For RV campers who want a secluded desert retreat, Barton Warnock Visitor Center in Texas is the perfect spot. The visitor center is just next to Big Bend Ranch State Park, which has miles of hiking and biking trails that take you through the Chihuahuan Desert. You can also explore the two-acre botanical garden, which is home to a wide range of plant species that are native to the desert. Park rangers are available for guided tours if you schedule in advance.
The visitor center has an interpretive center called “Una Tierra- One Land” that walks you through the natural, archaeological, and native history of the area. You’ll also learn more about the relationship between the United States and Mexico in the region during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Barton Warnock Visitor Center does not have any dedicated RV campsites. However, you’ll be a quick drive from the primitive RV campgrounds at Big Bend Ranch State Park, as well as the campground at Fort Leaton State Historic Site. All of the sites are extremely private, allowing you to escape from civilization throughout your trip.
The park is located along the southern border of Texas, near the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The visitor center is easy to access from I-70, although some of the primitive tent camping sites are off road and cannot be reached with RVs.
Driving from San Antonio, take I-10 west from the city and you’ll get to the park in around six and a half hours. From El Paso, take I-10 and US-90 east and you’ll reach the park in just under five hours. The visitor center is located just off 1-70, so you won’t have to drive far to get to the park’s main areas. There is ample paved parking available at the center itself.
Once in the park, it's easy to both bike and hike to see the different areas. There are miles and miles of trails that are also open for mountain biking. Both activities are quite popular so expect to see other fellow campers along the way.
Fort Leaton is located on the opposite end of Big Bend Ranch State Park. None of the sites have hookups of any kind, but they do have picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground is pet-friendly.
The campground is on the western edge of Big Bend State Park, whereas Barton Warnock is located on the eastern side of the park. You’ll have quick access to most of the main hiking trails in Big Bend Ranch State Park.
The sites can be reserved by calling the park office or by using the online reservation system. You don’t reserved specific sites, but get a pass for your vehicle. The campground tends to fill up quite quickly, as there are limited sites. Try to book as early as possible to reserve a spot.
The campsites within the visitor site are primitive tent camping only. However, you can find spots for campervans at the nearby Fort Leaton State Historic Site, as well as throughout Big Bend Ranch State Park.
There are a number of primitive campgrounds located in Big Bend State Park, just to the west of Barton Warnock Visitor Center.
The campgrounds are very secluded, and most are situated in the middle of the desert. They have fire pits and picnic tables, but you’ll need to bring enough water to the duration of your stay, as there are no access points for drinking water.
Next to the interpretive center, you’ll find the park’s desert garden. The garden has some of the rare plant species found in the Chihuahuan Desert. You can learn more about how animals and plants have adapted to life in the harsh conditions of the Chihuahuan Desert, as well as how humans made the most of the resources in the area. The park offers guided tours of the garden. If you want to arrange a tour, call or visit the park office in advance to set up a time.
The park’s interpretive center, called “Una Tierra- One Land” is a collaborative effort with the nearby Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. It walks you through the natural history of the Big Bend Region, as well as its archeological record.
You can also learn more about the history of the Texas and Mexico in the area. The information is presented in both Spanish and English. There is a gift shop with a range of souvenirs, as well as books that detail in the history of the region.
RV campers can also purchase river use permits for the Rio Grande at the park office. This gives you access for white water rafting, as well as kayaking and fishing. The fishing is excellent along the river, with waters populated with trout. Rainbow trout are catch and release.
Colorado Canyon has Class II and III rapids, making it suitable for beginner and intermediate level white river rafters. The park does not rent gear for rafting, but there are a number of nearby shops where you can get rafts and all the gear you need. You can also arrange white water rafting trips through local outfitters.
The miles of trails are also a great place to saddle up and enjoy some horseback riding. Imagine riding through the Texan countryside where you can see all sorts of amazing critters. The Texan hills are truly a sight to be seen, and they are a real treat to soak in while on horseback.
Many of the park’s trails are also open to mountain biking. The terrain features dramatic elevation changes and windy dirt trails, perfect for experienced bikers.
Not all of the trails are open to biking, as many are too rough. Check with the park office for a trail map, which highlights the multi-use trails. Do take caution when off-roading throughout the park, as the park is quite large and it can be easy to lose track of the trails. The visitor center does not rent any biking gear, so make sure you pack everything you need along with your RV.
The park has miles of trails leading through the desert and mountains, with varied terrain that will suit hikers of all experience levels. Take the Ojito Adentro Trail to reach an oasis in the desert that is home to a wide range of the park’s wildlife species. Or head along the Cinco Tinajas Trail to descent deep into a canyon, where you’ll find natural water basins.
If you are looking for more of an adventure, head out on a cross country hike off trail. The park provides maps of the area so that you can find your way back to the main trails. Just make sure to pack plenty of water on long hikes, as temperatures soar well above 100 degrees in the summer.