Most people have heard of Big Bend National Park, but fewer people are aware that there is a Big Bend State Park (actually, it is Big Bend Ranch State Park). Until Lee researched hiking in the Big Bend area and suggested we visit there, I didn’t know it existed. It has only been a park since the early 90’s, fully opening to the public in 2007. At 300,000 acres it is the largest state park in Texas.
Geographically, both parks are in the huge section of southwestern Texas where the Rio Grand River makes a 100-mile loop around the Chisos Mountains as it heads towards the Gulf of Mexico. Big Bend National Park encompasses the Chisos Mountains, making for awe-inspiring vistas and many challenging hiking opportunities. We experienced some of those in our 2016 visit.
The Big Bend Ranch State Park is upriver, northwest of the mountains, but still contains beautiful scenery, accessible spots along the river, hikes through canyons and over mesas and miles of trekking across Chihuahuan desert terrain. Because it is less well known than the national park and is less developed it is ideal for getting away from civilization. The first day there we did two short hikes and then yesterday a 7.5-mile hike out and back on the Fresno Divide Trail.
As we head east today we will pick another place to hike in Big Bend National Park, saying goodby to this quiet, remote area and joining the larger groups of tourists who visit Big Bend National Park.