10 Best Things to Do in Big Bend Ranch State Park (+ Tips!)

Located right along the Rio Grande and winding through some of the most stunning scenery that West Texas has to offer, Big Bend Ranch State Park (sometimes referred to simply as Big Bend State Park) offers an incredible opportunity to visit Big Bend Country.

While many people head to the Texas and Mexico border to experience Big Bend National Park, one must not forget about the vast 311,000 acre Big Bend Ranch State Park that is located right next door.

Big Bend Ranch State Park incorporates stunning landscapes and diverse scenery that make it a must-stop on your Big Bend Country adventure.

As the largest state park in Texas, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of fun things to do in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Planning a road trip soon?

Here’s what to do in Big Bend Ranch State Park!
picnic area in big bend ranch state park
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Best Things to Do in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Drive El Camino del Rio.

The scenic El Camino del Rio drive is one of the most unforgettable places in Big Bend Ranch State Park, and is frequently ranked among the most scenic drives in the USA!

El Camino del Rio will transport you on a journey along the Rio Grande River while supplying you with the stunning views that set Big Bend apart from so many other landscapes all over the country.

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As you are driving, you will find multiple scenic overlooks that are absolutely worth a stop.

Plan to allow at least an hour to drive El Camino del Rio one way, and more if you plan to take photos and soak up the scenery all around.

Some of the most popular hikes in Big Bend Ranch State Park, including Closed Canyon and Balanced Rock, are also located just off of the scenic drive.

landscape of big bend state park with el camino rey in the background

Explore the Balanced Rock Trail.

If you are wanting to see more of the Rio Grande while you also hike amongst the diverse scenery that Big Bend State Park offers, then the Balanced Rock Trail is perfect for you.

Not only will you be greeted by a great view of the river near the end of your hike, but you will pass incredible balanced rocks and nature that will leave you in awe.

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While on the Balanced Rock Trail, you will also see multiple Hoodoos, great for pictures along your way.

Hoodoos are truly incredible formations that are yet another obvious sign of what wind and erosion can do to nature over the years.

Many Hoodoos are shaped similar to mushrooms and create a unique shape that will have you wanting to learn more.

As the whole loop is only about a mile, this is an easy stop to make during your trip to Big Bend State Park.

hoodoos as seen from above in big bend ranch state park texas

Enjoy primitive camping.

Within the state park, there are also three designated options for off-road vehicles to reach several back road camping areas.

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In order to access these campsites, you must have a permit and drive a 4×4 vehicle that will have no trouble going over rough terrain.

If you decide to camp in the backcountry of Big Bend Ranch, make sure you bring in enough water that will last you throughout your trip.

closely cropped photo of a couple in flannel shirts each holding a silver camping mug

Enjoy the Rio Grande.

Canoeing, rafting, kayaking, oh my!

Many people think of floating thru the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, but you can do the same right next door in Big Bend State Park.

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You can bring your own equipment or reach out to one of the many companies in the area that can take you on a guided trip or rent out equipment.

Taking to the water of Big Bend Ranch State Park will give you an entirely new perspective from the water as well as some amazing photography opportunities–not to mention a chance to float along an international border while in the water!

rio grande river as seen in tx big bend state park

Hike Closed Canyon.

Did you know that Texas has slot canyons?

In Big Bend Ranch State Park, Closed Canyon offers a chance to experience a beautiful slot canyon in Texas.

One of the amazing aspects of Closed Canyon is that because of the tall walls that surround you; they can often be cooler than many other areas of the park.

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We still wouldn’t recommend embarking on a hike in Big Bend in the middle of Texas summer, but still great to know for your Big Bend State park adventure!

Closed Canyon meanders you thru a 1.4-mile trail that has you traversing thru slot canyons while being surrounded by tall cliffs on either side.

Make sure to bring your camera to capture some incredible photos, and prepare to be greeted by water as the canyon continues to narrow and becomes more slender.

kate storm and ranger storm hiking in closed canyon texas big bend ranch state park

Learn something new at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center.

Just outside of Big Bend Ranch State Park is the Barton Warnock Visitor Center which is a must-stop on your West Texas adventure.

The visitor center provides you everything you need to know, from the flora and fauna of the park to the history, as well as all of the archaeological elements.

Stop in before you take to the trails, so you know what to look for while you are out on your adventure.

You are sure to learn something new when you visit the Barton Warnock Visitor Center.

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Pay a visit to Fort Leaton State Historic Site.

Located on the edge of the state park near Presidio, the Fort Leaton Historic Site is the perfect spot to stop in and get all of the permits you need as well as check in to your campsite.

Once you grab your permit, though, be sure to stop to explore the fort, which dates to the 1830s and is one of the best-preserved adobe buildings in Texas.

fort leaton state historic site as seen from the corner

Sit back and enjoy the stars.

The entire area around Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park are considered dark sky areas.

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Being a dark sky area simply means that there is little to no light pollution, so the sky gets truly dark at night.

The dark skies around the Big Bend area are the perfect end to a day of hiking throughout the park, and you will be greeted by hundreds of stars after the sun goes down.

night sky with milky way in texas big bend country

Go birding at Ojito Adentro.

Not only is the landscape immensely diverse all throughout the park, but there is also plenty of wildlife that will make any landscape even more special.

Ojito Adentro is less than a mile long, but with the variety of wildlife, you are likely to see it is absolutely worth your time.

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Grab your binoculars and hike out Ojito Adentro to capture some amazing glimpses of the various birds that call this area home.

Not only can you see birds while hiking this trail, but if you hike in the correct direction, you will end at flowing springs that are a great end to a short hike.

greater roadrunner close up image

Attend the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest.

If you are an avid mountain biker, then you can attend the desert bike fest that takes place in February every year.

As a participant, you can expect to join hundreds of other bikers who are also soaking in the vastness of Big Bend Ranch State Park right along with you.

man biking in the desert on a sunny day

Tips for Visiting Big Bend Ranch State Park, TX

Bring lots of water.

West Texas temperatures can change dramatically, and extreme heat is common.

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When you are hiking throughout the park, make sure you carry it with you because it can get hot quickly.

Be sure to bring extra water with you, and if possible, bring a cooler along to stock extra bottles in the car.

trailhead at balanced rock, one of the best places to visit in big bend ranch state park tx

Check in.

Even if you pay for entrance in advance, you still need to stop by one of the park entrances to check in for the day before exploring Big Bend Ranch State Park.

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You can bring your dog.

Unlike the national park,  Texas’ Big Bend State Park does have some dog-friendly hikes, including both Closed Canyon and the Balanced Rock Trail.

If you want to explore the area with your favorite furry friend, this park is a great place to do so!

ranger storm hiking in closed canyon, one of the best things to do in big bend state park texas

Grab a paper map.

One thing for sure is that you will have very limited to no service while you are at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

If you typically depend on your phone for a map, it would be wise to grab a paper map because you will likely not be able to depend on your phone.

chihuahuan desert landscape in big bend texas

Spend at least a day here.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is often an understandable afterthought for visitors to the region who plan to visit the nearby Big Bend National Park.

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However, with plenty to do and a hefty amount of driving to do between both parks, it’s best to dedicate at least one full day to exploring Big Bend Ranch State Park.

sign marking the entrance for big bend ranch texas

Where is Big Bend Ranch State Park?

Texas’ largest state park lies between Presidio on one side and Lajitas on the other.

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The park is located in a southern stretch of West Texas, in what is known as Big Bend Country.

Stretching over 300,000 acres, Big Bend Ranch State Park is an awe-inspiring sight for anyone that visits.

3 photos of texas big bend state park: fort leaton, rio grande, closed canyon. black text on a white background reads "big bend ranch state park guide"

3 thoughts on “10 Best Things to Do in Big Bend Ranch State Park (+ Tips!)”

  1. While you can see the Rio in many places from either direction, going down from Presidio allows you to be closer to the river and see over the guardrail in many places. I drove the road more times than I can count in everything from a14-wheeler to a motorcycle. I know that road. Don’t be in a hurry. It can bite ya.


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