Camping at Basecamp Terlingua is like stepping into another world. Located deep in West Texas, the camp is a popular spot for travelers visiting Big Bend National Park – and it’s one of a handful of places to stay near the park. The closest town, Terlingua, has a population of about 80. The town’s status as a mining ghost town is no joke. At its height, there were a few thousand people. Today, the town’s isolated location and desert views attract an eclectic mix of campers, Texans and young millennials looking for a new experience and stunning photo ops to add to their camera rolls.
Terlingua is the ultimate place to get away from it all. The landscape is rugged yet stunning. The town has no chain stores. No Starbucks or McDonalds. No Walmarts or Whataburgers. And yet, it doesn’t feel trapped in time and commercialized for consumption like many other historic districts and towns. There are crumbling stone structures left from the town’s mining days next to more recent additions such as an espresso café, a tiny art gallery and a spattering of diners. Things close early. Everyone knows each other. If you’re one of the few who choose to live here, you can avoid talking to another soul for weeks on end.
It feels like the edges of the map. And, it’s one of the only places where you can stay in a bubble.
Basecamp Terlingua is a unique addition to the luxury camping (or “glamping” – glamor camping) trend. It would be easy to snub one’s nose at the camp as another millennial fancy akin to avocado toast and selfies. But you’d be wrong. The camp fits the needs of Terlingua’s visitors, providing a place to stay right in the heart of nature, letting the surroundings be the main show.
For those who make it to the end of the world, Basecamp Terlingua has an array of camping styles to choose from. There are the infamous bubbles with their unobstructed views of the night sky. Lotus tents and asymmetrical tipis glow with warm light once the sun has gone down. Various Casas, adobe type structures, offer the comforts of home but keep the desert aesthetic intact. The Instagram-ready setups aren’t just pretty to look at, they’re comfortable too. One happy camper said, “I just wish I’d stayed longer!” – a sentiment many other reviews of Basecamp Terlingua echo.
But the real “star” of the show is up above. Terlingua is a town with almost no artificial night-time lighting, leaving the sky to show off its brilliance. Stay up past sundown for incredible dark sky views.
It’s no secret that Terlingua is tiny. Getting to this spot at the edge of the map takes a little extra planning. Prepare to take things slow and go with the flow. Fast-paced life style be damned when you’re in West Texas.
You’ll want a vehical to carry the supplies you’ll need, whether that’s a rental or you’re hoofing it from your home base. There are several small airports in the area, but it’s recommended you fly into a city, stock up on supplies and hit the road.
Approximate drive time from major cities:
- Dallas – 8.5 hours
- Austin – 7.5 hours
- Albuquerque – 8.5 hours
What to Know
West Texas is hot in the summer with the average high sitting right around 100° from June-August. Protecting yourself from the sun is no joke. Keep your skin covered when you’re in direct sunlight, apply sunblock like it’s your job and limit your time outside during the heat of the day. The closest hospital is an hour and a half away. Take care of yourself.
Along with keeping yourself safe, keep the community in mind as well. While Covid-19 is a threat, wash your hands often and limit your contact with the locals. An outbreak could be devastating to the small community.
And while you’re planning your desert escape, plan to pack much more water than you think you’ll need. While most of the accommodations at Basecamp Terlingua have running water, you’ll want fresh drinking water for any day trips. It’s also not uncommon to experience short water outages on the rural system. And did we mention Texas is hot? Trust us, you’ll want to pack more than you think you’ll need.
Along with water, make sure to pack plenty of non-perishable food and snacks, a first-aid kit, and everything you need to cook and eat your food with, including firewood. Basecamp Terlingua might be glamorous camping, but it’s still camping. The beauty of the area is that it’s remote, but that also means visitors have to plan, plan, plan. Another recommended item to pack is flashlights and batteries. There are no street lights in Terlingua and darkness falls fast. With that darkness also comes the chill of the desert. Pack some clothing to keep you warm in the evenings. Temperatures can change as much as 30° between day and night. In fact, the one outfit you probably don’t need to pack is a swimsuit. You’re in the dessert. There won’t be much swimming.
When it comes to staying connected, Basecamp Terlingua has you covered with wifi in the camp. Most other places will not have wifi however and cell service can be spotty. Print out maps ahead of time and consider carrying a good map book (old school but worth it). Terlingua is the type of place you go do disconnect, so plan as though you’ll have no connection and you’ll be set.
Terlingua might be at the edge of the map but it’s near one major must-see: Big Bend National Park. Visitors can drive into most areas of the park. There are few outfitters to speak of so pack whatever you need. There are several scenic drives in the park and many hiking paths (the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook is a popular choice). Again, pack more water, food and resources than you think you’ll need. There is one restaurant within the park and limited or no cell service. You’ll also need to pay an entrance fee, although no permit is needed unless camping in the park. Also consider bringing a portable charger for your phone and any other devices. Finally, make sure to check with the park about operations before planning a trip. Some or all of of the park may be closed due to Covid-19.