Tips for Driving on Dirt Roads in Big Bend National Park

Every year, the beautiful vistas of Big Bend National Park beckon hundreds of thousands of visitors. The isolated, arid, and rocky landscape presents the opportunity to reconnect with nature and explore a unique ecosystem.

While you can’t off-road at Big Bend, you can drive into the countryside on primitive dirt roads. Respect the environment and take care of your vehicle with these tips for driving on dirt roads in Big Bend National Park.

Use a High-Clearance 4WD Vehicle

The first tip is to make sure you have the right kind of vehicle for taking on these dirt roads. Off-highway vehicles like ATVs, UTVs, and 4-wheelers are not permitted on these trails; you must drive a street-legal vehicle.

Your 4WD vehicle needs at least 15-inch tire rims and at least eight inches of ground clearance between the lowest point of your vehicle and the ground. Since your vehicle is 4WD, you can power the front and back wheels at the same time.

Prepare for the Environment

The next tip for driving on dirt roads at Big Bend is to prepare for the environment. Pack all the essentials you need for the trip and prep your vehicle. Big Bend is a huge national park, and the backcountry roads are particularly isolated.

Do not drive on the park’s primitive dirt roads unless you’ve packed a map of the park, first aid kit, sleeping gear, high-energy food, and plenty of water for your party. Everyone should dress for hiking.

Check your car’s fluid levels and tire pressure. Bring a good spare tire, a tire repair kit, tools, extra belts and hoses, and extra coolant.

Drive at a Slow Speed

Out on the trail, drive at slow speeds to protect your vehicle and tires. The slower speed will also help keep people comfortable through the journey.

If you encounter an obstacle your vehicle can’t overcome, turn around. Keep in mind that one of the most important points of trail etiquette is to stay on the trail. Avoid driving off the designated path as that can widen the trail, cause soil compaction, and harm local flora and fauna.

By Dianne Pajo

Dianne Pajo is a writer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.