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Exploring Big Bend With Dogs

When we pointed the RV toward Far West Texas our goal was to visit Big Bend National Park. Little did we know how much we’d enjoy our stays in Marfa, Fort Davis, Alpine and Marathon! After two weeks we finally tore ourselves away and made the 48 mile drive from Marathon down to the national park gates to begin exploring Big Bend with dogs.

Man and a dog looking out over the Rio Grand River in Big Bend, TX

 

Big Bend National Park with Dogs

Big Bend National Park encompasses more than 800,000 acres along 118 miles of the Rio Grande River. Located in Far West Texas, with the river forming the border between the U.S. and Mexico, this is one of the last remaining wild corners of the country.

READ MORE ⇒  The Most Pet Friendly National Parks

Buster and Ty at Big Bend National Park - TX German Shepherd Dog by the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park, TX

The most captivating thing about Big Bend is it’s diversity. The massive canyons, vast expanses of desert, forested mountains, and ever-changing river provide a stunning variety of scenery. I’ve never seen a desert as beautiful as this one, and I can’t even describe what makes it so different from the others we’ve seen. All I know is that I never get enough!

Big Bend National Park - TX Big Bend National Park - TX Big Bend National Park - TX

Pet Policy at Big Bend National Park

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on any trails, on the river, or in the backcountry at Big Bend National Park. Leashed pets can walk only on roads, in developed campgrounds, and at primitive roadside campsites. So, your pet can go only where your car can go.

You might be thinking, “Why would I take my dog there?!” But there’s still a lot you and your dog can do together in Big Bend! For example, there are more than 200 miles of dirt roads running through the park, and most of them get little very little traffic. Walking your pet along some of these roads is a wonderful way to enjoy the views.

German Shepherd dog on a dirt road in Big Bend National Park, TX

You can also enjoy some of the more popular scenic overlooks, like Santa Elena Canyon, from the parking areas. It’s the perfect place for a sunset picnic!

Man in a chair with two dogs at Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, Texas

If you’re planning to explore some of Big Bend’s 200 miles of trails, find a local boarding facility or pet sitter for your pet. Never leave a pet in your vehicle. The temperatures – even in the winter – can climb dangerously high very quickly.

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Crossing to Boquillas, Mexico

Boquillas de Carmen sits on the Rio Grande across from Big Bend and is approximately 135 miles from the nearest Mexican town … as the crow flies. The little village survives on tourism from the United States – folks visiting Big Bend who crossed the river to have lunch at the taco stands or the restaurant, or quench their thirst at the village bar.

Unfortunately, the crossing is a special tourist-class port of entry were only pedestrians are allowed. If you plan to go, pack your passport and find a sitter for your pet, because he won’t be able to join you on this part of the adventure.

Boquillas - Big Bend, TX

The Boquillas Port of Entry is open Wednesday to Sunday, 8am – 5pm in the winter, and Friday to Monday, 9am – 6pm in the summer. Before following the signs to Boquillas Crossing, head to the Visitor Center at Big Bend’s Rio Grande Village to purchase a $5 ticket for the round-trip rowboat ride across the river. With tickets in hand, head to the immigration building and get details on the purchases you’ll be allowed to carry back into the country. Then you’re ready to take the short path down to the river.

Boquillas - Big Bend, TX

Once across the river, you’ll have the option to rent a horse or burrow ($8), ride in a pick-up ($5), or walk the quarter-mile into town. The folks here are also available as guides if you’re adventuring into the 520,000 acre Maderas del Carmen biosphere reserve. When you reach town, fill out a visitors form at Mexican immigration, and then you’re free to explore!

Boquillas - Big Bend, TX Boquillas - Big Bend, TX

Walking around Boquillas is like stepping back in time. It’s a tiny village, eking out a life in the desert. The people are kind, and speak English well. And, while no one was angling for a handout, they were clearly appreciative of the few dollars we spent. Our lunch at the little restaurant consisted of three of the best bean and cheese burritos I’ve ever had and a Corona … for five bucks.

While we were there we learned that the school kids really need supplies. We saw several displays in Big Bend with beaded figures crafted by the children hoping to collect some money for pencils and notebooks. We’ll be sure to stock up and take some along the next time we go!

Boquillas - Big Bend, TX Boquillas - Big Bend, TX

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Just down the road from the national park is Big Bend Ranch State Park. This is the largest state park in Texas at over 300,000 acres, and a must-do when exploring Big Bend with dogs. The pet policies here are slightly more pet friendly with two trails, Closed Canyon and Hoodoos, both allowing leashed pets. Dogs are also welcome within a quarter mile of all roads, trail heads and designated campsites throughout the park.

 

Closed Canyon Trail

Closed Canyon is a short trail meanders though a narrow slot canyon. Hiking here is nice in warm weather because the canyon walls provide shade. Even in the winter, it’s best to get out early, carry plenty of water, and stay out of the sun.

Ty and Buster at Big Bend Ranch State Park - TX Big Bend Ranch State Park - TX

Hoodoos Trail

Named for the unique geological features in this area, Hoodoos is a short trail provides great views of the Rio Grande. However, there is no shade, and the trail is a bit rocky. Dogs with sensitive paws might appreciate dog boots.

READ MORE ⇒  Which Dog Boots Are Best For Your Dog? 

Dog on the pet friendly Hoodoos Trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas Man and German Shepherd Dog on the pet friendly Hoodoos Trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas

The Scenic River Road

Much of the scenic River Road from Lajitas to Presidio runs through the state park as well. And, as you might have guessed, it follows the course of the Rio Grande. But what you may not know is that it’s regularly voted the most scenic drive in Texas! Watch for the turn-out, overlooks, campgrounds, and picnic areas along the way where you and your pet can stretch your legs and admire the scenery.

River Road - Presidio, TX River Road - Presidio, TX

Where We Stay

Lajitas lies between the national park and the state park, and that’s where you’ll find Maverick Ranch RV Resort. This is our favorite spot to stay in Bend Bend with dogs. And if you’re not into camping, the resort here also offers lovely pet friendly rooms. Most of the resort’s visitors come for the golf course, but we love it for the pet friendly hiking trails!

READ MORE ⇒  7 Essentials for Desert Hiking With Dogs

Terlingua, TX Motorhome parked at dog friendly Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, Texas

When it’s time for the dogs to play, we hit the off-leash dog park or head out on a hike. All the trails – miles and miles of them – on the Lajitas property are pet friendly, and staying at the resort gives you access.

German Shepherd Dog in the dog park at Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, Texas

 

The people we met in Big Bend were the most open and welcoming of anywhere we’ve traveled. This place might be a way off the beaten path, but that’s what makes it so appealing. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

 

 

Gear Used in This Post:
(Affiliate Links)

Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchair

Alcott Martingale Collar

Alcott Weekender Leash

PAWZ Dog Boots

Freedom No-Pull Harness

Sleepypod Clickit Car Safety Harness

See all the gear we use to make traveling with our pets easier, safer, and more fun!

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  • Kathleen Depweg says:

    These are really great tips thank you!

  • J says:

    As natives to the area….let me just say this. Why would you stay at Lajitas RV park??? Double the price of everything in Study Butte and the Terlingua Ranch Lodge is even less with full hookups. And dog friendly.

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi J! The thing I love about Lajitas RV park is that staying here gives us access to all the trails on the property, and the trails are all pet friendly. With such limited pet friendly hiking options in the state and national parks, I appreciate being able to hike right out of the RV park with my dog.

  • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

    Hi Chip! We were lucky to have friends in the area who watched the dogs. You might try reaching out to the hotel or campground where you’re staying to see if they can recommend a local pet sitter. Have a great trip!

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