The Backroads of Big Bend

From the mystical desert town of Marfa to the rugged Chisos Mountains, we will explore this diverse landscape and dive deep into the region’s cultural history. Experience one of the wildest corners of America as you paddle the Rio Grande, gaze at magnificent dark skies, explore the Southwest’s best surviving frontier military post and witness NPCA’s regional work all alongside expert guides.

Download Detailed Trip Brochure (1 MB pdf)

Departure Date:

November 9-15, 2022 - SOLD OUT: WAITLIST ONLY

7 days/6 nights

Minimum/Maximum: 14 guests/16 guests


Why Travel with NPCA?

Our goal is to offer premium educational travel itineraries in the places we know best: America’s national parks.

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Schedule Highlights

  • Experience the rugged and striking landscape of West Texas with three full days in Big Bend National Park with exclusive access to expert guides
  • View the breathtaking Santa Elena Canyon as you paddle along the Rio Grande River
  • Discover the pivotal role NPCA takes in protecting Big Bend and preserving Mexican history
  • Enjoy a private tour of the Blackwell School and learn about their essential partnership with NPCA to safeguard this deeply significant story of segregated education in Texas
  • Learn about the complex nature of the border region at the Boquillas border crossing from a local NPCA expert
  • Gaze at the brightest stars at this International Dark Sky Park during a night sky program
  • Join National Park Service staff for a behind-the-scenes look at Native American and African American history within Fort Davis National Historic Site



Day 1: November 9 - El Paso to Marfa: Arrive mid-afternoon into El Paso International Airport, the gateway to West Texas. Upon arrival, meet your NPCA host and Iconic Trip Leader. Drive 3 hours to the town of Marfa. Settle into your room at our historic downtown hotel before we gather as a group for brief introductions and an orientation to the days ahead. This evening, enjoy a group welcome reception and dinner at a local restaurant. The Hotel Paisano (D)

Day 2: November 10 - The Blackwell School to Big Bend National Park: This morning, we will meet with NPCA partners for our tour of the Blackwell School, an historic three-room schoolhouse in Marfa that tells the story of segregated education in the state. On our private tour we learn how NPCA is working hand-in-hand with the Blackwell School to preserve the original schoolhouse and grounds and establish a new national park site, the Blackwell School National Historic Site. This partnership, and the Blackwell School, represent an authentic opportunity to preserve and share the complicated history and significant role of the LatinX community in our nation’s history. After lunch with our partners from the Blackwell School, we head 2.5 hours south through Persimmon Gap into the beautiful Big Bend National Park to Chisos Mountain Lodge, the only lodge located within the National Park and our home for the next four nights. This evening, enjoy dinner as a group at the lodge. Chisos Mountain Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 3: November 11 - Big Bend National Park: After breakfast at your leisure in the lodge, meet the group and head out for the day. During our first stop at the Big Bend landfill, we will have the opportunity to learn how NPCA is partnering with the park to significantly reduce waste and improve waste management throughout the park. After a brief tour, we continue to head south on a scenic drive through the park to the Boquillas border crossing. Explore the Boquillas Canyon and enjoy a picnic lunch before we sit down with our local NPCA experts to learn about the economic, environmental and humanitarian aspects of this border region. From here, we head down the road to the Boquillas Hot Springs, where we can soak our tired muscles, before heading back to Chisos Mountain Lodge for dinner.
Chisos Mountain Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 4: November 12 - Paddling the Rio Grande: After an early breakfast, we head out on a 1.5-hour drive to the start of today’s adventure paddling on the Rio Grande.* Our route will depend on water conditions, but don’t fear as all of our options offer incredible geography and deep canyon walls. Enjoy lunch on a sandy riverbank with stellar views. This evening, enjoy dinner at the lodge with the option to head outside for a magnificent dark sky program. Chisos Mountain Lodge (B, L, D) *Exact details of river float, including length, location, and day, will vary depending on weather and water levels.

Day 5: November 13 - Big Bend hiking and the town of Terlingua: After breakfast at the lodge, join the group for a short ride to the Lost Mine Trailhead. This morning, we will hike alongside our NPCA expert on this beautiful, moderately difficult 4.2-mile out-and-back trail through the Chisos Mountains. After stunning views of Casa Grande and Juniper Canyon we climb up through juniper, oak and pine forest to views of Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. Enjoy a picnic lunch as you take in this spectacular landscape. This afternoon, enjoy some downtime at the lodge, or head out on another short hike, before we drive into Terlingua. A ghost town today, Terlingua was a mining town around the turn of the century. The views from this small town are some of the best in Big Bend – on a clear day you can see over 80 miles to the Santa Fe de Los Pinos Mountain range in Mexico. This evening, explore Terlingua on your own before dinner and live music as a group at the famous Starlight Theatre. Chisos Mountain Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 6: November 14 - Big Bend to Fort Davis & Marfa: This morning, enjoy your last breakfast at Chisos Mountain Lodge and an optional morning nature walk with our NPCA expert before we load up and begin our 2.5-hour scenic drive to Fort Davis. Upon arrival, we’ll enjoy lunch and spend the afternoon exploring the Fort Davis National Historic Site, one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest. Later this afternoon, we’ll head to Marfa where we’ll settle in at Hotel Paisano for our last evening. We’ll toast a great week in West Texas over dinner at a local restaurant in downtown Marfa. Hotel Paisano (B, L, D)

Day 7: November 15 - Marfa to El Paso and home: After breakfast at Hotel Paisano, transfer to El Paso for departures home. (B)

Please note: This itinerary is subject to change based on weather conditions and park closures related to COVID-19.

NPCA TRAVEL ELIGIBILITY: NPCA is the only independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocacy on behalf of the National Park System. We are 100% privately funded and we rely on donations from individuals like you. One traveler per group must be an active NPCA member to participate in an NPCA trip. An annual membership starts at $15 per person. Please make dues payable to NPCA by check or credit card at

TRAVEL SAFE WITH NPCA Your safety is our top priority. NPCA has worked diligently with each of our travel partners to develop important safety measures for all our trips. As guidelines and protocols evolve, we are committed to creating flexible options for those interested in rescheduling or booking new travel. For more information, check out our COVID-19 Travel Update.

MORE INFORMATION For full details on this trip, including inclusions, exclusions, accommodations, terms and safety protocols, please download the detailed trip brochure.

Download Detailed Trip Brochure (1 MB pdf)

MAKING RESERVATIONS To secure your space on this NPCA trip, please contact Jared Dial, NPCA’s Associate Director of the Educational Travel Program, at 1.800.628.7275 or email the Travel Program at

TRAVEL PROTECTION We strongly recommend purchasing important optional travel insurance that will cover you for a variety of travel-related contingencies, such as trip cancellation, interruption, and/or delay; baggage loss, theft, damage or delay; accident and/or sickness medical expenses; accidental death; as well as evacuation/repatriation coverage. Please note that a Pre-Existing Condition waiver is available if you purchase the policy within 21 days of making your initial trip payment. Also consider the optional “Cancel for any Reason” protection. All questions regarding the plan’s coverage should be directed to Travel Insurance Select through USI Affinity at 1-800-937-1387 or by visiting their website.

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calendary icon Date November 15, 2022
  • Cost:
    $4,545 per person double occupancy; $675 single supplement
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