Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Backcountry Camping – River Road East – Big Bend

in Big Bend National Park Backcountry Camping

River Road in Big Bend National Park is a 51 mile primitive road that runs along the Rio Grande River, from Castolon to just West of Rio Grande Village.

River Road East

During the hottest parts of the year, this area is probably best avoided, as it gets much hotter along the Rio Grande than the rest of the park.

There are multiple backcountry campsites off of River Road. In this post we’ll only cover the sites on River Road East, covering the 23 miles from the entrance off of 118, on the East side of the park, to Talley Road.

The East side of River Road is fairly well maintained, so a high clearance vehicle shouldn’t have any problems.

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

To get to the East Entrance of River Road, starting at Park Headquarters at Panther Junction, take a right out of the parking lot. The entrance to River Road (29.190519, -103.015899) will be on the right in approximately 15.7 miles. If you pass the entrance to Hot Springs, you’ll know you’ve gone too far.

River Road East Map Small

Jump Straight to Campsites

Click here for a large version of the map (2 mb).

Remember that River Road has the highest incidence of vehicle break-ins than any other backcountry area in the park. Make sure that you lock it up and don’t leave any valuables in it.

Gravel Pit Campsites

Three sites to choose from.

Gravel Pit Campsites

The turn off for the Gravel Pit Campsites will be the first turn on the left after you get onto River Road.

This is a busy area, as the end of the road is also a popular put-in point for people looking to float the Rio Grande River. Expect a lot of traffic to and from the river.

The sites are also fairly close to each other, so if you get some noisy neighbors, you’ll probably hear them fairly easily. There is plenty of brush, and the sites are just far enough apart though, that you’ll have a little bit of privacy.

When we passed through, campsites 1 and 2 were occupied, so we could only get pictures and video of campsite 3. We’ll try to get the other two the next time we pass through.

Gravel Pit 3

La Clocha Campsites

Two campsites

La Clocha Campsites

Shortly after the turn-off for the Gravel Pit Campsites, you’ll see the turn-off for La Clocha campsites on your left.

When we passed through here, the road to the La Clocha Campsites was very rough. A high clearance four wheel drive is highly recommended if you plan to camp here. The benefit to the rough road is that it should cut down some of the traffic.

La Clocha Campsite #1 (29.149481, -103.007671) is on a small hill overlooking the Rio Grande. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 10 people.

La Clocha 1

La Clocha Campsite #2 (29.148760, -103.008483) is one of only a couple of backcountry campsites in Big Bend National Park that offers any shade. You wont get the breeze here that you would get at campsite #1 though due to it being down in a low area, next to a dry gully. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 8 people.

La Clocha 2

Solis Campsites

The turn-off for the Solis Campsites (29.065785, -103.114224) is approximately 14 miles from the East Entrance to River Road, and about 4.1 miles past Glenn Spring Road. It should be an easily identifiable left hand turn.

Both of the Solis Campsites are private, being down Solis Road and sufficiently set back behind hills and brush.

The first campsite that you’ll pass on your right will be Solis Campsite #1 (29.061060, -103.111943). Accommodates 2 vehicles and 12 people.

Solis 1

Solis Campsite #2 (29.057502, -103.110240) is just a little further down the road, and also on the right. This campsite is very private since its set back a good way from the road and there is plenty of brush to block the view and muffle noise from passersby. Accommodates 3 vehicles and 15 people.

Solis 2

Solis Road ends at the Rio Grande and the trailhead for Cross Canyon Trail (29.045966, -103.106813).

Fresno Campsite

The Fresno Campsite (29.100484, -103.180018) is one of the most popular campsites on River Road due to sitting just across the road from Mariscal Mine. It isn’t very private though since almost everybody that goes down river road stops at the mine to check it out. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 8 people.

Mariscal Mine

Another problem is that people driving the road from West to East at night have a tendency to miss their turn and pull into your campsite. Expect a headlight or two.

Talley Campsites

Once you pass the Fresno Campsite, you’ll continue past Black Gap Road (29.086413, -103.208768) to a left hand turn for Talley Road.

Talley Campsite #1 (29.056123, -103.217138) is probably our least favorite campsite on River Road East, as it offers no privacy and is very close to the road. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 8 people.

Talley 1

Talley Campsite #2 (28.994789, -103.187536) is approximately five miles further down Talley Road from campsite #1. Campsite #2 sits on a hill overlooking a valley. Accommodates 2 vehicles and 8 people.

Talley 2

Just before the end of Talley Road, you’ll see the trailhead for Mariscal Canyon Rim Trail (28.988364, -103.184188) on the left. After you pass the trailhead, Talley Road will dead end at the Rio Grande River.

All of the River Road campsites West of Talley Road are covered in our post for River Road West.

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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