Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park

As native Texans, this has been a dream trip for a long time. The intense diversity of the flora and fauna and incredible mountain scenery were two keys reasons for our visit. The special surprises included the beauty and immensity of the state park and the various sitings of tarantulas (not Candace’s favorite moment)! Below are a variety of epic adventures if you are interested in traveling to the region. If you have more questions, email us at brawnerology@gmail.com!

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park, Hoodoos Trail, Border of Mexico

General Overview:

Overall, the state park easily paralleled the beauty and expansiveness of the national park. In fact, the state park is older! We were not alone in our observation that the state park was just as glorious as the sister park next door. The state park is less accessible, more rugged, and has fewer standard amenities like electricity and water at sites as well as visitor centers. However, you are likely going to see the Barton Warnock Visitor Center just outside Lajitas if you are stopping in the state park. We highly recommend that you venture out to see at least two key spots: Hoodoos and Closed Canyon. These two spots were easily accessible, right off the highway, and simply a must-see moment on the trip. Though they are called trails, they are actually quite short at around one mile each. It is more of an area to explore than it is a traditional trail. Both have great informational markers and picnic areas. You can explore both very easily with just 1-2 hours from Lajitas. We also chose to stay in the state park because we didn’t plan the trip with enough notice to get into the national park, but it was a happy accident because we loved every second and would stay here again!

Closed Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Closed Canyon:

This is actually a large opening in Closed Canyon! There will be times that you can touch both sides of the mountain at once. Admittedly, it was a little more of a challenging hike than we expected, which was a fun surprise! It was about one mile until the turnaround point where you would need real mountain climbing equipment (and skills!) if you wanted to keep going. The rocks can be quite slick, so be careful, and a walking stick might be a good idea if you aren’t confident and sure-footed. There is quite a bit of scrambling over boulders and sliding down smooth rocks. Brilliant for kids and active families, but it might be a challenge if you have people in your group with limitations. However, you can also get a great view and experience of the canyon by simply seeing it from the picnic spot on the highway or walking down to the entrance point. There is only one way in and out, so the group can also split up easily if some people want to stay behind.

Big Bend Ranch State Park, Hoodoos Trail

Hoodoos Trail:

Be sure to see Hoodoos Trail right off the highway too. It is really less of a trail and more of an area to explore. The flora and fauna here are very different than other places in the region. The wind and rain has shaped these incredible rock features to be truly spectacular sites. Stop at the park marker for more information. We spent an hour just running around on the huge rocks, finding small trails, and deciding what each rock formation looked like. It is quite green here because the Rio Grande river is supporting the grasses and trees. It might be tempting, but no, you can’t cross the border here. There are signs describing a $5,000 fine for illegal crossing. Be sure to stop at Hoodoos, just a few miles from Lajitas! It is a must-see destination in the region!

La Cuesta, Dry RV camping site, Big Bend Ranch State Park

La Cuesta, Dry RV camping:

We loved staying at La Cuesta! Admittedly, Candace didn’t realize how much further this is from Terlingua and Lajitas, but we are glad that it happened as we wouldn’t stay anywhere else in the region. We had the entire site to ourselves for all of Thanksgiving break, which is peak season. You can take a 5 minute walk right down to the Rio Grande, which was surprisingly cold, and you are right off the highway. Don’t worry though, it is not busy at all. We rarely saw other people, and we loved being simply surrounded by mountains on all sides. The down side was that it was our first adventure with dry camping: no electricity, no water – nothing! We did have a generator and used it some. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous and didn’t require heat or AC much at all. We ran out of water after a couple of days and had to go into town for a few gallons. Candace would boil the water, and we would use the bathroom sink to wash our hair and then the tub for a quick rinse each night. It wasn’t the easiest thing, but we already have ideas about how to make it better. Nights were magical! The night sky is like nothing you have ever seen! Brian would bring out the tv each night for a movie under the stars with hot chocolate and a cozy fire in the fire pit. It was a brilliant stay!

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