TERLINGUA – Big Bend National Park Highlights

Big Bend National Park Highlights is the perfect introduction to Big Bend National Park, and two iconic features: Santa Elena Canyon and Chisos Mountains. Experience three distinct environments: desert, mountain, and river. Learn the fascinating history of this unique region, from Spanish conquistadors to Apollo astronauts.

8:30 am – Meet Guests
Meet guests at Terlingua area hotels. take TX 170 east to TX 118, go right 3 miles to enter Big Bend National Park


8:45 am – Park Entrance
Enter Big Bend National Park (entrance fees included in trip cost), take the Maverick Road (dirt), to Santa Elena Canyon, with stop at Luna’s Jacal.


9:45 am – Santa Elena Canyon
Noted author Edward Abbey wrote that “If light were sound, Santa Elena would be a symphony.” We will hike the 1.5 miles round trip into the canyon, one of the most remarkable scenic locations in Big Bend and the state of Texas.


11:45 pm – Castolon Historic Area
A picnic lunch will be served by the Castolon store. Castolon was once the commercial center of agriculture along the Rio Grande that supported the mining industry in Terlingua and also grew cotton for export out of the area. During a period of unrest between 1913 and 1918, a small detachment of cavalry was posted here and patrolled the US/Mexico border. From Castolon, we drive Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, stopping at overlooks with spectacular scenery along the way, en route to Chisos Mountains Basin.


12:30 pm – Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Considered by Big Bend Texas Travel as the most scenic drive in Texas, this amazing road traverses the Chisos Mountains foothills on the western side. We could spend a week exploring its secrets, but we will have time for the short walk to Burro Mesa pour-off, and a stop at Mule Ear’s overlook for photos.


1:30 pm – Drive to Chisos Mountains Basin
The Chisos Mountains Basin is in the cool mountain highlands of Big Bend National Park. There is a lodge with 72 rooms, restaurant, and convenience store. The Basin is the jumping-off point for a variety of wilderness trails. We will take a 1.5 mile round trip walk to a scenic viewpoint on the Lost Mine Trail, where on a clear day, you can see 100 miles in all directions.


3:00pm – Paleontology Exhibit
This open-air museum guides visitors through millions of years of geology, with displays and sculptures depicting habitats of these remote times, and the creatures who once inhabited them. Along the way,we stop at Park HQ at Panther Junction to enjoy an excellent short video and shop for interpretive literature, maps and park related gifts.


5:00pm – Return to Terlingua
Return through the west side of the National Park and exit TX 118 north, then left at Study Butte on TX 170. Guests will arrive at Terlingua area hotels by 6:00 pm.

Santa Elena Canyon with the Rio Grande River on a sunny day
Santa Elena Canyon
Short walking trail in Chisos Mountain Basin with Chisos Mountains in the background
Windows View Trail, Chisos Basin
Fossil of large fish at the paleontology exhibit at Big Bend National Park.
Paleontology Exhibit, Big Bend National Park

Please note

Times are estimated. We are always happy to be flexible with the itinerary; as long as we get you back in time for dinner. We are happy to arrange custom itineraries and exclusive tours.


Originating in Terlingua area, 2-3 guests, $185 per guest. 4-5 guests, $160 per guest. Children 12 and under are 25% off. For larger groups, please contact mike@gobigbend.com or call 432 386-5635. Prices do not include entrance to Big Bend National Park, which is $30 per carload, good for 7 days. There are a variety of different passes that are valid: America the Beautiful, Senior Lifetime, Active Military as well as Big Bend Annual Pass or National Park Annual Pass. If you don’t have one of those, we can save time by going to https://www.recreation.gov/sitepass/74331  and getting one in advance. It asks for vehicle information, simply list your own vehicle.