Cliffs of the Sierra Ponce and Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park, Texas
© Tim Fitzharris/Minden Picture
A remote oasis in the Chihuahuan Desert. Big Bend National Park turns 78
Join us for a hike at one of America's least-visited national parks. Big Bend National Park may be among the country's largest national parks with an area of over 800,000 acres (about the size of Rhode Island), but it's also one of the most remote. Found in West Texas along the Rio Grande at the Mexico border, the park entrance is roughly a two-hour drive from the nearest interstate. The good thing is, even in a 'busy' year when half a million people visit, there's plenty of space to enjoy the great outdoors unhindered by crowds.
Added to the national park system on this day in 1944, Big Bend contains the largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States. It's also known for having the darkest night skies among the contiguous states. This makes it a 'must visit' for stargazing; thousands of stars are visible when the skies are clear, along with the Milky Way. If you head out for a hike, keep your eyes peeled for the 1,200 plant species in the park. There are also plenty of animals, though most of them tend to come out only at night. Except birds, that is. Birdwatching is incredibly popular at Big Bend–it's on the paths of annual migrations, so more than 450 different bird species have been cataloged here.