Big Bend Ranch State Park
Located west of Big Bend National Park is the less distinguished “little” cousin known as Big Bend Ranch State Park (432/358-4444, www.tpwd.state.tx.us). The park’s east entrance is located at Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center, one mile east of Lajitas on FM 170, and the west entrance is located four miles southeast of Presidio at Fort Leaton State Historic Site on FM 170.
Relatively new on the scene, this enormous chunk of property—more than 300,000 acres of remote Chihuahuan Desert wilderness—is the largest state park in Texas. Though it’s far more limited in amenities, the park is best known for its spectacular views along River Road between Lajitas and Presidio and has become quite popular with those in search of a genuinely solitary natural experience.
Containing some of the most isolated and rugged terrain in the state, Big Bend Ranch includes two mountain ranges with ancient volcanoes and sheer-cliffed canyons. Though much of the property is still being developed for public access, there are currently nearly 100 miles of trails available for hiking and biking, with a goal of ultimately offering 236 miles on 65 interconnected trails.
Maps with updated routes are available on the park’s website or at ranger stations. Big Bend Ranch features 23 miles of Rio Grande frontage, offering an ideal starting point for boating excursions. Other popular park activities include horseback riding, fishing, stargazing, and birding.
If primitive backcountry camping and cooking doesn’t sound appealing, the park provides access to civilization with food, lodging, and Wi-Fi service at its Saucedo Complex for $100 a night. The three-bedroom Big House accommodates eight and has a full kitchen. Meals are available with advance reservations.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition