Big Bend National Park - Black Gap 4x4 Jeep Badge of Honor Trail
Big Bend National Park is the 14th largest national park, and it is also the location of the Black Gap 4x4 Jeep Badge of Honor Trail. After visiting family in Odessa, and having this national park recommended as a "must see", we thought we would change our route and head south not letting the forecasted rainstorm deter us.
We arrived to the park via US-385 entering at the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center. Unfortunately, we arrived after closing but the Entrance Station had a park brochure with map, so we could find our way to our campsite. This park is so large, it has five (5) visitor centers!
We had made our campsite reservation in advance and online via the park's website. With our National Park Access Pass for Veterans, our entrance fee was free and our campsite fee was 50% off which came to a whopping $5.00 for the night. Backcountry campsites require a permit in advance - also through the park website (link below).
We made our way to Pine Canyon 1 (aka PC1) campsite and even though it was dusk and starting to sprinkle, we could not get over the beauty of the surrounding area! It was nothing like we had ever seen! It rained that night, but cleared by the next morning, and wow! We found ourselves among the clouds with the surrounding mountains!
Using our Gaia app, we made our way to Black Gap Road, aired down and checked in on the Jeep Badge of Honor app. The route we chose was just a small portion of the off-road trails available at this national park. As a non-maintained road, Black Gap Road had some technical areas that required a high clearance 4x4 vehicle as the warning signs posted advised. Along this trail, we came across a backcountry primitive campsite called Elephant Tusk 1 (aka EL1). It was directly across the road from the trailhead for Elephant Tusk Trail and Dodson Trail. We stopped here to feed Moose and make ourselves some lunch.
Moving on, we followed the trail to the ruins at Mariscal Mine. This was a mercury mining site abandoned since the 1940's. On the lower levels are the remains of the mine workers' houses. Above on the Mariscal Mountains, you can see the processing complex which can be hiked to for exploration.
Continuing on River Road East, we came out to the paved road to Río Grande Village Visitor Center. There is an established campground at this location which is suitable for motorhomes and ground tents. The campground is picturesque with cottonwood and acacia trees, and grassy areas between the campsites. Reservations for this campground may be made in advance via the Recreation.gov website (see link below).
Our one-day visit was not sufficient for all this park has to offer. We will definitely need to return for a 3-5 day stay to explore the park in its entirety during late fall or early spring. But for now, we make our way towards South Padres Island for some warmer weather.
Big Bend National Park - https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm
Jeep Badge of Honor - https://www.jeep.com/badge-of-honor.html
Mariscal Mine - https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/historyculture/mariscalmine.htm
Río Grande Village Campground - https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/234035