Busy Thanksgiving expected in Big Bend: Visitors should be prepared for limited parking, full campgrounds and lodging

Big Bend Thanksgiving Thanksgiving is one of Big Bend National Park’s busiest times. Visitors should be prepared for limited parking, full campgrounds and lodging. Photo courtesy of NPS.

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK — Large numbers of visitors historically travel to Big Bend National Park during the last weeks of November. As travelers seek out Big Bend for a Thanksgiving escape, the park will see significant increases in visitation. Big Bend is already experiencing record visitation, and visitors who plan on a November visit should be prepared for full campgrounds and limited parking.

“If the last year is any indication, our expectations are for an extremely busy Thanksgiving this year,” said Chief of Interpretation Tom VandenBerg. “Many people are making the long journey to this remote park, only to find that many other people have also planned to do the same thing and that all camping sites are already full,” says VandenBerg.

Reservations are required for all Big Bend National Park campgrounds. Campers can make reservations up to six months in advance, with a limited number of campsites reservable up to 14 days in advance. Reservations are made through the online reservation portal at www.recreation.gov. Most sites are already reserved. If you plan on visiting Big Bend this time of year, it is best to come prepared with some alternative plans for lodging or camping outside of the park if all sites are full.

Backcountry permits are required for backpacking and primitive campsites. Permits may be obtained in person up to 24 hours in advance at the Panther Junction Visitor Center from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Chisos Basin Visitor Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The most popular backcountry sites are reservable up to six months in advance via www.recreation.gov. Many sites have already been reserved. Visitors planning to visit Big Bend National Park should have alternate plans in case they cannot find a campsite within the park.

Visitors seeking lodging inside the park without reservations may have difficulty finding a room. The Chisos Mountains Lodge, the only lodging facility in the park, reports that few reservations are available. A fortunate few may be able to take advantage of last-minute cancellations. Potential visitors should call the lodge at (432) 477-2291 for more information. Additional camping facilities, RV parks, and lodging are located in communities outside the park. Current listings are available at www.visitbigbend.com.

Thanksgiving visitors will also find limited parking at many of the park’s most popular areas and trailheads. Visitors to the Lost Mine Trail, Chisos Basin, Hot Springs, Boquillas Port of Entry, Boquillas Canyon and Santa Elena Canyon Trail may experience delays. When all parking is full, rangers will establish “one-in, one-out” traffic control measures in these areas. Visitors should have alternate itineraries planned. The park website is a great resource for trip planning.

“The next few months are a fantastic time to visit Big Bend, but are also the busiest times of the year in the park, and many visitors are disappointed when their favorite campsites are not available,” continued VandenBerg. “We wish to encourage people to plan ahead and consider visiting during other times of the year to maximize enjoyment of Big Bend, and the remote sense of peacefulness that it is known for.”