What To See in Big Bend if You Only Have One Day

Big Bend National Park, TX – Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

Are you going to be passing through Big Bend soon? If you only have one day to visit, you won’t be able to explore everything the Texas national park has to offer. You can fit in quite a bit, though.

Outlined below is a great one-day trip itinerary that allows you to see the desert, the mountains, the river, and more.

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Breathtaking view of the Chihuahuan Desert at the Big Bend National Park – Photo: Katerina Papathanasiou / The Vale Magazine

A good starting point is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Taking a drive along this 30-mile path will provide you with some stunning views of the Chihuahuan Desert. Eventually, it will lead you to the Rio Grande river.

Along the drive, you’ll come across several scenic overlooks and exhibits. For example, you can pull over and take a short walk to the Sam Nail Ranch or Homer Wilson Ranch. The Castolon Historic District also provides a fun and fascinating glimpse into the history of Big Bend.

At the end of the road, you’ll also find yourself a short distance (just 1.4 miles round-trip) from Santa Elena Canyon.

Santa Elena Canyon Overlook, Big Bend National Park – Katerina Papathanasiou / The Vale Magazine
Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park – Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Chisos Mountains

Startling view of desert, mountains and sky on the way to the Chisos Mountains – Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

When you’ve finished the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, head to the Chisos Mountains for a gorgeous forest experience. After just a 0.3-mile walk along the Window View Trail, you’ll be exposed to stunning mountain scenery.

If you want to take a longer hike and enjoy more mountain views, you can check out the Window Trail or Lost Mine Trail. Now would also be a good time to have lunch at the Mountain View Restaurant, which provides the park’s only full-service dining opportunity.

Fossil Discovery Exhibit

Fossil Discovery Exhibit, Big Bend National Park – Photo: Katerina Papathanasiou / The Vale Magazine

Finally, finish off your trip with a visit to the Fossil Discovery Exhibit.

This exhibit is located 8 miles from Panther Junction and gives you and your travel companions a chance to see the changes in wildlife that have taken place in Big Bend. While here, you can also walk along a short trail and take in a panoramic view of some nearby geologic points.