Join Naturalist Journeys for this highly popular Big Bend nature tour. Immerse yourself in the big, bold, and beautiful landscape of Big Bend National Park, home to the stunningly eroded Chisos Mountains and the elusive Colima Warbler. A playground of light, the rugged mountains, rolling hills, and deep canyons glow in rich red and orange hues. The wildlife of the Chihuahuan Desert are fascinating and abound.

This Big Bend nature tour lets you experience the rhythm of spring bird migration, as Eastern, Western, Mexican, and Rocky Mountain birds converge — nearly 450 species, many rare or vagrant. Big Bend National Park also has its share of mammals, including Kangaroo Rat, skunks, Badger, and Javelina, to Mountain Lion and Black Bear. And of course, plentiful reptiles.

In addition to exceptional wildlife watching and geological and ecological interpretation, our tour group spends time at lovely accommodations and enjoys delicious meals along the way … and of course, good company.

  • “A well planned and guided trip to the West Texas desert and beautiful canyons of Big Bend National park.” — Mark Jewett, 2023 Traveler
  • “It was great. We saw lots of scenic and interesting country. Both of the guides were excellent. We saw lots of birds, about 150 species. We saw most of the birds very well and were able to get some pretty good pictures. We also saw other interesting wildlife, such as elk, pronghorns, deer, javelinas, a soft shelled turtle, a leopard frog, a bullfrog, a pink Coachwhip snake and a black bear. The flowers and cacti were also beautiful.” — Robert Leonhardt, 2023 Traveler
  • “A wonderful mix of birding and being in spectacular settings. A fun group to travel with, and excellent guides…50 life birds for me!” – Karl Weis, 2023 traveler
  • “An excellent opportunity to pump your birding life list while touring some magnificent scenery.” – John Connell, 2023 traveler
  • “Fabulous! Big Bend is an amazing Park, and the area around Fort Davis was also beautiful and full of surprises…The people on our tour were wonderful and we formed a fun and tight knit group!” – Dana London, 2023 traveler

Tour Highlights

  • Visit two of Texas' three Sky Island mountain ranges
  • Search for the rare Colima Warbler on its only US breeding territory
  • Catch the peak of migration—every day brings new arrivals!
  • Travel along some of the most ruggedly beautiful roads in west Texas
  • Gaze up at the stunning stars in a premier dark sky region
  • Slow down and live life more slowly, the “Texas Way”

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sat., Apr. 27 : Arrivals | El Paso


Welcome to El Paso! Please plan to arrive at your leisure today and take the complimentary shuttle to the Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel. The group gets together for dinner tonight to get to know each other and your guide and talk about the week ahead.
Accommodations at Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel (D)

Sun., Apr. 28 : Fort Davis


After breakfast, we plan to do some birding en route to Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains, so be sure your binoculars are handy and your shoes are good for walking. We drive east about two hours to Van Horn where we take a break and then continue to Balmorhea State Park, a lush oasis. The park is located at the northern end of the Davis Mountains. Here an artesian spring pours forth millions of gallons of water, encouraging the growth of tall trees and marsh vegetation. The park is a haven for migrating birds, with such beauties as Painted Buntings sometimes coming in to the feeders. We look for Bullock’s Oriole, Western Kingbird, Pied-billed Grebe, and two species of rare desert fish. As time permits, we continue a short way to one of the larger reservoirs in this area, Balmorhea Lake. Here we may find a variety of ducks and shorebirds, and with luck, a flock of magnificent American White Pelican.

Our afternoon drive of 30 miles or so down to Fort Davis is timed for good wildlife viewing hours, with a chance of seeing Mule Deer, Javelinas, Coyotes, or Wild Boar. This scenic route reveals tall cliffs of columnar volcanic rocks. Settle into your accommodations at the delightful Hotel Limpia and enjoy a first group dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations at the Hotel Limpia, Fort Davis (B,L,D)

Mon., Apr. 29 : The Davis Mountains


Today we explore the Davis Mountains, a Sky Island mountain range in Texas. Learn more about the ecological significance of the Davis Mountains as a link between Mexico and the Rocky Mountains. In the morning we visit The Nature Conservancy’s outstanding preserve, high in the Davis Mountains. For many years the higher elevations of this range have been inaccessible as private land. Since the preserve was established, limited public access is allowed, and a number of very exciting birds have been recorded. Those familiar with the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona recognize Olive Warbler, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, and Dusky-capped Flycatcher, found there in similar habitat.

Enjoy a walk amid large Ponderosa Pines, with a view of the highest peak in the Davis Mountains, Mt. Livermore. Permission to visit this area varies by the year, and if for reasons of fire restriction or other, we cannot visit, we have several other great Davis Mountain areas as alternatives.

Returning by mid-afternoon, we offer an optional visit to historic Fort Davis, one of the best preserved post-Civil War forts in our National Park system. The volcanic geology of its setting is quite spectacular.

Dinner is at the Blue Mountain Bistro tonight.
Accommodations at Hotel Limpia (B,L,D)

Tues., Apr. 30 : The Post at Marathon | Prairie Dogs | Big Bend National Park


This morning we visit Davis Mountains State Park, where in some years Montezuma Quail come into feeders along with Scrub Jay, Acorn Woodpecker, and Green-tailed Towhee. It’s hard to tear ourselves away from this idyllic sit-down birding!

However, adventure and Big Bend call us, so by mid-morning we head on. Passing through grassland habitat, we are likely to see Pronghorns and possibly Scaled Quail. We enjoy lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants in Alpine, then visit a lush birding oasis at a creek-side park that once housed the U.S. Cavalry. Today it is known as The Post, and its large cottonwood trees and small reservoir attract a good number and variety of birds like Vermilion Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and possibly Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Driving back into extensive grasslands we visit an active Prairie Dog town to observe these animals’ lively and sometimes comical behavior. With luck a Coyote or Golden Eagle may be here on patrol.

Then we turn south to Big Bend National Park, interpreting the geologic features on the way. We pass through low desert that was once so rich in Tobosa grass that the early settlers could cut it as hay. Our destination is Chisos Basin, which sits at a comfortable 5,400 feet, surrounded by mountain peaks. Here, we keep an eye out for Zone-tailed Hawk and other birds of prey. Relax, settle in, and enjoy dinner in the lodge’s dining room. A Say’s Phoebe may have a nest by the door; at night, Gray Fox and Javelina are sometimes seen from the balconies.
Accommodations at Chisos Mountain Lodge (B,L,D)

Wed., May 1 : Big Bend National Park | Rio Grande Village


We get an early start this morning with a field breakfast in tow, so we can get to Rio Grande Village early enough for prime bird activity. Ro Wauer, author of The Birds of Big Bend, regards this as the most consistent location in the park to see good numbers of species, and today should be no exception. Painted Bunting often steal the show, but there is stiff competition from Greater Roadrunner, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Inca Dove, Indigo Bunting, and Blue Grosbeak.

Take time to learn some of the calls so you can be aware of Yellow-breasted Chat and Bell’s Vireo; with luck, you hear the scream of a Gray Hawk. Common Black Hawk have nested here for several years, and Black Vulture can be seen along the river. Along the nature trail — a boardwalk through a beaver pond — the blend of lush cattails and rushes, desert scrub, and distant views of the Chisos is striking! Enjoy a picnic lunch with a view of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains. A siesta under the shade of the cottonwoods is a must before we return to the Basin. We stop at the Boquillas Canyon Overlook and Hot Springs Historic Site, as well as the park’s visitor center.
Accommodations at Chisos Mountain Lodge, Big Bend National Park (B,L,D)

Thurs., May 2 : Big Bend National Park | Boot Springs


Enjoy a full day of walks and hikes in Chisos Basin. Those with energy can scale the nine-mile loop trail high into the Chisos, where we find nesting Colima Warbler. The entire hike is fascinating, and we have all day to do it, so many can participate. We climb steadily through oak and juniper woodland, finding an abundance of Mexican species such as Evergreen Sumacs and Drooping Junipers. Fresh-flowering Texas Madrones are magnets for warblers. We often find Townsend’s, Hermit, Yellow-rumped, and sometimes Orange-crowned and MacGillivray's Warblers. Wildflowers and brilliant cactus blooms brighten the trail.

In sheltered Boot Canyon we find huge pines and Arizona Cypress, a Mexican relict species. The route down through Laguna Meadows opens up to great vistas and more birding. Listen for calls of Hutton’s Vireo and Bewick’s Wren, as well as the trill of Broad-tailed Hummingbird during courtship displays.

Those who do not wish to scale the mountain can enjoy a very special hike to a place where orchids and Cardinal Flower grow at a backcountry desert spring (if we have a large enough group for two guides). This oasis is great for birding and affords a visit to the Old Sam Nail Ranch, one of the best birding spots in Big Bend. If we have a small group, those not on the long hike can walk partway with us, or enjoy free time in the basin where the park may have activities scheduled. Dinner is once again at your leisure. On this, or another evening, your guide offers an optional drive out to a location where we have a great chance of observing Elf Owl, Common Poorwill, and possibly Lesser Nighthawk.
Accommodations at Chisos Mountain Lodge (B,L,D)

Fri., May 3 : Big Bend National Park | Burro Mesa Pouroff | Santa Elena Canyon


Today we head west towards magnificent Santa Elena Canyon. Our first stop is at the Old Sam Nail Ranch, where water coming from a windmill attracts Varied Bunting and a variety of other migrant songbirds. We then walk to Burro Mesa Pouroff, a unique geologic feature where unusual plants like the Texas Persimmon and Texas Buckeye bear fruit that attracts some of the larger songbirds. The arid hills provide good habitat for Black-chinned Sparrow, while the canyon seems to echo with the songs of Rock and Canyon Wrens.

We have lunch at Cottonwood Campground, another oasis with large trees and a Hackberry and Lotebush hedgerow that provides shelter and food for migrants. In some years, we see waves of birds coming through — grosbeaks and buntings seem especially fond of this area. We may also find Lucy’s Warbler in the dry mesquite, and Hooded, Orchard, and Bullock’s Orioles.

In the afternoon, after our siesta, we discuss the vivid geologic story of the Big Bend region. Visit historic Castolon, where ice cream is a welcome treat. In the late afternoon, the sun is off the trail into Santa Elena Canyon, so we can enjoy a walk along 1,000-foot limestone walls laid down during the Cretaceous Period. Watch swallows hunt over the river and listen for the calls of White-throated Swift. From here we take a back road north to the West Entrance of Big Bend, and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant as unique as its desert surroundings.
Accommodations at Chisos Mountain Lodge (B,L,D)

Sat., May 4 : Big Bend National Park | Blue Creek | Christmas Mountains


Today we say good-bye to the scenic Chisos Basin. But a great day is in store as we visit the Christmas Mountains and the home and feeders of Carolyn Ohl-Johnson, a grand finale of bird activity where difficult to find species like Lucifer Hummingbird and Varied Bunting can be found with ease. Carolyn has worked tirelessly to create a stunning oasis just north of Big Bend. This stop today is a real treat, and a fantastic way to round out our trip. By now the arid landscape, and its riches of cactus, vistas, birds, and wildlife is a part of you.

We are sure to stop and visit the wonderful Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University and the local cactus garden often replete with flowers before dinner at the Reata restaurant, a perfect place to celebrate the end of our journey. Their menu is a delight and we plan to enjoy a great final dinner, reminiscing with now familiar travel companions.
Accommodations in Alpine (B,L,D)

Sun., May 5 : Departures from El Paso


Our journey comes to an end today in El Paso. We have a four-hour drive, so plan to arrive at the airport by 11:00 AM (time change works in our favor today!) for flights out NOON or later. (B)

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Group at Big Bend by Michael J. Good

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Western Tanager

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Big Bend National Park

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Hummingbird by Steve Shunk

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Birding Big Bend by Steve Shunk

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Big Bend Scenic by Steve Shunk

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Indigo Bunting by Steve Shunk

  • Yellow-breasted Chat, Texas, Big Bend, Big Bend National Park, Texas Nature Tour, Texas Birding Tour, Big Bend Nature Tour, Big Bend Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys

    Yellow-breasted Chat by Terry Peterson

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Painted Bunting

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Big Bend

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Group at Big Bend by Steve Shunk

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Ash-throated Flycatcher

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Big Bend Scenic by Steve Shunk

  • Big Bend National Park, Birding Big Bend, Bird Watching, United States, North American Birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Big Bend Scenic by Steve Shunk

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the main journey is $3390 DBL / $4330 SGL, per person, based on double occupancy, from El Paso, TX (ELP). This cost includes: accommodations for eight nights, meals as specified in the itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), airport welcome and transfer or hotel shuttle, land transportation during the journey, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost does not include round-trip airfare to and from El Paso, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, gratuities for luggage handling or personal services.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: El Paso International Airport (ELP)

Arrival Details: Please plan to arrive April 27, 2024 at your leisure. You may arrive anytime this day, but we encourage you to arrive in time for the 6:30 PM welcome dinner and journey orientation. 

Departure Details: Please plan flights to depart after NOON May 5, 2024.

Travel Tips: Some of our past travelers have rented a car to visit other area attractions before or after the trip. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is 2.5 hours away, and many are surprised to find that the birding Mecca of Portal, Arizona and Cave Creek Canyon is just 3 hours away.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

Texas

Big Bend & Davis Mountains

Big Bend Monsoon Madness

South Texas

Texas Coast

Texas Hill Country

  • Dave Mehlman

    Dave is a naturalist with interests in birds, migration, ecosystems and natural disturbances, plants, and gardening. He holds a PhD from the University of New Mexico. Dave worked for The Nature Conservancy for 25+ years as Director of its Migratory Bird Program. He has researched in Latin American and the Caribbean. An avid birder, Dave enjoys teaching about natural habitats and local cultures. He has published papers in scientific and popular journals.

    Other trips with Dave Mehlman

  • Michael Good

    Michael has more than 25 years of experience studying the birds of North America, and brings a wealth of knowledge about Neotropical migrants and the avifauna of the Eastern United States. Michael has traveled extensively in the US, Alaska, Europe, Australia, South America and Cuba. He is also a regional business leader promoting sound ecologically practices in business and land development. Michael has been guiding professionally for many years, focusing on avian ecology in the Gulf of Maine bioregion. His fields of expertise include wetland ecology, ornithology, environmental education and developmental biology. Michael worked for many years at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, studied numerous aspects of the Gulf of Maine.

    In his spare time, he maintains Three Pines Bird Sanctuary in Town Hill, Maine, studying micro-habitat of Neotropical migratory birds on Mount Desert Island, Maine and winter ecology in various Neotropical countries, when given the opportunity.

    Other trips with Michael Good

Map for Texas' Big Bend

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
  • Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Health Information

We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.  

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Food & Drink

We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and wear comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.

Spending Money

Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books.  You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.

Gratuities

Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.

Transportation

For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.

 

Safety & Best Practices

Spring temperatures in Big Bend National Park average in the 70s-90s during the day, even rising over 100 at times. It can also dip into the 30s overnight, and it will be cooler at higher altitudes. It smart to be prepared. Layered clothing is a good strategy.

The sun is strong. Pack to protect yourself with clothing, hats and sunscreen. Lightweight pants, and light, long-sleeved shirts are ideal.

Comfortable closed-toe footwear with good tread is essential. A lightweight walking stick or trekking poles may be helpful.

Your guide will provide helpful advice on coping with snakes, scorpions, spiders and other borderland creatures. They will also bring ample water along to help insure that everyone stayes hydrated. Guides are certified in CPR and First Aid, and will have a first-aid kit handy.

The National Park Service promotes following the Leave No Trace Principles, and we are happy to join with them in this. It is important to be conscious of the effects our actions may have on plants, animals, other people, and even entire ecosystems.

 

Packing List +

Please Pack Light! Soft luggage is easiest for us to pack in the vehicles – duffle Read more

Please Pack Light!

  • Soft luggage is easiest for us to pack in the vehicles – duffle bags are a great choice
  • Include your name and address on the inside of the bag and the luggage tag – most airlines charge for checked bags over 45 pounds; we hope yours is less!
  • Pack medications, airline tickets, binoculars, camera, emergency contact information, and other essentials in your carry-on – you’ll want a daypack for field trips, so this can serve a dual purpose
  • Dress is very informal
  • The weather will range from lows in the 50s to highs in the 80s and 90s, with little chance of rain
  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing; they protect you from sun, insects, and vegetation
  • Choose clothing you can get dirty and that is comfortable and easy to wear. Layering is your best strategy for comfort

Clothing and Gear

  • Lightweight long pants (2 pairs)
  • Shorts (optional)
  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, 2-3 (Loose fitting keeps you cool)
  • T-shirts or equivalent (4–5 – remember you may buy some souvenir tees along the way!)
  • Personal underclothing and pajamas
  • Socks (lightweight and easy to hand wash and dry)
  • Raincoat or poncho (great if this doubles as a windbreaker)
  • Comfortable evening clothes (clean field clothes are appropriate, but feel free to go dressier if you wish)
  • Bathing suit (optional)
  • Broad-brimmed hat
  • Bandana (they now make these with a gel inside that you wet to keep you cool – great to have!)
  • Comfortable walking shoes (tennis shoes, etc.)
  • Lightweight hiking boots
  • Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
  • Lightweight jacket (fleece is ideal, but a sweater or sweatshirt will do)

Equipment and Miscellaneous

  • PHOTO IDENTIFICATION
  • Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
  • Passport (for international travelers)
  • Small daypack or fanny pack for field gear
  • Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored (optional, we’re unlikely to see rain but great to keep sun off!)
  • Walking sticks (optional, but strongly recommended if you usually hike with them)
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock (or cell phone with built-in alarm)
  • Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
  • Sunglasses with neck strap
  • Insect repellent
  • Toilet articles
  • Binoculars
  • Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
  • Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
  • Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos and charger (optional)
  • USB cord for transferring photos from camera to tablet/laptop (optional)
  • Water bottle (or you can use one of ours and refill during the journey)
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; optional)
  • Laundry soap if you plan to do hand washing
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Rechargeable power bank (optional)

 

WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing, and your mind will be at ease

Medical and First Aid Items

  • Personal medications (and copy of vital prescriptions)
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments
  • Foot powder, lotions, general “comfort” items
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, copy of medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
  • Insurance information
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Tweezers

 

Suggested Reading List +

 There are many titles of interest for Texas; the following are a few that we Read more

 There are many titles of interest for Texas; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

General Reading

Texas Big Bend Country

Naturalist’s Big Bend: An Introduction to the Trees and Shrubs, Wildflowers, Cacti, Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians, Fish and Insects

Big Bend of the Rio Grande: A Guide to the Rocks, Landscape, Geologic History and Settlers of the Area of Big Bend National Park

The Chihuahuan Desert

Field Guides

Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Download it here.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Field Guide to the Birds of North America

ABA Field Guide to Birds of Texas

Birds of Texas Field Guide

A Field Guide to the Birds of the Big Bend

The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds

Amphibians and Reptiles of Texas

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West

Texas Bug Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mammals of Texas

Wildflowers of Texas (A Timber Press Field Guide)

Natural History

Big Bend National Park: Mexico, the United States, and a Borderland Ecosystem

The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds

The Complete Birder, A Guide to Better Birding

Lives of North American Birds

Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Understanding What You See and Hear

Roadside Geology of Texas

History & Culture

The Big Bend: A History of the Last Texas Frontier

Hiking Big Bend National Park

Big Bend Pictures

I'll Gather My Geese

Memoir/Non-Fiction

For All Seasons: A Big Bend Journal

Lizards on the Mantel, Burros at the Door: A Big Bend Memoir

Stray Tales of the Big Bend

Adventures with a Texas Naturalist

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.

The Park Service also offers a book list at https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/historyculture/reading-list.htm

 

Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more

General

El Paso, Tx – An Encyclopedic Overview

Fort Davis, Tx – An Encyclopedic Overview

Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park (Boquillas, Texas)

Santa Elena Canyon

Chisos Mountains

Christmas Mountains

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Birds of Big Bend

West Texas Target Birds

Colima Warbler

Texas Butterflies

Herps of Texas

Prairie Dogs

Pronghorns

Wildlife Management in West Texas

Wildflowers of Big Bend

Ecosystems of Big Bend National Park

Ecoregions of Texas

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Big Bend National Park

Audubon Article – “The Grand Dream of an International Park with Mexico Meets a Complicated Reality” - Big Bend and Sierra del Carmen Mountains

Davis Mountains State Park

Post Park

Chihuahuan Desert – WWF Conservation

Geology & Geography

Big Bend through Time

Marathon Uplift

100th Meridian

History & Culture

Brief History of Big Bend National Park

History of Prairie Dogs in Texas

Fort Davis

Helpful Travel Websites

El Paso International Airport (ELP)

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

ATM Locator

Date & Time


Photo credits: Banners: Big Bend National Park (Steve Shunk), Burrowing Owl (NJ Stock), American Avocet (NJ Stock), Group Hike (Steve Shunk), Big Bend Sky (Steve Shunk), Vermillion Flycatcher (NJ Stock), Curve-billed Thrasher (Steve Shunk) Thumbnails: Summer Tanager (NJ Stock), Mexican Jay (NJ Stock), Greater Roadrunner (NJ Stock), Acorn Woodpecker (NJ Stock), Cactus Wren (NJ Stock), Pyrrhuloxia (NJ Stock), Elf Owl (NJ Stock), Blue Grosbeak (NJ Stock)

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