Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas (interior portion of the park)

Old Crow

Jan 10, 2015
South Central PA
I recently ran onto a good overview video for the Big Bend Ranch State Park interior. Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas and lies west of Big Bend National Park.

There are two very different experiences in the state park. The typical tourist experience (and that's pretty nice!) is driving the hard road (FM 170) along the southern border of the park. It follows the Rio Grande quite closely and has overlooks, canoe/kayak launches, a few campgrounds, trailheads and a short off-road loop (the Las Burras Loop). More info here: Drive El Camino del Rio through Big Bend State Park
This is in what's called the River District of the park.

In the other area of the park, the Interior District, the experience is more challenging. First, there's a 17-mile very dusty gravel road just to get to the entrance gate. The visitor center (Sauceda Ranger Station) is about 10 miles further on. In the Interior District there are about 40 miles of maintained road, 70 miles of unmaintained road, and 238 miles of trail.

This video is a good teaser as to what the Interior District is like (and I love the drone footage)...

If this video has piqued your interest, now would be a good time to look at the map on the second page of this brochure. The red (meaning paved) road at the bottom of the map is FM170. The black roads are the maintained ones. They're maintained for 2WD travel. And the double-dashed roads are the 4x4 roads, also called the unmaintained roads.

We camped in backcountry campsite "Yedra 1" in mid-March of 2022.


Roads to Nowhere: A Guide to unmaintained 4x4 high clearance roads in Big Bend Ranch State Park

My comments on BBRSP--

- At the time we were there, the gravel road to the park entrance sign was frustrating. We aired down and tried various speeds but the corrugations seemed to beat the front end pretty hard. This was especially the case on the 17-mile stretch between the hard road (FM170) and the park entrance sign (via Casa Piedra Road). The surface improved a bit once into the park. It still had plenty of defects but you'd get breaks between bad stretches. A ranger later explained that the inside-the-park portion was somewhat better because state parks personnel maintain it but both county and state roads suffer from tight maintenance budgets.

- There's no fuel in the park. We had to go into Presidio to top off before taking the turnoff to the park.

- Camping reservations can be hard to get. We were very lucky to get a site at all as there was only one site and it was only available for one night. (If I remember correctly, there were a few other sites but those were far back in via very rough 4x4 roads). At the time we were there, the Fort Leaton visitor center was closed (because of Covid) and there was a hard-to-see trailer with a walk-up service window across the street.

- Desert pin-striping (paint damage) is inevitable off the maintained road. The overhanging growth is spiky and hard.... it doesn't slide along, it digs in. We were fortunate that the 4x4 road as far as Yedra 1 wasn't bad. But we could also see that continuing to Yedra 2 would have caused damage. Not long after setting up camp, an F250 came from Yedra 2 and the driver stopped to chat. It was a new King Ranch model and very badly scratched. The owner just shrugged and said it's the price you have to pay to run these roads. We also saw a surprising number of cars with heavy paint damage at the ranger station.


- This Jeep was blocking our road to Yedra1. The words "Tie Rod Broken" were written in the dust on the back window. That front wheel is turned in but the one on the other side isn't! The date on the permit was nine days before. I later learned the driver was a university researcher. She was fine but frustrated that she couldn't find someone to get the jeep out. A towing guy had tried with a roll-back but the roll-back got stuck and the rangers had to pull him out with their tractor. (I called today to ask about something else and also asked how long the Jeep had stayed there. It was there two weeks)

- Signs at the Ranger station suggest taking trash with you so rangers don't have to haul it out. They also ask you to conserve water as much as possible. Surprisingly, there are showers there. There's also a potable-water source (spigot) out along the fence in front of the Ranger station.

- The park website suggests late arrivals avoid trying to go to a backcountry campsite after dark. Instead, there's an lot at Botella Junction for this purpose. Camp there and report to the Sauceda ranger station in the morning.

- I should also mention that Texas State Parks personnel were very friendly, helpful, and knowledgable every time we talked with them.
Hey Denny,
Did my heart good to read this. We left BBRSP about a week ago. Yup "pinstripes' a plenty... We too stayed at Yedra 1 for 4 nights. Great spot. We had a hell of a trip into Guale 2.... you need some solid rock crawling experience... the last 1/4 mile there is a descent which can get your heart pumping swearing the road tilt is 20º to the side (which drops off!). Our next site was Chora Vista 6 and it made the Guale 2 trip look like a ride in the park. There is a 16% grade section that is boulder crawling and 6" in the wrong track means you roll your rig. It got so bad I decided it was not the mountain I wanted to die on ....that brought us back to Yedra 1 for the 4 nights.
I will say Guale 2 was a magnificent site. Here is a link to the blog page description
All in all we spent 3 nights in BB National then 9 nights in the BBRSP. An adventure! Great to see your post and hope y'all are well and still exploring!


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Thanks for the awesome post Rob. I was just telling the boss of me that we had intended to be there right now too. Plans changed, life happened. Now I have more info and more R&D to do for when we do go. Thanks!

Pictures never to the steepness of the roads justice, do they?
One always needs to show the 'groan' photo... the dust makes it look a lot worse... very superficial actually and cleaning compound will take out the worst. I was wondering why most trucks were white!


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One of the easy parts as there isn't much of a slope but 3 miles of this can take a few hours.This is on the way to Yedra 2


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Thanks for the posts and especially the photos and blog link, Rob. First time through I failed to click on the blog link and now am so glad I went back to it. I really enjoyed reading through it and lingering over the photos and videos.

PS-- I also appreciate the good wishes in your post. I plan to be in Florida in a few weeks in the Tundra/Hawk rig with my brother. I call it our panthers-and-pythons trip because, well, that's where the panthers and pythons are.
Remember I am a geezer so I now judge stuff from that perspective! A youth would probably laugh at those roads as another rock and roll adventure. Have a big hat the sun there can get pretty hot. It is a wonderful place... you will have a ball...

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