Campsite name: Chisos Basin, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Camping type: Frontcountry Campground
Campsite opening hours: Open 24 hours
Booking Link: https://www.recreation.gov/
Fees: $16 per night for a standard non-electric site. The site can hold a maximum of eight people and two vehicles.
This does not cover the park entrance fee which is $30 per private vehicle and will be paid when you enter the park.
Facilities: The Chisos Basin Campground features 60 campsites and is reservable year round. Sites can be reserved six months in advance. However, a small selection of sites are reservable two weeks in advance. There is no first come, first served camping available.
This is an extremely popular campground and it is almost always fully reserved. The campsites are small, rocky and not level. It is more suited to tent camping (learn how to choose the right tent).
All sites feature a picnic table, charcoal grill and bear-proof food storage. Some sites have a picnic shelter for shade. The sites are within an easily accessible walking distance of drinking water and toilets. There are no showers at the campground and the closest ones are a one hour drive away in the Rio Grande Village camp store.
The road leading to the campsite is winding and steep. It features sharp hairpin turns and is not recommended for some vehicles. Trailers over 19ft and RVs over 24ft are not suitable for this road and will not be accommodated at the campsite.
There are no fires allowed at any time. There are no eclectic, water or sewer hookups available at the individual sites.
Pets are allowed in each campsite however they must be leashed and restrained at all times.
Camping Month: The campground is open year round and because of its high elevation the temperature is mild. The busy season is from mid-November through to May.
Gear: Tents are the recommended sleeping accommodation at Chisos Basin Campground. This is due to the rocky and uneven ground at the sites. As well as the windy road that leads up to the campground. However, if you decide to bring a trailer or van with you then bringing leveling blocks is highly recommended.
If sleeping in a tent it is recommended to collapse your tent during the day if you are not at the campsite. Bears have been known to cause damage to tents when they are investigating the area during the day.
Food: There are limited resources so it is recommended to bring all of your own food, here is our recommended camping snack list. Bears frequent the campground and all food must be stored in the food storage lockers or in a hard-sided vehicle. Trash also must be disposed of in the animal proof bins. Any food or coolers must not be left unattended at any time.
Also located in the Chisos Basin area is the General Store and Visitor Center located half a mile up the hill from the campground. If you get sick of your own cooking there is even the Chisos Mountain Lodge which features the only restaurant in Big Bend National Park.
Lookout Spot: The campground is situated at an altitude of 5,400ft and because it is situated in a basin the views are fantastic from every angle. Campers can enjoy views of Casa Grande and Emory Peak. However, watching the sunset through the “window” is a Big Bend highlight.
The window trail is a 5.6 mile out and back hike that has the best sunset view. The trail leaves from the Chisos Basin Visitor Center and descends quickly towards the rim. The trail is downhill on the way out and the last 100 ft hikers can descend to look out over the rim through the window onto the towering rocks. The last descent can be slippery even when dry. However, the view is incredible so it is worth the effort. Now the return trail is mostly uphill. If you are watching the sunset here remember to bring a headlamp for the return journey.
Activities: The Chisos Basin Campground is a hub for hikers as some of the park's most incredible and popular trails are nearby. These trails include; Lost Mine Trail, the Window Trail, the South Rim trail and the Pinnacles Trail. The Pinnacles features access to the park's highest point which is Emory Peak at 7,825ft. Access to the river is 30 miles away which is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Download the park visitor guide in PDF format to stay up to date.
There are also opportunities for wildlife viewing, birding and guided interpretive walks.
Highlight: The Chisos Mountains are a popular nesting site for migratory birds. It provides the only nesting grounds in the entire United States for the Colima Warbler. These birds arrive in mid- April and leave for their winter grounds in southern Mexico by mid-september.
Tips: The temperature is unique at the Chisos Basin. The summer temperatures are cool yet warmer than other areas in fall and winter. This is due to the cold air sinking into lower regions.
If hiking is not your style then taking a scenic drive through Big Bend National Park is a fantastic way to see what the park has to offer. The drive to the Chisos Basin features the transitions from arid desert and cooler mountain habitats. This winding road rises over 2,000 ft above the desert floor. It offers breathtaking vistas of the mountain peaks and the erosion formed basin.
The Ross Maxwell scenic drive highlights the geologic splendor that Big Bend National park is famous for. The Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook and Tuff Canyon are all worthwhile stops. Continue the drive to the Santa Elena Canyon which features limestone cliffs over 1,500ft high above the Rio Grande. A short trail leads into the canyon. Return by the same route or take the gravel Old Maverick Road to the western entrance of the park if you want to experience a little bit of adventure.
GPS can be unreliable in the national park. Often navigation apps report roads as closed when they are actually open. It is important to check with the visitor services and the Alerts Page to confirm road closures.