deal with a large amount of dust.

Rattlesnake Mountain Campsite

After passing Rattlesnake Mountain Campsite, in about 2.4 more miles you’ll pass a road (29.219494, -103.530671) to your left leading to the trailhead for The Chimneys Trail (29.219209, -103.527809). This trail will take you about 7.5 miles one way to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Chimneys Trail

Another half mile down Old Maverick Road and you’ll see an old low building (29.215510, -103.534780) sitting in the shadow of Pena Mountain.

Luna's Jacal

This interesting structure is called a Jacal and is designed in a way that keeps the interior dramatically cooler than the surrounding desert. A man named Gilberto Luna raised a large family in this small house and farmed the surrounding area with water irrigated from a nearby creek. (Learn more about Luna’s Jacal)

Terlingua Abajo and Ocotillo Grove Campsites

About 3.4 miles past Luna’s Jacal, you’ll arrive at the entrance to Terlingua Abajo on your right (29.200253, -103.581995).

Terlingua Abajo Entrance

The first campsite you’ll see, which will be on your right, is actually the Ocotillo Grove Campsite (29.203362, -103.591893) and not one of the Terlingua Abajo Campsites (Accommodates 2 vehicles and 8 people).

Ocotillo Grove Campsite

This site is set well back from Terlingua Abajo Road, so you shouldn’t have any privacy issues.

Getting to the three Terlingua Abajo Campsites (29.198793, -103.604289) will take you over some rough, uneven, roads. The road is fairly smooth getting to the Ocotillo Grove Campsite, but past that isn’t so good.

These campsites are very small and offer no privacy whatsoever. They are right up against the road and each other. They can each accommodate 2 vehicles and 8 people

Campsite one was being used as an entry point for some work that was being done to the creek a little ways away, so was unusable when we passed through (April 2015).

Terlingua Abajo 1

Campsites two and three are virtually identical and almost right on top of each other.

Terlingua Abajo 2

Terlingua Abajo 3

Its only a few more miles down the road to get to Santa Elena Canyon, so I suppose the sites will get you close, but I don’t camp in the backcountry so that I can be right on top of somebody else. I don’t need to leave the city for that.

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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bonnie Prince Charlie September 3, 2018 at 3:52 pm

Thanks much for the tip concerning Ocotillo Grove vs. Terlingua Abajo. Yes, who wants to get excited about a primitive, out-of-the-way campsite only to show up and find out that there’s, say, a party being thrown right next door or that there’s a dozen other people within 30 yards of you.

You’ve done a great job in general on these Big Bend backcountry roads and their campsites. Truthfully, though, a big part of me hopes that not too many people read these. As someone who’s been camping off of these backcountry roads for over 45 years, I dread the day when the primitive campsites are just as popular as the three developed campgrounds.


Admin September 4, 2018 at 8:50 am

Thank you Bonnie.

In a way, I kinda agree with you on the backcountry sites. I think though, for the most part, the backcountry sites are a little too remote for the average park visitor.

The park itself pushes them when the developed campgrounds start filling up, though.

One thing you won’t find on the website is directions or maps to anything that isn’t already promoted by the NPS. There are a number of great camping areas (and trails, etc.) that a person can access with a short walk and a backpack.

Hopefully, for those who come in for the first time looking for the solitude of remote camping, this will help them maximize their experience.

Hopefully the noisy party types will stick to the paved areas. Or, even better, stay home.


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