During our visit to Big Bend National Park in west Texas, we stayed at the Lajitas Golf Resort near the Ghost Town of Terlingua and the Big Bend Maverick Entrance Station. Our first day in the park was spent exploring 30.0 mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, including the famous Santa Elena Canyon. Our second day in the park included visiting the Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, Boquillas Canyon, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit and more.
Our first stop of the day was the Panther Junction Visitor Center and the Big Bend National Park headquarters located 23.0 miles from the Maverick Entrance Station. The Panther Junction Visitor Center is the best place for first time visitors to begin a visit to the national park.
At the Visitor Center you can:
- Pay your park entrance fees.
- See interactive exhibits that provide an overview of geology and natural and cultural histories of the park.
- Watch the park orientation movie shown every 30 minutes from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm.
- Speak to a ranger to get park information and learn about road closures and recommendations of things to do during your visit.
- Get backcountry and river use permits.
- Shop in the Big Bend Natural History Association bookstore.
- Fill your water bottles at the available faucet/filling station.
- Stop by a U.S. Post Office
After being disappointed by the shirt and souvenir options at the Castolon Visitor Center, we were excited to go to the Panther Junction Visitor Center — especially because it is the main Visitor Center in the national park. But we didn’t find a shirt we liked or a Christmas ornament here either!
Luckily a woman who worked at the Visitor Center overhead us talking and shared that the Chisos Basin Visitor Center and store next door has the best stuff… so we finished browsing through the exhibits, hopped back in the car, and set out for the Chisos Basin.
Before leaving the Panther Junction Visitor Center, be sure to walk Panther Path, a 50 yard, accessible, self-guided nature trail loop that begins adjacent to the porch of the Visitor Center. It winds through a desert garden and a trail brochure with numbered stops identifies many of the cacti and common plants of the Chihuahuan Desert and explain their historic, cultural, and medicinal uses.
Know Before You Go
About Panther Junction:
- The Panther Junction Visitor Center is the park headquarters for Big Bend National Park. It is open daily year-round from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm with reduced hours on Christmas Day.
- There are clean, flush restrooms available.
- The Panther Junction Service Station, 200 yards west of the visitor center, is open every day. The station offers gas, diesel, as well as groceries.
- Inside each of Big Bend’s visitor centers is a fully stocked bookstore operated in partnership with a private, non-profit organization called Big Bend Natural History Association (BBNHA). The bookstore carries educational books, videos, park information, and souvenirs. All profit from sales stays in the park.
About Big Bend National Park:
- Big Bend National Park is located in Brewster County, southwest Texas.
- The name Big Bend refers to the great U-turn the Rio Grande makes in Southwest Texas. The Rio Grande defines the park’s southern boundary for 118 miles.
- Park entrances are open 24 hours daily, all year. Entrance fee stations have variable seasons and hours.
- Admission fees are valid for seven days and are $30/vehicle, $25/motorcycle, $15/individual/bicyclist/pedestrian.
- There are five Visitor Centers in Big Bend National Park: Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, Castolon, Persimmon Gap, and Rio Grande Village.
- Download the Big Bend National Park maps.
- There are three developed campgrounds in the park: the Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood campgrounds. Sites are first come, first-served, although a limited number of campsites in Rio Grande Village and the Chisos Basin campgrounds are reservable.
- Convenience stores are available and open year-round at Rio Grande Village, the Chisos Basin, and in the historic La Harmonia store at Castolon.
- Gas stations are located at Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village, and outside the park in Study Butte and Stillwell’s Ranch. Diesel is available at Panther Junction and outside the park in Study Butte.
- Pets are not allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Your pet can only go where your car can go and must be on a leash no longer than six feet in length or in a cage at all times. Pet etiquette and park regulations require that you always clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles.