Big Bend National Park

Imagine a remote landscape of arid land and mountains, hours drive from a town of any significant size. Imagine a silver river snaking through a deep canyon or a wide open plateau with birds circling overhead. Big Bend National Park is one such magical place.

Big Bend National Park is all about wide open spaces and rugged places. From scenic vistas to river-carved canyons, there is a lot to explore in Big Bend. This park is remote and covers over 800,000 acres along the Rio Grande in south Texas. The drive in has a barren desert feel, but as you near the National Park, the beauty becomes indescribable. The vastness of the park simply can not be contained in one photograph.

Dog Friendly Activities

While not a dog-friendly park per se, there is still plenty to explore with your canine friends in tow. There are over 100 miles of roads accessible with a two wheel drive vehicle (and more if you have 4WD and high clearance). And your dog is allowed anywhere a car can go. You might miss out on hiking Santa Elena Canyon or the Rio Grande Village Nature trail (which is one the best nature trails I have ever hiked), but you can still explore the wonderful terrain. Drive the Ross Maxwell scenic drive, camp at one of the three campgrounds, and stop at many scenic overlooks along the way.

We arrived at Big Bend National park in late April, just after the “busy” season had ended and the heat was beginning to kick up a notch. This was perfect for us, as the scenic overlooks were not as crowded. However, it limited most walking to mornings and evenings. It also means that they can never be left in a vehicle for any length of time. Cars heat up fast.

For more information on Big Bend’s pet policies, visit the NPS website.


There are three campgrounds in Big Bend National Park. The main campground is Rio Grande Village – right next to the Rio Grande. It is a beautiful campground with a mix of open grassy spots and secluded wooded areas. There is both a generator and no generator zone. (Technically there is also a section with electrical hook-ups for RVs, but this area is essentially a parking lot.) This campground also boasts an RV dump station and fresh water filling. If you don’t have dogs with, the Nature Trail that leaves from this campground is amazing and well worth the time to hike.

The second campground is Cottonwood campground. This campground is less developed with pit toilets and smaller sites. We still fit the 29 foot Minnie Winnie in fine. No generators are allowed in this campground and it is much smaller. Near this campsite is Santa Elena Canyon. If traveling with dogs, visit the nearby overlook. If not, I recommend hiking into the canyon.

The third campground is Chisos Basin. This campsite is only accessible to RVs shorter than 24 feet, so we were unable to visit. But it sounds nice, nestled in the Chisos Mountains.

Activities in the Surrounding Area

Big Bend Ranch State Park is situated just west of Big Bend National Park. While much of this park is also off-limits to pets, there are two hiking trails here that allow dogs – Closed Canyon and Hoodoos trail. If you are interested in hiking here as an alternative to Big Bend National park, check out this article posted on GoPetFriendly’s blog.

The closest surrounding place we personally visited, was Lake Colorado City State Park. This park was well worth the visit with a short hiking trail and pretty views by the water. If you are traveling down to Big Bend from the northeast, this state park was a wonderful place to overnight.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we loved Big Bend National Park. However, if/when I plan a return trip, I will leave the dogs at home so I can explore the many miles of trails and head deeper into this park. But if you are traveling with your dogs, don’t let that stop you. There was a lot to see from the roadways and campgrounds!

If any of you have also visited this area, please feel free to leave additional comments, suggestions, or remark on your favorite part of Big Bend National Park below. Or let us know great dog-friendly alternatives in the area. If any of you have written blog posts about dog-friendly activities in the area, I would love to know about them – feel free to comment or send an email.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone is enjoying some intrepid adventures with their own pets this summer.


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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