The next day dawned sunny and bright — perfect for road tripping!
But somehow … we just weren’t feeling it.
About two hours into our seven-ish hour drive towards Big Bend National Park, we were already starting to feel grouchy. We both felt silly about it — after all, we were barely a week into our road trip and had only done about ten hours of driving! — but sometimes, you just gotta go with it.
We started plotting a stop between San Antonio and Big Bend, but nothing on the map was catching our eye. Turns out south-central Texas is a pretty boring place. Finally, after just three hours of driving, we saw a sign for Seminole Canyon State Park and decided to throw in the towel. (It was like 2:00 pm. That’s how ridiculous we were being.)
Well, being ridiculous turned out to be an awesome decision. In addition to being a beautiful campground, Seminole Canyon is also a state historic site. It’s home to more than 200 7,000-year-old pictographs, and the park offers inexpensive, informative ranger-led tours.
Looking down into the canyon, it didn’t seem that big …
But once you were down in it, it felt massive. (See how tiny I look!)
The tour was quite interesting, and it was so cool to be able to get this close to the pictographs. In most cases we can only guess at their meaning, but the ranger offered lots of interesting facts about the Native American people who used to live here.
Our campsite was a simple flat spot with a picnic table and campfire ring, but we didn’t need anything else! We heated up some leftover homemade chili and enjoyed a quiet night under the stars. (Below, I’m probably Instagramming this picture to share with you nice people!)
We decided, in the spirit of adventure, to get up early the next morning and do a hike before getting back on the road. (If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that “getting up early” isn’t exactly our scene, so we felt like this was kind of a big deal.) It was a little overcast, crushing our hopes of a crazy sunrise over the canyon, but the temperatures were perfect for hiking!
As we wound our way along the Canyon Rim Trail, we suddenly came into view of the mighty Rio Grande!
Our destination was the Panther Cave overlook, which we’d heard about from our ranger guide the day before. An immense pictograph panel spans the back wall of a rock shelter visible across the canyon, and includes a panther image nine feet long!
We had to climb out on the edge of canyon to get a look at it, so we enjoyed a little snack break, too.
And we used binoculars to check out the panther across the canyon.
Because it was so far away, we couldn’t get a good picture of it, but here’s a good shot of it from Wiki (if you have a canoe or a kayak, you can get into the cave from the river):
We took the more direct trail back to our campsite, and after a quick breakfast, got back on the road. We were energized by our early morning hike and excited to see more of Texas … and finally get to Big Bend!
Campground: Seminole Canyon State Park (Texas)
- Drive-up primitive camping
- Cost: $15 for camping, $3/person entrance fee (as of February 17, 2016).
- Pros: Easy access to water and nice bathroom facilities, even for “primitive” campsites. Beautiful quiet location and easy access to hiking trails along the canyon. And the historic site was an unexpected bonus!
- Cons: The park is conveniently located just off route 90 — but there’s nothing else around for miles. Very limited phone service (AT&T).
- Seminole Canyon State Park also has sites with water nearby for $14/night and water & electric hookups for $20/night.