Beautiful. Remote. Hot. Windy and dusty. Not for the novice.
If you go there, reserve space thru the website for Chisos Basin. It is further north than the other 2 campgrounds and fills up fast. It was full by 9:30a. The websites say “first come, first serve”, but half the spots are reserved when I got there. Unless they are talking about the backcountry camp sites, then those are “first come, first serve, registration at the vistor center“. Campgrounds are $14 per night. First-come, first-serve at the campgrounds involve you going straight to the campground, picking up an envelope at the entrance, driving around looking for a empty campsite, putting your receipt on the campsite, then filling in the information on envelope and putting money in it and dropping it in a dropbox back at the entrance. If you remember history in school, think “Sooners and the Oklahoma Land Rush”.
Chisos is nestled between mountain ranges, is at higher elevation, so it is cooler. Which is very important at any time other than the dead of winter because you are in the Chihuahuan Desert. Below, road to Chisos Basin.
Rio Grande campground is to south-east, near the border. Cottonwood campground to south-west, near the border. Those and a handful of backcountry sites are all that are accessible by normal car. All other backcountry sites require 4×4. Some of the sights, too.
Below. Overlook of the Rio Grande River from the hike from Rio Grande campground. The Rio Grande River itself forms the southern border with Mexico in this part of the country and runs the span of the entire southern border of the park.
Backcountry camping requires at $12 backcountry camping permit, good for 7 days. There are only a few backcountry sites that don’t require a 4×4, and they are nearby the Panther Junction Visitor Center, for example Painted Gap and Croton Springs. Which is good because backcountry means nothing is there, except a metal box to store food, and nearby the visitor center for novices means nearby bathrooms and water. Most of backcountry camping sites are south along the border. Sunset at Painted Gap Backcountry Campsite, of surrounding mountains, below. (Note, Oct 2017: most other backcountry sites in other National Parks don’t have direct vehicle access to a backcountry camping site, require hiking to the site, except Mojave Preserve and maybe Death Valley)
Wrapping normally, from upper-left.
- I recommend cowboy boots as safety equipment, if backcountry camping. Rattlesnakes hide under shade, and that includes your car. That rattle sound is distinctive from any other sound in the desert. At Painted Gap backcountry campsite. This is probably redundant, but I recommend some sort of eyewear protection as well (sunglasses usually), not from the sun as you expect, but from the dust in the strong wind.
- Roadrunner, looking out for the coyote. I had water on top of my car, so mr roadrunner actually went up there for the water, and when i was seated on driver’s side deciding where to go next, a bird (probably him) took a crap on me.
- Shadowy Javelina roaming under to cover of night, at Rio Grande Campground.
- Rio Grande overlook, at the Rio Grande campground. The hike walks around the hill to the top
- Boquilla Canyon, as seen from Rio Grande overlook at Rio Grande Campground.
- Facility (probably rangers living quarters) with mountains in the background, on way from Rio Grande Campground.
- Panther Junction Visitor Center
- Boquilla Canyon Panorama, from Boquilla Canyon overlook.
- Chisos Basin campground, with one side of the mountains surrounding the basin.
The night is a nice respite from the strong sun down here.
(3/5 self-rated for tourists) for Chisos Basin.