Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Backcountry Camping in Big Bend National Park – The Complete Guide

Backcountry Roadside Campsites

  1. Old Maverick Road
  2. Croton Spring Road
  3. Paint Gap Road
  4. Grapevine Hills Road
  5. Old Ore Road
  6. K-Bar Road
  7. Glenn Spring Road
  8. Pine Canyon Road
  9. Juniper Canyon Road
  10. Highway 385
  11. River Road East
  12. River Road West
  13. Black Gap Road (coming soon)

Big Bend National Park Backcountry Camping

Big Bend National Park camping is best experienced in the backcountry as opposed to one of the improved campgrounds like Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin or Cottonwood Campground.

Most of us go to the National Parks to get away from the crowds and experience nature. Not to deal with throngs of people like we have to do in our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, if you’re staying in one of the developed campgrounds, especially around College Spring Break, you’re going to have to deal with loud, sometimes obnoxious people. There’s always at least one.

You’ll also have to deal with quite a bit of light pollution, like headlights and flashlights, diminishing your view of one of the best night skies available in the country.

Backcountry Camping in the Chisos Mountains

All of the above links cover the roadside campsites in the park, outside of the backpacking areas in the Chisos Mountains. If you’re looking for a backcountry campsite there, you can check out the pdf put together by the NPS here for more detail.

We’ll explore those campsites in the future and put together a more detailed description for you, but for now, the guide put together by the NPS has a reasonable amount of detail.

Big Bend Backcountry Rules

Prior to heading out and setting up camp, you’ll need to go to Park Headquarters at Panther Junction to get a backcountry use permit.

  • They’ll only allow you to get a permit in person, and only up to 24 hours in advance.
  • The fee for the permit is $10 for overnight use.

You’ll want to review the rules for Big Bend National Park camping in the backcountry here, and plan accordingly. For example, no ground fires are allowed, only charcoal briquettes (in a bbq grill) and containerized fuel camp stoves are allowed at the roadside campsites (no briquettes at the Chisos Mountains sites, only containerized fuel stoves).

Going off the Trail

If you’re hiking off the trail in one of the open-zone areas, the rules for setting up camp are as follows:

“Open zone camping: Be at least 0.5 mile and out of sight from any road and at least 100 yards from any trail, historical structure, archeological site, dry wash, or cliff edge.”

Also, be careful to minimize your impact on plant life, by setting up camp in a clear area.

Be sure to follow all of the instructions for zone camping here.

Open zone camping is only recommended for very experienced hikers, after careful planning and research.

Related Posts:


NatGeo Big Bend MapWhile the map provided by the National Park Service at the gate is helpful, it has very little detail. We recommend the National Geographic – Trails Illustrated Map to help you navigate some of the backroads and trails.

If you’re heading off the trail you should get the appropriate USGS Topo Maps for the area you’re going to be hiking in.


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