Big Bend National Park Lodging: Campgrounds, Cabins, Securing Reservations in Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village and More

by Amy Myers

Whether you’re a history buff or an outdoor enthusiast, Big Bend National Park has enough excitement in store for everyone. Add some of the best stargazing sites in the country, and you’ll be looking for lodging, too.

Known as Texas’ Gift to the Nation, the national park is a living storybook, full of artifacts and archeological sites, Big Bend National Park demonstrates just how many cultures have made their mark on the area. From Spanish conquerors to Mexican settlers and Comanche tribes folk, each group has brought a new meaning to the rocky region. Now, as a national park, over half a million hikers wander these dusty trails, paying homage to our country’s past and the beauty of the natural resources. And with visitation numbers increasing every year, there’s no doubt this summer will be the busiest that the park has seen yet.

Luckily, there are plenty of lodging and camping sites close by to accommodate visitors of all kinds.

(Photo credit: Jason Weingart/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Camping and Lodging in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park has plenty of options for camping and lodging within the park’s borders. In fact, these tend to be the most popular places to stake a tent or rent a room for visitors. That said, these venues fill up quickly, especially during the spring and summer.

The National Park Service maintains three developed campgrounds within the park – one in the east region, one in the west and one in the center in the Chisos Mountains. All three offer a variety of amenities and nearby trails and attractions with options for tent and RV camping. To book a stay at these locations, you’ll need to purchase a yearly park pass. Reservations are required for all three NPS campgrounds and are available online. Keep in mind that fires are strictly prohibited within the park’s borders to combat the risk of wildfire.

There’s also a private campground with a bit more creature comforts to satisfy those needs for indoor plumbing and air conditioning. Or, on the flip side, there are plenty of primitive and backcountry camping sites for those that want to be even further removed from the rest of the world.

Chisos Basin Campground

Chisos Basin is arguably the most sought-after campground in Big Bend National Park, and for good reason. The campground is close to many of the park’s most popular attractions and trails. The sites all have access to the camp store, potable water, flush toilets, food storage lockers, covered picnic tables and charcoal grills. Not to mention, you get great views of the park’s rock formations.

Rio Grande Village Campground

The Rio Grande Village Campground comes a close second as the most sought-after campground. While it may be a little further from some of the park’s must-sees, it does have plenty of perks onsite. Located in a grove of cottonwoods and acacia trees, the campground has rare opportunities of shade and is close to a couple of water sources like Boquillas Warm Springs and Hot Springs Canyon Trail. Amenities for these sites include flush toilets, food storage lockers, trash and recycling services, potable water, coin-operated showers, laundry services, picnic tables, grills and access to the camp store.

While there are plenty of creature comforts at this campground, there is no cell service in the area. If you plan on staying here, be sure you have a backup form of communication.

Cottonwood Campground

The Cottonwood Campground is located between the gorgeous Santa Elena Canyon and the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. This is a remote campground, so like Rio Grande Village, you won’t have cell service here. However, campers have access to the camp store, trash and recycling services, food storage locker, potable water and vault toilets.

Rio Grande Village RV Park

Rio Grande Village RV Park is the only private campground in Big Bend National Park and is the best option for those traveling in RVs, trailers or campers. The campground offers access to full hookups with electrical, water and three-inch sewer hookups. It’s also conveniently located across the street from the Rio Grande Village camp store, in case you forgot any toiletries or tools. Here, campers have access to internet, trash and recycling services, laundry services, potable water, flush toilets and coin-operated showers.

Primitive and Backcountry Camping

There are a total of 64 primitive camping sites within Big Bend National Park. Most sites are located in the most remote, desert of the park and require high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles to get there. There are about 20 sites that do sit on “improved” dirt roads, but these almost always fill up first. In fact, most of the primitive and backcountry sites are full every night of the year, so if you plan on staying in the quieter parts of Big Bend, you’ll need to book early. You’ll also need to acquire a backcountry permit by either purchasing online here or buying one at Panther Junction Visitor Center and Chisos Basin Visitor Center 24 hours before your visit.

Additionally, only a couple of these sites can accommodate trailers or campers. And with no hookups around, it might be best to tent camp here.

Terlingua Lodging Options Close to Big Bend National Park

If all of the Big Bend National Park camping and lodging spots are full, no need to cancel those vacation days. Close to the park’s entrance are plenty of resorts, lodges and campgrounds that offer a variety of experiences. And, you still get those incredible star-filled skies at night.

Big Bend Resort and Adventures

Big Bend Resort and Adventures is a great option for national park visitors that are looking for a midpoint between traditional camping and lodging. There aren’t so many creature comforts here that it will make you feel disconnected from the camping experience. However, visitors do have access to the campground’s cafe and convenience store. There are two options for lodging, the Motor Inn (51 rooms) and the Mission Lodge (35 rooms), located across the street from one another.

Rancho Topanga Campgrounds

Just 15 minutes from the entrance of Big Bend National Park lie the Rancho Topanga Campgrounds. Unlike Big Bend Resort and Adventures, these campgrounds are tent-only, so visitors will have to leave the trailers at home. With flat platforms and plenty of room to spread out, campers will feel completely in tune with the desert elements that surround you. Here, folks have access to bath houses, potable water and wide, open spaces.

If you decide to pitch a tent at these sites, be aware that there is little to no shade at the location. Umbrellas and canopies are highly encouraged.

Terlingua Ranch Lodge and Resort

The Terlingua Ranch Lodge and Resort truly has something for everyone. From lodging to traditional and RV camping, this venue has everything to suit your needs. All cabins have Wifi, a full bath, air conditioning, a writing table and a dresser. Meanwhile, RV campers are able to use the swimming pool, horseshoe pit and other games provided by the resort. And tent campers have access to a water spigot, horse corral, stables and pens.

All campers have access to washers and dryers as well as the gift shop and map room. There are also plenty of opportunities to listen to live music and participate in resort-sponsored activities.