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Ride Reviews

Filtering by Category: "Big Bend National Park"

Boquillas Canyon Crossing Port of Entry at Big Bend National Park

Ricardo Perez

Big Bend National Park in April

Big Bend National Park in April

The Boquillas Canyon is over a 20 mile ride from the Park Headquarters, but definitely worth a visit. There's a large parking area just short of reaching the canyon and a short hike with a small rise gets you to an overlook of the canyon. On our visit we could plainly hear a Mexican National in the middle of the river with his horse singing a ballad. The canyon's walls carried his voice with plenty of amplification. He sang for tips which you could leave on the river bank. We suspect he was in the middle of the shallow running Rio Grande so as to make a quick exit back to Mexico should immigration officials came by. On the bank of the river were handmade curios selling on an honor system; if you liked something just leave some cash in a nearby can. 

The park's official publication mentions that it is illegal trade and it is classified as contraband, subject to confiscation by federal officials. It may be correct, but it's not as if it's about to upend the balance of international trade. We noticed at the Chisos Basin shop some of the same curios for sale, but at a much higher cost. 

The Boquillas Canyon, noteworthy for its International Port of Entry, is a must stop if you're in the park.  The only thing akin to it may be the Prada Store Front Facade outside of Marfa. Both have no place in the Southwest. The Prada facade can be admired as a roadside point of interest, justifying its presence, but the Boquillas Port of Entry makes little sense. To begin with, there are no INS officers on duty, conveniently replaced by two kiosks (sorry no pictures of kiosks are allowed) where you are dutifully obligated to scan your passport; wait for it to be screened by a live agent in El Paso; then proceed to enter the United States legally.

I asked a park ranger if we just couldn't walk around the outside of the building without reporting to the kiosks and he said, "we have lots of cameras; you'd be stopped and deported". Never seen anything like it, a wonderful modern building located in a remote area of a National Park built for two kiosks! Not sure how that plays into our heighten National Security, but it makes a good POI (Point of Interest) in our southwest travel experiences. 

The Boquillas Canyon itself is not a massive carving and it's small compared to most canyons. In my opinion it's easily dwarfed by the Santa Elena Canyon on the western end of BBNP, but unlike Santa Elena Canyon, this one is interesting because of its inhabitants, both past and present. 

Ancient Indian food grinding hole.

Ancient Indian food grinding hole.

As you walk up the rise before the canyon you can see in the limestone rock holes used by ancient indian tribes to grind their food grains. When we first spotted them we thought they were fence post holes and wondered why would anyone want a fence on top of this rock. We then noticed that they were in groups and obviously not the beginnings of any fence post holes.

As we walked over this limestone rise we could see the Rio Grande River meandering towards us then making a sharp turn away from us and into the beginnings of the canyon. 

Rio Grande River at Boquillas Canyon

Rio Grande River at Boquillas Canyon


On the Mexican side of the Rio Grande a horseman watches his small group of horses grazing in his corral. 

On the Mexican side of the Rio Grande a horseman watches his small group of horses grazing in his corral. 

April is a great time of year to visit Big Bend National Park as plants are in full bloom.

Unlike Santa Elena Canyon, Boquillas offers a glimpse of life for the people of this area. There is a small Mexican community just across the river, Boquillas del Carmen. These people are the merchants who leave their art work on the US side of banks of the Rio Grande River and rely on an honor barter system. Buyers leave a donation in a nearby can or weighted under a rock. Of course, these are the individuals that the park states are contributing to the erosion of natural resources along the river. These merchants are subject to arrest, deported to Presidio, Texas, one hundred miles from their homes, and released in Ojinaga, Mexico. Small price to pay for selling a painted rock or lizard made of wire. In spite of the threat of arrest and deportation to Presidio it doesn't seem to affect this illegal commerce and it's hard to believe that either INS officials or Park Rangers take much interest in this illegal commerce.  Of course, purchasing any of these items makes you an accessory to the crime.

There isn't much else to help the residents of Boquillas del Carmen make a living. In the old days you would just wade across in a small boat to enjoy an afternoon of eating and drinking without any type of checkpoint. It can still be crossed and enjoyed, but gone are the days of an imaginary border that meant little to either side. Now you've got to report to the man, Kiosks. 

Boquillas Canyon contraband. 

Boquillas Canyon contraband. 

Visiting Big Bend after the spring rains in this arid region changes the entire park into a giant canopy of green grasses and flowering plants. It's my favorite time of year to visit the park. 

Making our way back from Boquillas Canyon towards the Park Headquarters.

Making our way back from Boquillas Canyon towards the Park Headquarters.

We made our way back to the Chisos Basin for lunch and then headed out the west end of Big Bend into Study Butte and Terlingua then trekked north into Alpine before heading back to Marathon, Texas for the night.  It was a nice three day ride, 1,500 miles.

Big Bend National Park Ride: March 2013

Ricardo Perez

Heading from Big Bend National Park Towards Alpine
Picture by Voni
Ricardo & New RT
The above picture was taken by Voni Glaves who happen to be out on the front of her house with camera as we rode by on our way to Alpine. Voni has over a million miles on BMW motorcycles. Tomas has met her before at BMW rallies and he spotted her and stopped for a short visit. Tomas had actually emailed her about the possibility of camping out at her place in case we were out of luck on a hotel for Saturday night, but the odds of catching her out by the highway as we rode by was really amazing. Check her riding history, truly impressive.
We started our ride at 5:30am and it immediately struck me what's great about riding as the smell of grass fields heavy with the mornings dew fill the senses, then the sweet, powerful smell of blossoming orange trees dominated as we rode between orchard fields. It's just the sense of being close to nature that reminds me how we just miss those senses when we're caged up in our vehicles. What a time to ride as spring comes early to South Texas.
The new BMW R1200RT is a week old and I've got 2,323 total miles. After the break-in procedure and the 600 mile service a group of six took a three day ride to Big Bend National Park. During the three days we logged approximately 1,481 miles. Tomas, Marco, Ed, Albert,Pancho, and myself met up about 5:30am in Edinburg and headed out at 6am or so. It was still dark and we wouldn't risk the back rural highways at night with too much wildlife venturing out on the highway.  We stuck to Highway 281 North and made our way to Falfurrias, about 90 miles from home to gas up and eat breakfast. We left Falfurrias about 8:30am and headed West on Highway 285 and then North on Hwy 339 to Benavides and Freer. Highway 339 is one of the few backroads that's not congested with all the trucking from the "Fracking Gone Wild" in Texas, so that's a pleasant ride through Benevides. We rode through Benavides and made a quick stop in Freer and a gas stop in Encinal then pushed on to Carrizo Springs where we stopped for lunch.
Cruising Down the Highway
We made Del Rio by about 3pm and fueled up at WalMart on the West end of town while Albert went in and bought a sleeping bag. In Sanderson we stopped for a break and met two brothers from Colorado riding the new BMW GTLs on their way to South Padre Island. We didn't mention that it's Spring Break and not the place to be.
Marathon Motel
We arrived at the Marathon Motel & RV Park right about 7pm. We had reservations for only one night  so the plan was to camp out Saturday night at the basin in Big Bend National Park, but we started re-thinking that idea when we heard that it would be about 34 degrees on Sunday morning. The basin campsites were also all taken due to Spring Break so we settled on a couple of rooms at the Hampton Hotel in Alpine for Saturday night. The Marathon Motel is a neat little place that we've stayed at on many of our trips to Big Bend. When they hand out complimentary ear plugs you start thinking, did I miss something in the small print?" The train runs by about ever hour, twenty four hours a day, at least that's what they say. They don't bother me, but that may not be the case for everyone. The motel has a handful of little cabins/rooms, an RV park and about four tent campsites. It also has a great open patio area with a huge fire place and it's the perfect spot for just relaxing. There's plenty of firewood and we're free to start a fire. We were joined by another motel guest, a band member from Austin out to take pictures of the Big Bend area for his band.
Before we started the fire we went out to the Gage Hotel White Buffalo Bar for a couple of beers and some dinner. Food at the Gage is very good and the prices are not too bad. After our fireside chats we ended our day; 525 miles on Friday.
Marathon Coffee Shop
Saturday we were up early and rode over about an eighth of a mile to the Marathon Coffee Shop which always has a good breakfast menu. You can sit inside the restaurant, but with pleasant weather it's great sitting outside which is what we did. After breakfast we gassed-up the bikes and rode west to Alpine where we dropped off our bags at the hotel before we headed to Marfa, Texas. Marfa is an interesting place with a large artist community. We toured the town on our bikes, passed the open market area and moved on to Presidio.
Presidio is not a very attractive town, but it's the gateway to Hwy 170 to Lajaitas, about a 60 mile road that hugs the narrow Rio Grande River. It's only a stone's throw from the US to Mexico and the river is a very shallow crossing in many places. There's no wall here as it's sparsely populated on both sides of the river. The highway is a great ride with lots of dips, some small and others big. It's a hilly ride, but most are small hills so it's a real up and down ride.
As we rode east we hugged the river to the right and crossed the Big Bend State Park to the left. We stopped at the State Park parking area to check out some trails and then rode to the next rest stop which is lined with Tee-Pees, not real ones, but ones made from cement.
We ended the route at Study Butte, fueled up and entered the western entrance to Big Bend National Park. Once in the park we rode to the Chisos Basin for a nice break. It's about 28 miles back to the western exit at Study Butte and another 82 miles to Alpine.
Reata Resturant was our dinner stop in Alpine. It's probably the nicest place in Alpine and they serve some great dishes.
Marathon Coffee Shop
Our stay was at the Hampton Inn on the western end of town. We woke early Sunday to 34 - 36 degree weather so we layered up and headed out by 8am. The ride home took us through Hwy 67 North which meets I10 about 15 miles west of Fort Stockton. Once we hit I10 we cruised at 85mph and battled a strong northern that was blowing in that day. We rode from Alpine to Ozuna, approximately 180 miles before stopping for some hot coffee. It was now 58 degrees, but it still felt cold. We went another 100 miles to Junction for BBQ at Coopers. Hwy 83 is just east of Junction so we decided to take Hwy 83 south and have the wind at our backs.
From Junction on Hwy 83 south we stopped for a break at Concan just off Hwy 83 on Hwy 127. From Concan we made stops in Hondo and Alice before making it home. About 625 miles that Sunday.
It was a quick three day ride, but we had a great time. Weather was cool and skies were clear all three days and except for the cold start on Sunday morning, it was just about perfect riding weather. Big Bend is always a great ride and next time we'll do Santa Elena Canyon before heading out of the park.

Pancho's BMW RS

Marco Having a Bad Hair Day!

Tomas & Albert by Rio Grande River along Hwy 170

Pancho, Marco, Ed & Albert in Concan

Pancho in Study Butte, Texas

Ed's solution for operating his phone! We're sure Apple is picking up on this one; the new iHandinGlove! We'll be selling these for $39.95 & if you order before July 4th we will toss in a left-handed glove for free. There is a small S&H fee of $19.95. Satisfaction guaranteed, if not completely satisfied simply return the glove(s) for a complete refund minus a small restocking fee of $21.95. Our shops and technical staff are ready to help you. Wait, that's not all, yes, for a small added fee we can design the same glove for left-handed users, but you must act now! Imagine yourself texting away while cruising down a narrow country road at 75mph while your friends just look on with envy! Don't be the last one in your riding group to be without the technical advantages of our designs. (Just in case anyone thinks we're serious, we're not...don't send us any money, we don't sell gloves cut-up with scissors, and never text while riding) 

Checking out the glove in Freer, TX
Going down the Hwy

Made it to Marathon Motel just before dark!

Albert at motel patio area

Yes, they have TVs (small), but no WiFi!

Rear view of Marathon Motel area.

Persidio stop at fruit drink cafe

Big Bend State Park

Rest Stop

Rio Grande River



Arriving at BBNP Chisos Basin

Chisos Basin at BBNP

Big Bend National Park - Chisos Basin

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Terlingua - Big Bend National Park: January Snow 2013

Ricardo Perez

Some people talk about riding out to Big Bend during the winter, but I don't think January is a good time. We've gone there as early as late February and it can be really nice weather. This unusual snowfall swept in from the New Mexico - El Paso area on Thursday, January 03, 2013. Photos were taken on the 4th and 5th by Jaime Roel Perez and Aissa Hejira Martinez-Perez.

Road less traveled!

Looks cold!

Rabbit Footprints

Lost Mines Trail at Big Bend National Park

Approaching Big Bend's Chisos Basin

Snow beginning to melt

Big Bend at Chisos Basin

Not too many travelers

Date in snow 01/04/2013

Motorcycle Trip To Alpine, Texas & Big Bend National Park

Ricardo Perez

Big Bend National Park - Chisos Basin

The three days before Mother's Day four of us took a quick ride out to Big Bend National Park. Marco, Hiram, Tomas and myself left on Thursday morning about 5:45am under overcast skies with 80% chance of rain in the forecast. As we often do, we took the back roads way West with only us and a few thousand tractor trailers from the fracking fields cluttering up what were once lonely roads with great scenery. Now most of the highways are in terrible disrepair from the heavy tractor trailers going to and fro the fracking wells.
Dilley's under the center pin!
May 10, 2012 at 11:45am
Hank From Motohank Dilley, Texas
We headed northwest first toward (Motohank's) so that Marco could get a new set of tires on his BMW RT. Hank owns the shop and he's a certified BMW motorcycle mechanic in Dilley, Texas. You'd think that he wouldn't have any business out in the middle of nowhere, but he's got a healthy clientle from both the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio. Dilley is approximately 85 miles North of Laredo on I35 and 75 miles from San Antonio. It's approximately 230 miles from Mission, TX.
About an hour before we hit Dilley it started to rain and soon thereafter we rode into a heavy shower. It rained most of the way into Dilley, but as we approached Dilley there was a cloud off to our West side that was so dark that it looked dark green instead of just black. As both cloud and riders raced toward Dilley it became obvious that the cloud won by a mere five miles or so. It really started raining hard, but it was no time to pull over as we knew we were close to Hank's shop. Again my waterproof BMW Motorad All Around gloves with the rubber visor wiper on the forefinger were a life saver. I was on my 2008 Harley Ultra Classic while Tomas and Marco were on their 2010 BMW RTs and Hiram on his BMW GS. My bike started to miss badly as water was sucked into the air intake, but I was able to make into Hank's covered garage area. It wasn't five minutes after we reached Hank's that quarter size hail started to fall. The whole scene was bleak, dark, wet and windy. We were just grateful we had made it safely and knew that we weren't about to rush off as Hank began the tire replacement on Marco's RT.

Sanderson After Thunderstorm
We moved on from Dilley about 1pm headed Northwest toward Uvalde and then West on Hwy 90 to Brackettville. Brackettville is home to the movie set "The Alamo" filmed in 1960 starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett. From there we continued West to Del Rio where we stopped at Rudy's BBQ for a late lunch. By the time we left Rudy's it was starting to rain again. We flew by Langtry and rode into Sanderson for fuel before moving on to Alpine. The rain finally started to clear up in Sanderson and dark skies began giving way to some sunlight.We rolled into Alpine about 8:20 in the evening still with our rain gear on, but it had stopped raining most of the way between Sanderson and Alpine. We met up with a rider on a BMW GS from Houston named Andy. He rode into Alpine about three hours ahead of us and asked if we ran into the hail before Sanderson. We hadn't, but Andy said that it covered the highway for about 300 yards or so approximately ten miles before entering Sanderson. Thinking he was just seeing a water reflection on the highway he rode into a layer of hail between an inch or two thick. Andy said he'd figure he was going to lose the bike, but managed to keep it upright and slow down in order to slowly pass through it.
Alpine Best Western
Friday morning Andy was headed out to Terlingua to camp out a couple of nights, but we mentioned that camping at the Chisos Basin within Big Bend National Park was a lot better than Terlingua.
 We spent the morning in Alpine before riding about 82 miles South on Highway 87 down to Study Butte and Terlingua. Study Butte and Terlingua are at an elevation of 2,582 feet so its sometimes really hot especially around July. Compared to Alpine at 4,500 feet and the Chisos Basin in Big Bend at 5,400 to 5,700 feet which are much cooler Terlingua is usually very warm. It's an interesting area with its share of interesting people much like Marfa with its art community.
Study Butte
After a short rest we entered Big Bend National Park from the West entry which lies just a couple of miles outside of Study Butte. Unlike the North entrance, the Western entrance is more stark and moonlike looking with weird rock formations that don't look like they can support much life, especially not livestock.  A few miles further into the park is the lone entry booth and this time it was actually open with a female Ranger charging an entry fee. That's kind of rare, seeing anyone in that booth since its about 26 miles from Panther Junction where the Park Headquarters is located. I flashed out my senior pass and driver's license and went right in. We headed to the Chisos Basin 30 miles away at the posted speed limit of 45mph.
We rode around the basin campsites and picked out one with a nice flat area which would hold our three tents. It was within about 25 yards from the host park ranger (a volunteer position). We quickly made friends as we introduced ourselves. As it turns out, the Ranger, Rick Trimble a retired school teacher from Plano High School District. He was orginally from our neck of the woods, La Feria in the Rio Grande Valley; small world. We also met up with Andy, our friend from back at the Best Western in Alpine. Andy joined us for dinner at the Basin Cafeteria where we each had a few Shiner Bocks and we took two bottles of wine back to the campsite. Andy and Rick joined us as we enjoyed our wine, the sunset and just general chat about riding and camping out. It was one of those times where you say, "it doesn't get better than this!". As Andy and Rick retired for the evening we just stood out by the tents looking at the millions of stars that we just can't see from the city.
We were up at daybreak and breaking down camp as we readied ourselves to leave after one quick night at the park.
We rode out about 8am and headed north exiting the North entrance and making our way to Marathon about 80 miles from the basin. We had breakfast at the Coffee Shop on the West side of the Gage Hotel (I have a blog piece on the Gage Hotel). Coffee and breakfast was great as we sat outdoors next to a group of birders trying to imitate the Great Horned Owl. I tried to help out with the Three Amigos bird call, "". They didn't get it.
Entry From Western Side
We had to make up some time in order to get back for Mother's Day so we rode hard without any lengthy stop until we made it to Hebbronville where we stopped at the local Dairy Queen. We rode up on Thursday logging in approximately 678 miles, only about 120 miles on Friday and another 650 or so on Saturday. It was too short a time, but a great ride. Can't wait to do it again!

Our Campsite at the Basin
Casa Grande at base our our camp area

Marco and Hiram 

Big Bend National View

View at Cafeteria 

There's a View at Every Angle

Marco & Hiram

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Marathon, Big Bend National Park, Terlingua & Presidio via Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Marathon RV & Motel

Just as you head out of Marathon, Texas is the Marathon RV and Motel and that makes for a perfect stopping place for riding into and around Big Bend National Park. Marathon is situated above the Big Bend National Park's North entrance. It's still about 45 miles due South before you get to the park entrance which is just an entry booth that's more often than not never staffed and it's about halfway to the Park Headquarters so just keep riding South. Total miles from Marathon to the Headquarters is about 80. The first half goes at a fast clip, but once you enter the park things slow down as radar enforced speed limits max out at 45MPH; about an hour's ride to the headquarters from the park's entrance.
Sonny at The Window
The park's headquarters is fully staffed and a good place to stop for a break, pay your park entry fee, and load up on free maps of the park. Most riders I know that ride into Big Bend have never taken the time to hike any of the great trails in the park. My recommendation would be to go early in the morning before 10am and locate a camping spot at the Chisos Basin camp grounds and stay at least two nights. The basin also has hotel type rooms about a half mile from the camp grounds, but those have to be booked long before your trip. Once you're settled into a camping spot you can take time to do a little hiking. The Window is probably the shortest and best hikes you can take. It's about a two mile hike and it's easy walking, but the way back is more difficult since you're walk uphill.
Another good hike, but more of a medium duty walk, is The Lost Mines Trail which is about 4.8 miles and it starts at about an elevation of 5,800 feet. This hike offers some of the best views of the park and worth doing if you're staying at the park for more that one night.
Sotol Vista Overlook
My third hike would be the one at Santa Elena Canyon. It's at the southern most part of the park, about 40 miles from the Chisos Basin camp grounds, but it's a nice ride unless its July then it can get really hot as you descend from the basis. Temperatures changes can be dramatic. Halfway down to the canyon is the Sotol Vista Overlook, its a short loop off the main road, but a must stop.
Sotol Vista Overlook
The overlook offers a majestic view of the southern park of the national park. Off in the distance you can see Santa Elena Canyon.
Road to Sotol Vista Overlook
Right before arriving at the canyon is Castolon Station, a must stop for water, snacks and just rest. It may be closed during the summer months so it's a good idea to carry water on your bike just in case. About six miles from Castolon sits Santa Elena Canyon. There's a parking area, restrooms some picnic tables and a short hike away is the Terlingua Creek that many people confuse for the Rio Grande River. Unless there's been a rain storm its easy to wade across the ankle deep waters of the creek to get to the mouth of the canyon and it's hiking trail.

The trail is part of the park's trails so its easy to climb, but it is a vertical climb of about a 100 feet as you get a great view of the Rio Grande River, the creek, and the park to the north. I've been there half a dozen times or more, but have been turned by high waters cutting through the road those last eight miles between Castolon and the Canyon.

Castolon Station
Water crossing south of Castolon

Santa Elena Canyon
Study Butte Gas Stop
As you backtrack out of the canyon road its best to exit on the western side of the park. It's about 40 miles from the basin to Study Butte and Terlingua. Both of these towns are very hot in the summertime so a mandatory lunch stop is not a bad idea. It's 82 miles to Alpine if you're headed north. You're now out of the park and can head 17 miles southwest to Lajitas. That's the town that was bought by some millionaire who turned it into a very spiffy upscale rural village. I've only stopped there once and that was enough. Its best to keep moving toward Persidio a 50 mile ride that hugs the Rio Grande River most of the way. Its a great twisty road known as the River Road that is worth riding in both directions since they both offer a unique riding experience. Persidio is just as hot as Terlingua, but much bigger. It's got lunch places, gas, and a large grocery store.
Marfa lies north of Persidio. Marfa has become somewhat of an artist colony so it offers a nice mix of West Texas town and New York City in a twisted sort of way. If you like art then spending the afternoon in Marfa is well worth the stop. 
From Marfa its not a bad idea to east into Alpine and/or Marathon as a wrap up to a good day's riding. Another good ride is to head out to Fort Davis which has a great State Park with camping and a lodge and further northwest is the famous McDonald's Observatory. I'll cover those in another post. 

Somewhere between Big Bend National Park Headquarters & the North Entry

Tomas on his ST at Big Bend's Western Entry by Study Butte

Terlingua Hill View

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Big Bend National Park via Motorcycle: Santa Elena Canyon & Castolon on Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Santa Elena Canyon

Sotol Vista Overlook
Most visitors to Big Bend National Park seldom take the time to make it all the way to Santa Elena Canyon on the southwest corner of the park. It's one of the most interesting parts of the vast environmental diversity found in the park. If you're coming in from Alpine, Marathon or even from a campsite at the Chisos Basin within the park you'll notice that it can be very hot down by the canyon. My wife and I have camped out at the basin with temperature about 80 degrees and by the time we reach the canyon it was 20 degrees hotter, a 100 degree day. On a motorcycle those 20 degrees are light years apart on the comfort level so be prepared to peel off layers of clothes as you approach the canyon. If you go into the park via Study Butte on the western end of the park the turnoff to Santa Elena Canyon is about 13 miles away. The ride is about 30 miles from the turnoff.  About one third of the way down is the Sotol Vista Overlook.  Don't pass this up, the ride is less than half a mile and worth the stop to take in the view.  Santa Elena Canyon is in view about 12 miles away as the crow flies, but another 20 miles or so on the road. Friends with a BMW GS or other worthy off road bike can circumvent this route by taking the unpaved "Old Maverick Road" that hugs the western boundary of Big Bend National Park and cuts the travel distance in half or more. Old Maverick Road is a 13 mile ride to the canyon.
Eight miles before reaching the canyon is Castolon Visitor Center. It's a must stop if its 100 degree weather. There's water, soft drinks, snacks and usually a great person behind the counter ready to share some time with visitors. Over the years we've met several workers stationed at Castolon and you really have to admire their dedication to their job and the National Park Service. Talk about being stationed away from civilization! This is it.
Majestic View From Sotol Overlook

Evaporating "low water crossing" close to the canyon

Castolon Visitor Center Patio

Creek at Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon and Road's End
Another eight miles down the road is Santa Elena Canyon which is not always accessible. If it has rained then, most likely, the road is impassable to traffic at anyone of the numerous low water crossing those last few miles. We once went about three straight visits to Castolon only to be turned around due to high water. There is a turn around at the end of the road and about 75 yards from there is a sandy walk to Terlingua Creek that merges into the Rio Grande River. If it's not raining or rained the night before you can walk across the creek and meet up with a steep path that runs almost a mile along the canyon wall above the river. It's a very nice hike if you can cross the creek.
If you are already in the park then plan to spend at least a half day to enjoy the canyon. Remember it takes about an hour to get there, then a rest stop at Castolon, and at least an hour or two at the canyon makes for a long day trip. There is also Mule Ears Viewpoint which you can see on the way back. An even longer day is if you're in Alpine, 82 miles from Study Butte or Terlingua so plan accordingly. It's just as far from Marathon if you enter from the north entrance.
Big Bend National Park gets over 300,000 visitors a year, but I know that's not in July. We've been there during the summer months and its fairly void of other humans so you have the whole place to yourselves.  Did I mention it gets hot? Last summer my wife's shoe literally melted apart so plan ahead and take sun screen, water, more water, and snacks.  April and May are good months to visit since its still a little cooler.
There's also rafting trips you can take down the river from Lajitas. It used to be a really neat old town, but somebody bought the whole town and gave a Gucci type remake. It has fancy stores, a golf course, and even an airport landing strip for private jets. We've ridden through it many times and we even stopped once. 
Residence at Castolon
Sotol Vista Overlook Parking - Not Too Crowded in July!

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Irma at Sotol Vista Overlook

July is hot enough to melt your shoes off!
Castolon Visitor Center and Canyon visible 8 miles away