Vacationing together really brings family members closer to one another by offering shared experiences that tighten the bonds and are simply fun for everyone. Of course, the usual haunts such as Disneyworld, Myrtle Beach, and Washington, DC are fine, but when planning a family trip, why not step outside of the norm and consider something a little more off the beaten path? Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas definitely fits the bill of a road less traveled and is the perfect place for the entire family to get back to nature and explore a land that is simultaneously unforgiving and unexpectedly gorgeous. In Big Bend, the glitz and glare of neon signs are left far behind in lieu of a rugged serenity that can only be experienced in this region of the United States. It is a place where the entire family is reminded that Mother Nature still rules supreme and that mankind is certainly a very tiny piece of a much larger puzzle.
To the uninformed, Big Bend National Park may seem as though it is simply a long stretch of desert with nothing but rocks and shrubbery to be seen for miles on end. Although this may be true to an extent in certain sections of the park, when the desert terrain is disputed with the sun-splashed walls of the surrounding canyons and the crystalline waters of the Rio Grande, a picture is painted that is sure to awe children and adults equally. If you wish to take in the scenery from the comfort of your vehicle rather than a backpack weighing you down, there are plenty of roads that will guide you around the essential portions of the park. Guides can be purchased at Panther Junction that illustrate roads suitable for automobile traffic and points of interest along the way. Primitive roads also exist that delve deer into the unique plants, animals, and history of the region, but they are not to be transported on a whim. Proper planning must be made because not only are some rather remote, but there are a number that can only be navigated via a four-wheel drive vehicle.
If the children are a little bit older and the family truly wishes to encounter Big Bend National Park in its purest state, then there is no substitute for hiking into the wilderness. Countless nooks and crannies are nestled away among the mountains and down by the Rio Grande that are absolutely inaccessible to motor vehicles. There are plenty of walking trips available that are less strenuous as well as hikes that are more demanding. Whichever you choose, it is of the utmost importance that you stay on the marked trail. Wandering off is dangerous and potentially life-threatening. The trails have been established and indicated by experts who are looking out for visitor safety, so stick to them.
For a touch of history and to experience the park from the cowboy perspective, there are several saddle horse tours to be found in Big Bend. Horses suitable for family members of all ages are available and guides will take riders on a trip around old mining towns, down by the Rio Grande, and up into the mountains and lava flows that make up so much of the terrain.
Naturalist programs are offered that teach the values of the flora, fauna, and natural features found in Big Bend National Park. Naturalists and rangers are there to help your family identify and explain the geology and life forms that will be found in your travels around the park. Take the time to do some birding as well and watch the kids (as well as yourself) smile upon happening upon the summer tanager, painted bunting, and belted kingfisher to name a few.
Once the day is done and it's time to turn in for the night and get ready for the next day, lodging can be found at the Chisos Mountains Lodge or at various camp grounds and trailer parks scattered through Big Bend National Park. The campgrounds do not offer electricity and fuel, but charcoal may be purchased.
Big Bend National Park is packed with adventures and sights that the entire family will enjoy. The photographs taken and memories made will last a lifetime. Parents and children will simply love the experience, so much so that a trip to the park may become an annual event.
For more info on Big Bend National Park, visit http://www.visitbigbend.com/site09/en/news/big-bend-blog/495-planning-a-family-trip-to-big-bend.html