Adventure Motorcycle Ride Report – Big Bend National Park

With winter temperatures creeping in under the front door, snow flurries freezing the back of my neck and the winter sun not quiet warm enough, it became time to fly (ride) South with the Canada Geese. The Chihuahuan Desert had been good to us before so maybe it will again.

For hikers, birders, photographers, snowbirds and Adventure Motorcycle Riding, Big Bend National Park could be the number one winter destination. More than 1,200 square miles of undeveloped land beckoned, with endless miles of trails, back country 4 wheel drive roads and duel-sport routes.

So the plan hatched into a full fledged Southerly assault. Provisions were gathered, tires kicked, stove turned off and the cat kicked out. The open road and the desert sand caoxed, not with a whisper but a guttural grunt. CJ on her 2007 F 650 GS, and myself on my trusted airhead steed (Zed), a 1992 R 100 GS carrying not everything I wanted, but everything I needed, plus about 25 pounds of camera gear.

We found the Texas roads to be some of the most unwrinkled, unruffled and silky avenues South that any Adventure Motorcycle Rider could hope for.

(click on images to enlarge)

 CJ’s morning matra “Let’s ride”.Ride_8222

Terlingua, Texas is a mining town located near the Rio Grande and the villages of Lajitas and Study Butte. Due to it’s proximity to Big Bend, today it’s mostly a tourist destination for park visitors.

 A worthy stretch from riding.Starlight_8267

Your can’t visit Big Bend without getting your toes wet in the 4th longest river in North America. During our last visit, beta from a local directed us to a little know hot spring at the edge of it’s waters and as with our last visit, not a soul was there. We had it all to ourselves.

Upstream view from the hot springs hike. Rio_7802sHDR.DeN

The Glenn Spring Road skirts the East side of the Chisos Mountains, then “bounces” over the Chilicotal Mountain to Glenn Spring. It was named for W.J. Glenn who surveyed the area in 1881.

Glenn Springs Road GlennSpringRd_8191Our Glen Springs back country camp.


The oasis created by the spring was both then and now a critical water source for all residents of the desert. A candelilla wax factory was constructed here in 1914 and with that came a population of desert folks, general store and post office. They suffered through not only the harsh environment but a few pillaging and burning raids by some of Poncho Villa’s men in 1917. So now little remains.

Artifacts of the past. Artifacts_7949

Back country camping in the Chihuahuan Desert is an adventure itself. It’s really easy to amass all the needed provisions like food, water, first aid, camping gear, motorcycle tools, spare this & that, clothing for temps ranging from below freezing (at night) and 70’s (during the day) but getting this all on a motorcycle is the real challenge. The water alone we carried weighed in at 48 pounds. Well worth the effort as evident from the image below.

 A prickly sunset.SunsetCactus_8086Spi

We didn’t hike many of the established trails, it seems that game trails have more lure than the pedestrian super slabs. The following image was from the hike to our “secret” hot spring and represents the true low elevation desert. The Rio Grande was only 30 meters to my left when I captured this image.

1,800 feet elevation Dunes_7903

We rode the silky smooth pavement of the park shooting video, checking out the scenic overlooks and generally poking around. The Boquillas Canyon Overlook is a popular spot for both tourist and Mexican Nationals. I ask if the Border Patrol gave him any grief and he succinctly stated “no” and after being there a while it was obvious that they crossed back and forth across the international border unconcerned and undisturbed. Bring your passport when you visit the park because it is now legal to visit the Mexican town of Boquillas.

International Adventure Riders We4-Horse_7919

It may be legal to cross into Mexico to visit Boquillas and play tourist, shopping, eating and drinking but the crafts that are strategically placed at the overlooks and trail heads are not legal to purchase. What’s up with that?


Hiking in the park you should possess a few essentials like water (the river is not potable), good shoes, snacks and a small first aid. Stay alert and vigilant for snakes, yes they are the rattling kind. There are cougar and black bear sighting weekly. The Mexican town of Boquillas can be seen in the background of the following image.

RiverHike_7774sHDRJ.O. Langford homesteaded here at the confluence of Tornillo Creek and the Rio Grande in 1890 and built a small health spa using the hot spring waters. He left in 1942 after selling his land to the US government for inclusion in the new Big Bend National Park.

HotspringBuilding_7833sHDR.-80I’ll finish this off with a video of our ride in the park and a few images that I know you were waiting to see, yes that’s right! Images with motorcycles somewhere on the dusty trail.

Exploits of Uncertainty (Big Bend NP Dual-sport Riding) (HD) from Britt Runyon on Vimeo.

(click on any image to enlarge & then scroll through the gallery)

GS2_8160MySpi650_8111 Engine_8112 We4_7788 GS2_8176MySpi GlennSpringRd_8197 Zed_8181sHDRThanks for coming along. Be sure to leave a comment.

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About Britt Runyon

A New Mexico based free roaming outdoor digital photographer, always on the qui vive for what Nature and humans provide.
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17 Responses to Adventure Motorcycle Ride Report – Big Bend National Park

  1. Patrick says:

    Great pics. I was in BBNP area on 12/14 for 3 nights and had a great time on my 1200GS.

    I did the River Road in the park solo and it was a long 52 miles with the sand but enjoyed the scenery very much.

    • Britt Runyon says:

      Thanks Patrick,
      Didn’t we meet up at the Terlingua post office on your way out? You told us about the sand on the River Road and if I remember right your from Austin. Anyway, thanks bunches for stopping in.
      Ride Safe

  2. Tyndall says:

    Your pictures are gorgeous! My husband and I brought in the new year riding in Big Bend and we both enjoyed reading your post so much that I was inspired to write up our experience on my blog. You said you’ve been to the Chihuahuan Desert before. Have you ridden in Big Bend before, or was this the first time? It looks to me like you rode the River Road and Old Ore Road. Did you do any other routes?

    • Britt Runyon says:

      Thanks for looking in!
      Yes we had been to BB before, it’s a great winter get away.
      We did a portion of the River Road (east) and the Glenn Springs Road and they were great. The Ore Road was the most challenging for us, I call it a Class V on a scale of I to VI.
      Looking forward to reading your blog.

  3. Glenn Jaffas says:

    Great photos, thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  4. Bruce H USA says:

    WAY NICE! Enjoyed the photos. Thanks for sharing. Someday I’d like to tag along.

  5. Matthew says:

    Wow – always wanted to ride BBNP and this has convinced me! Thanks for sharing. Love the pics.

  6. Jerry says:

    Beautiful pictures Britt looks like a lot of fun. Making me want to get out there

  7. Kid says:

    Wow! That is really a beautiful picture! Nich sharing! Thanks 😀

  8. Julie says:

    Hi Britt,
    My husband and I are heading out to BB this spring (2015). Now that I have seen your pics I am even more excited. I’m riding a Yamaha XT250 and have little experience. I did cut my teeth in the San Juan mountains this summer though. Would you mind suggesting a couple of beginner friendly routes? Appreciate it!

    • Britt Runyon says:

      Most of the roads to the back-country campgrounds are totally doable for a short distance, the main obstacle being sand. The River Rd. starts out great but the finish is serious sand (east to west).
      The Ore Road is difficult and rocky, I consider it a Class 4 on scale of 1 to 5 (5 being most difficult).
      Ride the Pine Canyon Rd. & hike Pine Creek it’s a beauty, it branches off the Glenn Spring Rd. The Glenn Spring Rd is Class 3, with of one section of gravel and a couple of rocky sections that add a bit of a challenge.
      Doing a loop,East River Rd (the easiest part) to Glenn Spring Rd is a great loop. Go slow, hike around, have a picnic, make a day of it.
      The Pine Gap Rd is Class 5 in one section, though short.
      I could go on & on. I hope this helps. Have fun. Ride safe.
      I would love to see a ride report from your visit.
      Thanks for stopping in!

  9. Aharon says:


    Thank you for article.
    I am planning to go this January to the Big bend national park.
    I will be riding solo GS1200.
    two questions:
    1) How was the weather. Not too cold to ride?
    I live in florida and never tried to ride in 40 degrees.
    2) Where can you get good off road maps for this area?
    Thank you


    • Britt Runyon says:

      The temps could be on the cool to cold side, freezing at night. Several mornings our water was frozen from the nights low temps. Could be as high as 70 degrees during the day, especially at low elevation. In other words, be prepared for it all. lol
      I purchased very good maps at the park visitor center at Panther Junction. Maybe you can find them online before your trip.
      That being said, winter is a great time to visit the park, Summers are too HOT!
      Thanks for stopping in.
      Are you on ADV?


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