The Guadelupe Mountains greeted us as we crossed over the NM border into TX and spectacular valleys gave way to flat plains and dusty abandoned gas stations signaling our approach to Marfa.
Funky, art-filled and enjoying a hipster boom (thanks Beyonce), Marfa is the perfect stopping off point for your explorations in Big Bend. We spent the night sipping mescal cocktails at the Capri and making friendly with the bartender so he would store our gallon jugs of water in the walk-in overnight, ensuring that our camping provisions would stay chilled in the 98° heat.
Prior to heading to the park we made a laundry and latte stop at Tumbleweed Laundry and filled our now thoroughly chilled cooler with a few nights of food from The Get Go. If you have some extra time while in town don't miss the Donald Judd exhibitions at the Chinanti Foundation and the iconic instagram opp at the faux Prada Store (which you can't miss it on your way into town).
We entered Big Bend via the Persimmon Gap Visitor's Center where we picked up and paid for our backcountry camping permits. To camp at the many awesome primitive campsites within the park, you have to get your permit in person up to 24 hours in advance of the day you intend to camp. After picking your site, it's reserved, so you don't have to worry about going and staking your claim, but can spend the rest of the day exploring instead. We opted to camp in a different spot each night (both single campsites, so no neighbors!).
Big Bend is expansive - we had been told, but we still weren't prepared for the scale of the park; it blew our minds. The best way to see it all in a limited amount of time is definitely with four wheel drive and a high-clearance vehicle so you can tackle the many unpaved roads that criss-cross the terrain.
Our dirt road explorations took us to the far Southeastern corner of the camp and the Boquillas Crossing into Mexico, where with a little additional time, you can wade or take a rowboat across and grab lunch in the border town of Boquillas.
With the sun sinking on the horizon, and the border crossing closing at 6:00 PM we waved to Mexico before heading back to the center of the park and setting up camp at Rice Tank 1 in the foothills of the Chisos Mountains. After a meal of bratwurst burritos - our new tasty invention - we settled in and watched the stars come out in one of the darkest parks in the United States.
Our second day in the park took us through the Chisos and out to Santa Elena Canyon for a beautiful (and partially shaded) hike along the Rio Grande with plenty of opportunities for foot soaking and for some fellow hikers- swimming. Santa Elena was definitely one of the busier sections of the park, so getting here early in the day is key to soaking in the scenery with a little bit more solitude. Camp this night was in an open desert plateau with the threatening name of Rattlesnake Mountain. No snakes were seen, just more stars, and a gorgeous sunrise that painted the surrounding mesas the most beautiful golden pink.
Throughout our time in Big Bend, the rooftop tent was an ideal travel companion. We loved being able to take advantage of the more remote campsites, and sleep soundly well above the tarantulas, scorpions and snakes that are local residents here.
On the morning of our third day, we exited the Northwest corner of the park via the Maverick Junction entrance station, putting us in close proximity for a stop in Terlingua Ghost Town for some killer chorizo breakfast burritos with a side of crazy Burning Man - style art installations.
We're sad to leave West Texas behind us as our trip continues- there are so many more small towns and stunning vistas to explore, we highly recommend making the trek down to this, one of the most remote corners of the continental U.S.