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Visit The Two National Parks In Texas

national parks in Texas
Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit The Two National Parks In Texas

Despite being the second-largest state in the U.S., Texas only has two national parks: Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend. But that doesn’t mean these parks—both located in the western portion of Texas—aren’t amazing national and state treasures.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park protects many of the state’s natural wonders: the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest peaks in Texas, and a range of flora and fauna. Big Bend National Park protects many flora and fauna as well and is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the U.S. 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The diversity of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is vast, with an ecosystem of salt flats, creosote bushes, honey mesquite, grassland, junipers, ponderosa pine, as well as elk, cougar, gray fox, American black bear, coyote, bobcat, skunk, badger, bat, golden eagle, and many more.

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The 86,367-acre park in the Guadalupe Mountains draws roughly 172,000 visitors a year. That number is shockingly low—compare it to the 4 million or so that visit Yellowstone National Park each year. Despite its beautiful ecosystem, this is one of the least-visited national parks. This is mostly due to its isolation in sparse West Texas as well as the fact that there are no roads through the park.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of just two national parks in Texas. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

While this might seem daunting, it means that if you’re an avid hiker and love to experience the wilderness without seeing many other people, this is the park for you.

Activities to explore in the park are hiking, camping, backpacking, birding, horseback riding, stargazing, and wildlife viewing. You can also explore numerous caves in these mountains, the same range as the Carlsbad Caverns National Park just 25 miles north in New Mexico. A must-do activity is to hike to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet. The salt basin dunes are another fun area to explore.

Camping in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

RV camping is available at Pine Springs Campground and Dog Canyon Campground. Pine Springs has a paved parking lot for RVs with 19 sites, and two group campsites, though no hookups or dump station is available. Dog Canyon is at a slightly higher elevation with only 9 tent sites & 4 RV sites (also no hookups or dump station) as well as one group campsite. More information can be found on the NPS website.

There are tons of backcountry sites including Guadalupe Peak, Pine Top, Tejas, Bush Mountain, Mescalero, McKittrick Ridge, Blue Ridge, Marcus, Wilderness Ridge, and Shumard. 

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is much more user-friendly than Guadalupe Mountains. It has a wider variety of activities in the park including scenic drives, day hikes (in desert, mountains, or rivers), backpacking, river trips, biking, bird watching, fishing, horseback riding, and stargazing. A much larger park than Guadalupe Mountains at 801,163 acres, the park also gets more visitors, averaging around 440,000 each year. 

Big Bend, the largest of the two national parks in Texas. Photo by Jonathan Cutrer

Big Bend is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, including over 1,200 special of plants, 11 species of amphibians, 56 species of reptiles, 40 species of fish, 75 species of mammals, over 400 species of birds, and 3,600 species of insects. 

Containing the largest expanse of roadless public lands in the state, Big Bend National Park is perfect for hiking over its 150 miles of trails. A river trip on the Rio Grande is an excellent way to experience the park and a memory to last a lifetime. 

Popular Youtubers Drivin & Vibin shared a great tour of Big Bend National Park in this video:

Camping in Big Bend National Park

RVers can find 25 full hookup sites at the Rio Grande Village RV Campground. Regular camping is available at the Rio Grande Village Campground, which includes 100 campsites with flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, grills, and some overhead shelters. 

Chisos Basin Campground has 60 sites with flush toilets, running water, grills, picnic tables, and a dump station. Cottonwood Campground features 24 sites with pit toilets, picnic tables, grills, and water. 

Plan your trip

Plan your trip to these national parks in Texas and find more great destinations with RV LIFE Trip Wizard and the RV LIFE App. You may also want to check out this ultimate stargazing trip from Big Bend National Park to Yellowstone.