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Wheeling in Big Bend National Park

Wheeling in Big Bend National Park


You probably know the van Stralen family from adventures on their YouTube channel: Epic Family Road Trip. If you don’t, you should. In 2015, the van Stralens embarked on an EPIC family road trip around the world. Most recently, they spent some time in Big Bend National Park in Texas.

By Epic Family Road Trip OB#4010

We had the privilege of visiting Big Bend National Park last week. We had been there three years ago with an RV and didn’t realize that there were so many backcountry camp spots available, as long as you have a vehicle that can get you back in there.

We arrived late in the day, too late to get a backcountry pass so we took a camp spot in the Cottonwood camping area. Thankfully there were three first-come, first-serve spots available. The Cottonwood camping area is about an hour’s drive from the entrance to the park and is right along the Rio Grande.

The next morning we packed up our camp and headed back to Panther Junction where the visitor center is located and we bought our backcountry passes for the Jeeps. We also reserved camp spots along the way for four nights.

The ranger behind the counter was very helpful in describing the camp areas to us and we ended up with some absolutely beautiful spots, although I don’t think you can go wrong.

We stopped at the fuel station in Panther Junction to fill up the jeeps and our fuel caddy. While we were there we bumped into a couple in a beautiful black Jeep who are fans of our YouTube channel and they gave us some great pointers of where to go, including a trail called Black Gap.

We were so excited to turn off of the paved road onto the gravel road which led us into the desert. We were finally leaving wifi, cell phones, and civilization behind.

Overlanding in Big Bend National Park

About 30 minutes into the trail we saw the cut off for Black Gap. We had so much fun navigating this trail through wet low-lands and up rocky inclines. Everybody took turns driving and practicing our wheeling skills. It was great to get the new Jeep out on a trail to flex and stretch a little bit.

I must say we were pretty impressed with the stock JKU Rubicon. Just as is, it is a very capable trail-ready 4X4.

The trail to our camp spot took about three hours and we arrived just as the sun was setting.

We prepared a delicious meal and stayed up late looking at the trillions of stars in the moonless sky while listening to the coyotes and the rushing Rio Grande in the distance.

The night camped out here in the desert was one of the best sleeps we’ve had in a long time and we looked forward to four more days of remote desert trails and camping ahead of us.

Things to keep in mind at Big Bend:

  • Dogs are allowed in the park but not on the hiking trails.
  • Freshwater is available at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Take a lot with you!
  • No open fires are allowed within the park.
  • Backcountry camp spots have no services, just a bear box for storing food at night.
  • Firearms are allowed to be carried in the park but not discharged.
  • High clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for some of the backcountry sites but not required for all.
  • We visited in January and found a lot of backcountry sites available, but booking ahead of time is always recommended.
  • And no matter where you go, leave no trace.

Make sure to check out Episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Season 5 of The Epic Family Road Trip YouTube channel to follow along on our adventures in Big Bend National Park and beyond!

OLBBennett Overland Bound was established in 2010 as a blog that focused on making overlanding welcoming and accessible to anyone who feels the call of the wild. Since then we have grown to a global community connected by the Overland Bound online platform that bridges the gap between digital and IRL connections and experiences. It doesn't matter what you drive because adventure is necessary.


  1. LOVE Big Bend, nowhere else like it. We managed to grab a pretty prime spot in Chisos Basin on our last visit, next time I hope to be ready to go backcountry.

  2. Those folks are just amazing people. If you haven’t checked out their YouTube channel, I can not recommend it enough. The world needs a few more families like them. Also interesting is the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them and their livelihood.