Big Bend Ranch State Park at 311,000 miles is the largest park in the Texas State Park system. I initially considered adding the park to my trip as it hosts two of the only dog-friendly trails in the region. After enjoying the Rio Grande region so immensely in Big Bend National Park, I decided to prolong the trip and add the state park. The biggest concern was that I was scheduled to work a few days and there was no chance of cell service anywhere in the area. Looking at Campendium, I found a full-service RV park with reviews of “lightning fast” wifi. This sounded exactly what I needed so I booked a few nights from the parking lot of the the Rio Grande Village camp store.
The park is divided into two regions, the interior and river-side. Most of the interior section was closed while I was there for wildlife management activities. Between that and my limited time to explore, I stuck to the River Road. A ranger station flanks either side of the park along this road. Benton is on the east end and might be easy to miss if one isn’t being alert. This is where you must stop for an entrance pass/reservation. Alternatively, tags are available at popular trailheads to pay the fee or enter your state park pass number.
The river road is a spectacular drive even in a region with a lot of competition. I would list it as one of the top feats of engineering I have ever driven upon. In one stretch it appears to ascend nearly vertically. It is never particularly narrow or winding, so I think it might technically be passable for larger vehicles and trailers, but it wouldn’t be much fun. And the trail head parking lots were extremely rutted and not suitable for low clearance vehicles.
The town that sits at the east entrance of the park is Lajitas and may be most known for its mayor. His name is Clay Henry and he is billed as the world’s most honest politician (although I found him rather susceptible to 50 cent bribes.) You will find this esteemed celebrity in a cage just past the Lajitas General Store. Definitely worth a stop!
Maverick Ranch RV Park
This RV park is part of a larger upscale golf resort. It certainly features some higher end amenities. The laundry was nice and the pool seemed pleasant. A hiking trail left from immediately behind my site. I wandered down this one evening for Blue’s walk. I didn’t realize it was actually a 2 mile climb to an overlook so I turned around about a mile in. It was a great way to stretch our legs after work. Across the street from the RV park is a complex of shops and restaurants – some open to the public and some exclusive to guests of the hotel and RV park. When I arrived I eagerly drove over to order a pizza from the bakery, but was disappointed to learn the pizza oven had been out of order for weeks. I consoled myself with a piece of pie in celebration of some of my recent birding lifers. Down the road was a relatively well-stocked general store. It wasn’t adequate for major shopping, but I was able to pick up some coffee, beer, a couple staples, and souvenirs. Their sandwich deli also looked pretty good, but I opted for the food back in my trailer. Interestingly, the park is part of a dark sky area, a special conservation area that acknowledges darkness itself as a valuable resource critical to nocturnal animals that have thrived at night for millenia and one of the few places in North America where humans can still witness the world untouched by artificial illumination.
Closed Canyon Trail
The dog friendly hiking was a main motivation for visiting the area. Two of the most popular trails allow pups to join in the exploring. Closed Canyon Trail is about 1.5 miles out and back, much of it through a slot canyon. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it all the way to the end. The hike has some four to five foot drops that would require climbing some pretty smooth surfaces on the way back out. I was 90% sure I would have been fine, but when hiking solo an hour before sunset, I need to be 100% before hiking further. It was still great to spend time in the canyon.
The second hike of the day was the Hoodoos trail. This trail required a bit of wayfinding among the rock formations. There are a lot of social trails that wander through the brush. But with the exception of avoiding the stickier plants, most of the paths seem viable. We wandered for about a mile. Blue took a quick dip in the Rio Grande which energized her for the final climb to the overlook.
All-in-all, these were two cool little hikes, and it was a nice way to spend a Friday afternoon. Blue especially appreciated being able to explore. Would it have been worth the drive to and from the Rio Grande Village as day hikes? I would say yes, if time allowed. But a large part of that decision is based on the beauty of the drive.
One thought on “Big Bend Ranch State Park”
If you’re looking for a great hike in a beautiful park, Big Bend Ranch State Park is the perfect place to spend the day. The trails are well-maintained and the staff is very friendly. The only downside is that the park is a bit far from anything you need, but the RV park is always open so it’s not a huge issue.