Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Campgrounds => Topic started by: ddimasi on February 20, 2017, 10:44:58 PM

Title: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: ddimasi on February 20, 2017, 10:44:58 PM
My husband and I are (last-minute) planning a trip to Big Bend in March.  Unfortunately, our ideal week for being in the park is exactly spring break week, 3/13-19.  We've read all the warnings about campsites filling up, and of course all the reservable sites are reserved.  The El Campo availability chart for last year same week indicates even all the backcountry sites were filled. Finding a place to camp is our biggest worry, and the question is - should we bother, or just plan on making that first visit at a different time next year? 

We'll be driving from PA, so have a bit of flexibility as to arrival date.  If we shoot for arriving on Monday or Tuesday (3/13 or 14) do we have any better chance of finding an open campsite than if we arrive on the weekend before?  (understanding that an early arrival is key.)  We don't have a 4x4 but would be up for backcountry camping at one of the more accessible sites.  I also noted the mention of BB Ranch State Park as a backup - we plan to call tomorrow to see if anything's available there.

We're driving a long way, so don't want to spend precious hiking days chasing a place to sleep, or risk missing out altogether.  Any advice or a reality-check would be most welcome!!

thanks for this forum, and all the collected wisdom! - Deborah
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 20, 2017, 10:54:12 PM
I think any recommendations would depend upon what your preferred activities are - do you want to relax in camp, tour by car, hike, backpack, or something else? I won't say it's impossible to make it work at this late date, but it's difficult. Still, there's always hope, Frodo.
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: ddimasi on February 20, 2017, 11:14:05 PM
Thanks for the note of hope!  Since we've never been there before, we'll do some driving to explore, but our main interest is hiking.  5-10 mile day hikes are about our speed, and we'd like to get a taste of the various areas of the park, mountain, desert, canyons... we've been reading up on trails and it seems even if the most popular are busy, we ought to be able to find some less-mobbed trails to enjoy.   We enjoy a quiet, laid-back car-camping experience, and look forward to the dark night sky we keep hearing about.  (If we were able to find a campsite, but all the neighbors were likely to be rowdy college kids, that might influence the decision as well...)

Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: Owl on February 21, 2017, 06:08:24 AM
I wonder if camping at the Stillwell Ranch just outside the park's Persimmon Gap entrance fills up during spring break?
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: Jalco on February 21, 2017, 06:36:59 AM
Big Bend Ranch State Park is a good alternative. 
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: rocketman on February 21, 2017, 07:51:24 AM
You might also inquire at Rancho Topanga between the ghost town and Lajitas. www.ranchotopanga.c om
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: ds9writer on February 21, 2017, 08:03:44 AM
My son and I have been to the park 3 different Spring Breaks.   The first trip, we got there Saturday mid-afternoon, and there were only 4 backcountry sites left (Basin and other campgrounds were full)

The second trip, we drove out Sunday and stayed in Marathon Sunday night.  Got up really early Monday morning and hit the park HQ right as it opened.  There were lots more slots open then.  And in looking at those sites, we saw there were even more available later in the week...

Third trip we made reservations in the Basin months ahead, but that doesn't help in your situation...

So my thought would be later during Spring Break week rather than earlier...
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 21, 2017, 09:30:29 AM
I agree with ds9writer, your chances of finding a road campsite might be slightly better after the weekend. Without a high clearance vehicle, your options are limited.

You can probably make it to the sites around Ernst Tinaja if you approach it from the south (do NOT attempt to travel the Old Ore Road north of there). Ernst Tinaja and the areas east of it are fascinating and would make for great day hikes. A bit slow, though, getting from there to the rest of the park because you have to negotiate the southern portion of the Old Ore Road. Probably an hour or more to the main park road near Rio Grande Village.

Similarly, Rattlesnake Mountain is often available because it's on Maverick Road which has a washboarded dirt surface. A regular passenger car can make it there fine as long as you drive slowly. It's about 4-5 miles from the main park road and all by itself. Skies might be a little less dark there because of proximity to the town of Study Butte.

Another possibility is Nine Point Draw campsite, up near the Persimmon Gap entrance. Beautiful spot, right off the road, very dark skies, all by itself, but sometimes overlooked because it's so far away from everything else. Nice hikes to Dog Canyon, Devil's Den, and Dagger Flats are all close by. And because it's right off the main park road, it provides convenient access to the rest of the park.

Best of luck! It's a loooong drive from PA to Big Bend.
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: Hang10er on February 21, 2017, 10:11:55 AM
Wow! I marvel at the terrain change from Corpus to Big Bend.  Can't imagine the scenery changes from PA to BiBE.
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: ds9writer on February 21, 2017, 12:08:23 PM
Can't imagine the scenery changes from PA to BiBE.

Trees --->  no trees 

Ok, the Basin has trees... I know...   :icon_biggrin:
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: Jimbow on February 21, 2017, 05:42:37 PM
With a backpack anything is possible.
Honestly,  if it were me, without a reservation somewhere,  near or inside the park,  I'd look elsewhere instead of that drive for the potential struggles.

The views expressed may not be mine in five minutes.

Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: TexasAggieHiker on February 21, 2017, 08:24:35 PM
Go. You'll find something, just have to be flexible. "Worst" case scenario you stay at Stillwell Ranch a night or two. They claim to have unlimited space.
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: ddimasi on February 21, 2017, 11:16:03 PM
Thanks, everyone, for the great ideas and input.  ds9writer, we're planning to follow your lead and stay an hour or so away on Sunday night, then show up early on Monday morning to try our luck in the park.   Owl and TexasAggieHiker, Stillwell Ranch looks like a fine alternative for tent camping that night (or the whole week) if we have to keep trying.  And we've checked out Big Bend Ranch State Park - seems they have a new park entrance and camping area at Botella Junction (info here - https://travnode.com/big-bend-ranch-fiesta-texas-parks-and-wildlife-51698), with availability. 

So, feeling good about having more options, and we're gonna go for it.  House Made Of Dawn, thanks for all the good advice about the primitive sites.  Looking forward, long drive and all!
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 22, 2017, 12:03:40 AM
Thanks, everyone, for the great ideas and input.  ds9writer, we're planning to follow your lead and stay an hour or so away on Sunday night, then show up early on Monday morning to try our luck in the park.   Owl and TexasAggieHiker, Stillwell Ranch looks like a fine alternative for tent camping that night (or the whole week) if we have to keep trying.  And we've checked out Big Bend Ranch State Park - seems they have a new park entrance and camping area at Botella Junction (info here - https://travnode.com/big-bend-ranch-fiesta-texas-parks-and-wildlife-51698), with availability. 

So, feeling good about having more options, and we're gonna go for it.  House Made Of Dawn, thanks for all the good advice about the primitive sites.  Looking forward, long drive and all!

 :great: :great: :great:  Everybody here is pulling for you. Hope you have a GREAT trip!
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: bam.bam on February 22, 2017, 07:10:12 AM
Would zone camping be an option for you. Could you pack your gear in to a spot off the road as a backup plan if all else fails.
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: RichardM on February 22, 2017, 12:34:00 PM
And we've checked out Big Bend Ranch State Park - seems they have a new park entrance and camping area at Botella Junction (info here - https://travnode.com/big-bend-ranch-fiesta-texas-parks-and-wildlife-51698), with availability. 
That video was uploaded by TPWD in 2009. The BBRSP website (http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/big-bend-ranch/) barely mentions it by that name, but Botella Junction appears to be the west entrance (which is the only way into the interior of the park).

I submitted an update to Google Maps (https://goo.gl/maps/Dj35DfeqTpR2). We'll see if they accept it. :)  Update: They did!
Title: Re: to BB or not to BB (in March, that is...)
Post by: Jimbow on February 22, 2017, 12:56:01 PM
Sending lots of positive karma your way for a great trip.

The views expressed may not be mine in five minutes.