Marathon to Panther Junction (driving) Route Details

Route Description

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Between Sanderson and Marathon the road leaves the confines of the canyon, and puts on wide plain, where you see mountains all around. This drive crosses some of these to reach Big Bend National Park HQ at Panther Junction.


Wide open empty roads. Beware the much lower speed limits in the park, which after the 75 mph speed limits feel very slow. Best driven late or early in the day, as the harsh light of midday ruins the views.

Hazards and warnings

Despite the fact the formal border is the Rio Grande, the border region has many border patrol checkpoints. Non-US citizens should carry passports.

Detailed description

Somewhere around the Brewster country line, the road pulls out of Sanderson Canyon, and emerges into the wide open plain that stretches before you. In the distance, the mountains of west Texas and Northern Mexico surround you in a vista typical of the American West that never fails to excite me. The road stretches on across the rolling plain, before just at the edge of Marathon, you turn south across the railroad tracks that have been you occasional companion since Del Rio, and head down US 385. Make sure you have plenty of fuel as it's 70 miles to the next gas station, which keeps fairly limited hours.

US 385 rolls and curves across the landscape, as it crosses the grain of the land. On your right you get views of the significant peak of Santiago. A few miles out of Marathon you pass a Border Patrol checkpoint, although there are more interested in traffic heading north. As you reach the park boundary, the vegetation changes from parched grass and catcus, to a native vegetation of cactus and low scrub. As you clear Persimmon Gap, and pass the park entrance (again limited opening hours), you get your first glimpse of the imposing bulk of the Chisos mountains ahead. We drove at sunset and the mountains were still bathed in sunlight even as darkness gathered in the desert. After arriving at Panther Junction, we headed to a primative campsite at Government springs, but there's plenty of other options available. Do remember that only the developed campsites allow you to turn up without booking and the basin (the best site by far) is sometimes full.


Route Map

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