Big Bend National Park, TX
January 26-28, 2017 – Rio Grande Village Campground – I really hadn’t planned to stay here during my initial research because I haven’t been used to boondocking lately and due to having work to do for clients, I needed internet access. So I planned to stay a week at Stillwell Store & RV Park with full hookups since a friend had stayed there and it had good wi-fi. Nothing was really wrong there, but I quickly determined that for me, it was too far a drive. Although it’s only 7 miles to the northern entrance, it’s another 30 miles to the main visitor center at Panther Junction, most convenient to the areas I wanted to explore. After driving in one day from there, I decided that wasn’t going to work for me. See below for info on where I stayed on the west side of the park to more conveniently explore attractions on that side. This is a huge park, folks, with long distances between attractions and maximum speed of 45 mph, so plan accordingly. Overall map of Big Bend National Park — Campground Site Map
I decided to take my chances on the first-come, first-served sites and see if I could get in here. When I arrived before 11:00 am, there was only one site that I could fit into, and I ended up really enjoying my 3 night stay. The cool thing about no hookups is that you can pull right in to a back-in site and not worry about everything fitting!
But there are numerous good sized pull-through sites, too.
Rounding the corner of the first row, you get closer to the beautiful Chisos Mountains. It’s incredibly dark out here at night, a big attraction for star gazers.
Another row of sites more in the center of the campground.
See Site Map for campground layout, first-come, first-served sites vs. those that can be reserved, sections that allow generator use or not.
Don’t miss the Nature Walk and Overlook Loop Trail if possible. It has some steps and rocks going uphill, but it’s not difficult and the views make it totally worth it.
From here you can look back at the trail, the campground and the Rio Grande.
A few miles from the campground, you can get over to Mexico via the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry, but you must have your passport to cross. This was an easy and fun little trip where you take a rowboat across the river and then can ride a donkey, horse or truck into town with a local guide.
I also did the 1.4 mile round trip hike through Boquillas Canyon. I always like to do little easy hikes like this and it was a beautiful day for it.
I was a little disappointed that this is about as far as you can go. I had hoped to be able to get more into the canyon with the walls closer around you, but it was still worth it. More info on River Hikes at Big Bend.
Phone: (432) 477-1121
Cost: $14/night (half off with America the Beautiful passes).
Reservations: 877-444-6777 – Through Recreation.gov only and cannot be made through the park itself.
Facilities: 100 campsites that range in size from small tent sites to large pull-through sites that can fit a 40-ft. motor home. About 44 sites can be reserved and the rest are first-come, first served.
Amenities (no charge): Each site has a picnic table, charcoal grill and bear-proof food storage locker. Some are also furnished with picnic shelters for shade, but these are smaller sites by the nature trail.
Hookups: None at any site. Generators are permitted in some sites (8 am – 8 pm) and a couple areas do not allow their use at all. All sites are within easy walking distance to water spigots and restrooms. There is a dump station at the campground’s entrance. Showers and laundry facilities at the Rio Grande Village Store just outside the entrance to the campground (about 1/2 mile).
General Camping Info: 14 consecutive day stay limit with a limit of 28 total nights in the park in a calendar year. Campers can occupy a specific site up to 14 total nights in a year. Between February 1–April 15, visitors are limited to a total of 14 nights in the park.
Internet/Wi-Fi/Cell Phone: No wi-fi or Verizon Jetpack signal available within the campground. Free wi-fi is available at the Village store, about 1/2 mile from the campground and at the other visitor centers. Phone signals for calls were more of a problem and not reliable.
Satellite TV: I had no problem with my DirecTV tripod setup, but most of the campground looked open enough so that rooftop deals shouldn’t be a problem, either.
Pet Friendly: Allowed in campground on a leash, but no pets are not allowed on any of the trails in Big Bend.
My tips: Be sure to stock up on food and fill up with gas because there is no major shopping within close range. The village does have a small store with some basics (bread, bacon, milk, eggs, sandwiches and snacks, some camping supplies, but naturally things are much more expensive there. I had also heard that the water “tasted funny” here, so I filled up my tank before I arrived.
Campsite Photos.com – Pictures of all individual campsites.
RVParkReviews.com – Reviews from other campers on Rio Grande Village Campground
Other campgrounds within Big Bend:
Rio Grande Trailer Village Campground (full hookups) – Operated by concession. This is right next to the Village Store, but is basically just a paved parking lot with tight spots. I could not see spending $33/night to stay here.
Chisos Basin – No hookups; 60-sites, 24 can be reserved. Flush toilets, running water, grills, picnic tables, and dump station. Trailers over 20′ and RV’s over 24′ are not recommended due to narrow, winding road to the Basin and small campsites at this campground.
Cottonwood – No hookups; 24 sites. A quiet, shady desert oasis located between the Castolon Historic District and scenic Santa Elena Canyon. Pit toilets, picnic tables, grills, and water are available. No dump station, no generators allowed.
West side of Big Bend:
After my first 3 nights at Stillwell RV Park and 3 nights here, I moved over to stay a week in Terlingua at Big Bend Resort & Adventures RV Park.
Nothing really exceptional about the park except it’s a convenient location to explore the Terlingua Ghost Town and Historic Cemetery, the scenic drive from Lajitas to Presidio that goes part way through Big Bend Ranch State Park, and Big Bend National Park attractions on this side like the scenic Chisos Basin Road (to Chisos Mountains Lodge), Castolon Visitor Center and Historic District, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and Santa Elena Canyon.
Malia’s 2 Cents: I thought Rio Grande Village Campground was definitely the most convenient for exploring the east side of the park without having to drive all day. I met some really nice people here, too, so be sure to walk around the campground and do the nature trail. I saw several roadrunners and bunnies, but the highlight was when I spotted a bobcat loping alongside me! Bummer that I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to get a shot, but it sure was a thrill.
Your Two Cents? The only way I know if the reviews and research I present are helpful to you is if I hear from you. I sure would appreciate your feedback in Comments below.
More Big Bend Camping Info:
Reflections From the Fence – My friend Carol’s report about their visit there in 2012. This is where I heard about Stillwell Store & RV Park, where I stayed for a few days initially since I wanted full hookups and wi-fi, which is not usual around here. The campground was fine and the wi-fi did work, but I found it too far from the main areas of Big Bend that I wanted to explore.