Riding horseback is a great way to explore almost 300,000 acres of the Chihuahuan Desert, in Texas' largest and most remote state park. Big Bend Ranch State Park offers approximately 238 miles of multiuse trails that are suitable for horses. Horseback riding is also allowed in backcountry areas except where specifically excluded.
Bring Your Own Horse
Visitors are welcome to bring their own horses to the park. The park charges an equestrian fee of $2 per horse per day, in addition to other park fees. All users must obtain a backcountry use permit for day use or overnight stays. Equestrians must bring their own weed-free horse feed. All horses must have documentation of a current Coggins test. This rugged country is hard on horses and horseshoes, so make sure that you and your horse are physically fit. Call the park ahead of time to ask about the availability of water for your horse while on the trail.
Five equestrian-oriented campsites are available, most of which offer corrals and water:
Agua Adentro Pens is located along Camino a la Sauceda, the two-wheel-drive main road that accesses the park. The site has three large shade shelters, several livestock pens with an active water trough, three fire rings, picnic tables, and a dry, vault toilet. The area is so large that it is easy to move any horse or travel trailer around to make camp more comfortable. Located in the west-central part of the park, the site offers unlimited access to miles and miles of ranch roads and trails to explore.
Escondido Pens is located near the Sauceda Ranger Station and is approximately two miles off of the main park road on a two-wheel-drive high-clearance road. The site has woven wire pens, a spring-fed water source, two shade ramadas, picnic tables, a dry, vault toilet and two fire rings. The upper Leyva watershed and its many wonderful features are easily accessed from this campsite.
Fresno Canyon Campsite, located in the bottom of Fresno Canyon, is accessible by four-wheel-drive road. No horse trailers are allowed. You must ride saddle stock to the campsite, but you can haul camping gear in with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The site consists of two hitch rails, two picnic tables, and two fire rings. No holding pens are available. You may be able to water livestock at a seasonal water source about ¼ mile from the campsite; otherwise, plan to carry in water for your horses. The grandeur of the west side of the Solitario and the historic Fresno Canyon are at your tent’s doorstep.
Jackson Pens is located on the rugged two-wheel-drive high-clearance road that accesses the Solitario area. Check with the park before attempting to drive your trailer down this road. The site has woven wire pens, an active water trough, a fire ring and picnic tables. From here, you can ride into the collapsed volcanic caldera of the world-famous Solitario.
Javelin Pens is located on the rugged two-wheel-drive high-clearance road known as the Madrid Road. Pulling a horse trailer is not recommended. The site has the remains of pump jacks and other ranching artifacts, and an operating well. The site also has woven wire pens, two picnic tables and a fire ring. Non-potable water is available. The Rancherias Trail and the heads of several canyons are convenient to the pens.
- The park charges an equestrian fee of $2 per horse per day.
- Fires may be built in fire rings only, and collecting firewood is prohibited. Firewood should be hauled in or purchased at Sauceda.
- Be sure to bring drinking water. Potable water is not available at any campsite; all water must be treated.
- Water for your horse is available at all campsites except Fresno Canyon.
- Check with park staff about the availability of water for horses while on the trail.
- Big Bend Ranch State Park is about as remote as you can get and the park store at the Sauceda Ranger Station has limited inventory. If you think you need it – bring it!
- This country is hard on horses and horseshoes. Make sure your horses are fit and that you have spare shoeing equipment.
- Information on commercially guided tours and outfitters.