bugsy running on lone rock beach with the airstream and f-150 in the background

A Driving Tour of Big Bend National Park (visit #1)–Big Trip #1

We visited Big Bend in March 2016 as part of Big Trip #1. Read about our subsequent visits here: early 2018, late 2018, and 2021.

big bend

[UPDATE! We returned to Big Bend in 2018 and stayed in the park for a few days, so got a much fuller Big Bend experience. Read about our magical visit here! And then we did it again in 2019! And again in 2021!]

Big Bend National Park is enormous and magnificent and full of hiking trails on which you cannot take your dog. Leaving Bugsy behind in the Airstream was not an option as we’d be gone for most of the day, so we did a dog-friendly tour of Big Bend, which involved a ton of driving, with stops at overlooks, and one measly hike. Even with our exploration restricted, we loved the park.

dog at big bend

Dogs are allowed in Big Bend anywhere your car is allowed: roads and campgrounds. However, there are some rough, sparsely traveled roads that make great dog hikes. We took Bugsy out for several miles along Grapevine Hills Road and learned she’s not really a desert dog, at least the lower elevation deserts (she’s loving northern AZ). She also got out at overlooks with us and joined us for a picnic lunch, so hopefully it wasn’t too boring a day for her.

hiking with dog in big bend grapevine hills road

The Grapevine Hill Road hike was lovely and quiet, but bring water for your pooch. Hiking on Old Maverick would have been less enjoyable, with much more traffic going faster and kicking up loads of dust.

big bend

Our route (map here): Enter the park at Persimmon Gap; drive to Panther Junction (stopping at overlooks) and stop into the Park HQ for advice; drive halfway down Grapevine Hills Road for our dog-friendly hike to the end of the road; drive to Chisos Basin (stopping at overlooks) and grab food and beers (!!) at the Visitor Center; take turns running the short Window View Trail (while the other stayed with Bugsy); drive back up Chisos Basin Road and around to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (stopping at overlooks); have a picnic lunch in the truck bed at Sotol Vista; drive along the Rio Grande to Santa Elena Canyon; head toward the exit on the terribly washboarded and slow-going Old Maverick Road (not a very fun drive, but a good shortcut to exit the park); exit the park at Terlingua and drive the fantastically scenic highway along the Rio Grande and Big Bend Ranch State Park to Presidio. At Presidio, we turned north for our second attempt at appreciating Marfa.

big bend
rio grande
rio grande

Yes, it was a ton of driving, and it would have been wonderful to spend more time hiking, but we loved what we were able to see and do and would highly recommend a trip to Big Bend to anyone. Hopefully someday the National Parks will loosen their restrictions on dogs. Why not offer a selection of trails that are dog-friendly, and the people who don’t like dogs can choose different hikes? If the concern is that dogs will destroy the ecosystem, well, look at what some humans do to nature. Yesterday at Petrified Forest National Park, my dog was perfectly behaved on her leash walking along a trail, while some idiot humans were off-trail, climbing on the ancient, priceless fossils. So there’s my two cents, National Parks Service. Dogs > humans.

dog at big bend



5 responses to “A Driving Tour of Big Bend National Park (visit #1)–Big Trip #1”

  1. Lbrown8888@aol.com Avatar

    Hi L and J (and Bugsy)! We recently saw an old friend who now lives in Los Angeles who is in love with Airstreams! She is actually younger than you but is the daughter of special friends! She has a Pinit wall with her dream Airstreams. Fun to make a connection! Aunt Lynn

    1. bugsy Avatar

      She has good taste!!! 🙂

  2. elizabeth Avatar

    Beautiful pictures. I love following your trip while I sit in my cold little house waiting for Spring to warm up my world. Poor Bugsy, is she to be traded in for a “desert loving” pooch?

  3. […] our trip. We were incredibly excited to return to Big Bend after spending only several hours there two years ago and not getting to do a single hike, other than walking Bugsy along a jeep road (still totally […]

  4. […] Bend is in the running for sure. This is our fourth visit to Big Bend: the first time was just a day trip from Ft Davis in 2016, the second was a few days in 2018, and we went back for a few more in […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *