We decided to take a short impromptu Jeep trip for a few days. We have wanted to visit Big Bend Ranch State Park and decided this would be a good time to do so. Our time frame allowed for five full days of time to get there, experience the Park, and return.
The Closest Town
The closest town to the park is Presidio, TX which is 31.5 miles from the Sauceda Visitor Center. About 27 of those miles are on gravel and dirt roads. It is possible for a two-wheel drive vehicle, even a car, to get to the ranger station. Our concern was it was 63 miles round trip to be able to gas up. There is no fuel available in the Park. Our Jeep because of the 4.88 gearing only gets 200 miles to a tank. This only left us with 137 miles worth of fuel to wheel with. We took our spare 5-gallon fuel tank and filled it in Presidio, TX just in case we needed it. Keep in mind the mileage involved regarding fuel if you want to wheel in the park.
Getting To The Campsite
Getting to Big Bend Ranch State Park and Sauceda Visitor Center is manageable for most vehicles. It can get a little rough but it is passable. Getting to the campsites is another matter entirely. Most of the campsites lie far off the main park road. The roads to get to each campsite in most cases will require a high-clearance vehicle. Signs at the entrance roads to these campsites are marked with warning signs. There are many campsites that are probably unreachable without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The Fresno Canyon, Rincon, Rancherias, and Guale campsites all require a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Even the type of 4x4 can be an issue. If you driving a Lexus, Renegade, or Range Rover 4x4 type vehicle beware that it might have the capability, but might not have the durability.
This became quite evident one morning at the Sauceda Visitor Center when we met a guy that took his Range Rover to one of the Rincon campsites in Fresno Canyon. He got down into the canyon and never found the campsite. On the way back out the Range Rover broke a front axle shaft and the transmission began overheating. He was fortunate enough to crawl it out of the canyon over many hours back to the Sauceda Visitor Center where he could get a tow truck to come out instead of being in the canyon trying to get a full recovery.
Another couple in a car couldn't get down the road to their campsite. They were fortunate to find one of the few campsites off the main road where they could get their car down and sleep for the night. Keep in mind if the sign reads high clearance or 4x4 required, it means it!
Campsites At The Park
There are regulations regarding the proximity to other campsites, flowing water, historical sites, etc. that the Park follows in regard to the placement of campsites. Each one is remote in its own right because of these regulations. There are also a limited number of sites available. Planning ahead of time and reserving the site you want is crucial if you want these remote site experiences. If you are not into the camping experience there are bunkhouses at the Ranger Station you can rent for the nights instead.
The Papalotes Nuevo Campsite
The Papalotes Nuevo Campsite is where we stayed the entire time at Big Bend Ranch State Park. The road to get into the campsite required a high clearance vehicle but not a 4x4. It was a rough road and the warning was accurate. The site itself had an incredible view of the rising sun and some great color in the distance for the setting sun. My only complaint was the table and bear box area were about 50 feet from the tent pad and parking spot. This made lugging our cooking items and food back and forth a bit inconvenient. I would still reserve that site again though. The site was about 30 minutes from the Sauceda Visitor Center which was very convenient for showers and restroom facilities.
Depending on what you want to do at the Park you need to seriously consider where your campsite is located in the Park. Some of the sites can literally take a couple of hours to reach from the Sauceda Visitor Center due to their location and the trail conditions to get there. Just getting to the Sauceda Visitor Center and back could take half a day alone, and getting from camp into Presidio, TX, and back to camp could take a full day. Google maps do not take into consideration the terrain and provide unrealistic travel times to and from most of the campsites. If your wanting to run 4x4 trails this could really set you back time-wise. If you're just wanting to get to some of those remote and hard to get to sites and stay there until you leave they would be incredible.