There’s no place quite like this stunning expanse of desert, mountain, and river in West Texas. Big Bend National Park has a little bit of something for everyone — whether you’re a hiker, birdwatcher, stargazer, or a camper. Peak season is late fall and early winter, when cooler temperatures prevail, but you can luck out with fewer crowds if you can handle the hot weather!

Ernst Tinaja

NPS Photo/Matthew Yarbrough

Desert

There’s plenty to explore in the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest in North America. No matter your hiking expertise, there’s a trail designed for you, including the Panther Path, Grapevine Hills Trail, and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail. Just watch out for the cacti and other sharp desert plants!

Desert View in Big Bend National Park

NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou

Mountains

The Chisos Mountains run through Big Bend. Like the desert, the range offer several trails that suit every level of hiker. Peaks include Emory, Lost Mine, Toll Mountain, and Casa Grande. No matter how strenuous the climb, your efforts will be rewarded with incredible views. In particular, don’t miss Jupiter Canyon Overlook on Lost Mine Trail, which boasts panoramic vistas. Traveling by car? Take a spin along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a 30-mile auto route that gives you a taste of both the Chisos and the Rio Grande River.

Chisos Mountains Vista

NPS Photo/Reine Wonite

Wildlife

More than 450 species of birds flock to Big Bend due to its wide variety of habitats. One in particular, the Colima Warbler, can only be found in the Chisos Mountains, so Audubon enthusiasts are in for a treat. That’s not all; animals like deer, lizards, squirrels, foxes, mountain lions, and even bears can be spotted throughout the park. Horseback riders can also enjoy relaxing rides in designated areas.

Fawn in the Forest

NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou

Water

Both hikers and fishermen head to the banks of the Rio Grande for their fill of fresh water. Less demanding trails like Hot Springs give visitors the chance to admire the scenery while still getting a great workout. Thrill-seekers that really want to get up close and personal with the rapids can also hop on into the river for a rafting adventure.

Banks of the Rio Grande

NPS Photo/Mark Schuler

Sky

Believe it or not, Big Bend actually boasts the least light pollution in the continental United States, making it an ideal spot in which to spend an evening admiring the stars. You can even make a night (or three) of it in one of the four campgrounds located throughout the park.

Milky Way and Shooting Star Above Mexican Horizon

Via Costa1973 on Flickr