Big Bend Ranch State Park
Welcome to the Other Side of Nowhere!
Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest state park in Texas, lies on 311,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness in a remarkably rugged, remote and unpopulated setting. The park extends along the Rio Grande from southeast of Presidio to near Lajitas in both Brewster and Presidio Counties. Embracing some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the Southwest, it encompasses two mountain ranges containing ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and waterfalls. The area has been a crossroads of human activities for over 11,000 years, as diverse people and cultures have been drawn by the abundant resources of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo corridor. If you are looking for a "wild west" experience, Big Bend Ranch State Park has an abundance of options.
Park permits for backpacking and camping (no hookups) are available at the park's two visitor centers--Fort Leaton State Historic Site to the west, near Presidio; and Barton Warnock Visitor Center, on the eastern edge of the park near Lajitas. Visitors can also purchase river-use permits, licenses, and information about the Big Bend region.
- Interpretive Guide to Big Bend Ranch State Park
- Sauceda Historic District: History and Walking Guide, Big Bend Ranch State Park
- Policies on Dogs at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Things to Do
Hiking & Mountain Biking
Trails provide the only means of accessing many areas within Big Bend Ranch State Park, and allow visitors an intimate rapport with the outdoors. With an extensive network of interconnected multiuse trails, the system strives to capture the spirit of the land by offering trails that are historical, scenic and educational, and offer varying levels of accessibility and challenge to people of all ages and abilities.
Due to rough terrain some of the park’s trails are suitable for hiking only. Many trails are available for mountain bikers and equestrians as well. Refer to the park map or speak with a ranger for details. If you do not have a bike, rentals are available at through local outfitters. When biking, always wear a helmet and carry two spare tubes. Carry plenty of water and wear appropriate, protective clothing. Most importantly, have fun!
- Download the Big Bend Ranch Biking Guide for detailed trail maps and ride descriptions.
- The Fresno-Sauceda Loop at Big Bend Ranch State Park has been designated an "Epic" ride by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Read about this ride on the International Mountain Bicycling Association web site.
- Read the article "Mountain Biking Dream Ride at Big Bend Ranch" from the November, 2009 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine.
- Download a brochure about the Contrabando Multiuse Trail System, with its historical points of interest and singletrack Dome Trail, a favorite among mountain-bikers.
Riding horseback is a great way to view and appreciate Big Bend Ranch. Equestrian activities are allowed in all areas of the park unless specifically excluded. Equestrian camping is available to riders who bring their own horses.
The unpaved roads within BBRSP were constructed to support public commerce and settlement, fence building, waterline construction, livestock production, and for mineral prospecting and mining. Today, nearly 70 miles of unmaintained dirt roads are available to those who are adequately prepared for 4X4 adventures.
The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo corridor is an easily accessible area of the park for day use, including rafting, canoeing and free bank fishing. Several river access points are found within the park along F.M. 170. Colorado Canyon includes Class II and Class III rapids. This section of the river is not considered dangerous under normal flow conditions. The walls of Colorado Canyon, unlike the limestone canyons of Big Bend National Park and the Lower Canyons, are composed entirely of igneous rock. Raft trips may be arranged through local outfitters in Terlingua and Study Butte.
The primary attraction of the Big Bend country is its scenery, and here, scenery is geology. The mountains, canyons, plateaus, rivers and waterfalls are all the direct result of geologic processes of mountain building, volcanism, rock formation, subsequent faulting, folding, weathering and erosion. Geology and resultant landforms ultimately determine where and how the region’s plants, animals and humans live. So as you soak up the scenery, remember that you are looking far back into geologic time — a long chronicle of earth history.
- Birds of Big Bend Ranch State Park and Vicinity
- Read about the park's more than 300 bird species and the best locations to find them.
To schedule an interpretive program or tour, please make a reservation with the park 7 days in advance, by calling (432) 358-4444. The following tours are offered on a regular basis:
- Interpretive Tour - This free, 1- to 3-hour guided hike introduces visitors to the unique Chihuahuan Desert flora and fauna, vistas of the park's landscape, and the history and geology of the area surrounding the Sauceda Ranger Station.
- Hiking Tour: Archeology, Geology & Nature - Parks rangers can help you learn about this wonderfully picturesque area, or help you contemplate it in absolute serenity.
- Mountain-biking Tour - This 1- to 4-hour guided tour introduces visitors to some of the most rugged mountain-biking country in West Texas. Bring your own bike, or rent one from the park.
- Horseback Tour - This 1- to 4-hour guided horseback tour introudces visitors to historic pastures still in use around the Sauceda Ranger Station. Experience the historic ranching landscape with the nostalgia of old pens and fences, or just enjoy the scenery.
- 4X4 Tour: Archeology, Geology & Nature - This guided 4X4 road experience can be adapted to the specific interest of the visitor. Ragners will help you explore some of the more remote and scenic areas of the park, or contemplate it in absolutely serenity.
The park also is a partner in the annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest mountain-bike festival, which is held every February and features three days of guided rides through the park's extensive trail system including Texas' only Epic ride.
Photography workshops are offered in the spring and periodically during other times of the year.
Ask about the Junior Ranger Explorer Packs available for free checkout this summer at the park!
The commercial outfitters for Bend Ranch State Park offer guided tours and other services to provide access and opportunities for visitors who may be apprehensive about the remote nature of the park, or who are looking for a recreational experience that they are unable to facilitate themselves.