12. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Located in southwest Texas far from major urban areas, Big Bend National Park is the farthest off the beaten path of our readers’ favorite hotspots. To get there, you’ll have to drive several hours from the cities of El Paso or San Antonio. But as anyone who’s been there will tell you, the drive is worth it.
Big Bend includes the northern Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains, the southernmost mountain range in the United States. The line of green supported by the Rio Grande on the park’s southern border attracts a wide array of birds, including such year-round residents as Vermilion Flycatchers and Pyrrhuloxias. Elsewhere in the park, look for Lucifer Hummingbirds and Varied Buntings.
Boot Canyon is the place to go to find the Colima Warbler. It’s a nine-mile round-trip hike that is not for the weak-kneed. “The Colima Warbler was one of the toughest birds I’ve ever gotten in my life,” says Doris Rogers of Port Orchard, Washington.
She made three trips to the park, the only spot in the United States where the bird occurs, before finally seeing the warbler. On her first two, Rogers was among the many birders who heard but didn’t see the bird. She hopes to return to Big Bend soon for its “spectacular views, Texas history, and friendly birders.”
Location: Cradled in the great curve of the Rio Grande in west Texas • Best time to visit: Late August through mid-October and mid-April through May for spring and fall migration • Birds: Colima Warbler, Montezuma Quail, Common Black-Hawk, and about 450 other species! • Contact: Big Bend National Park: (915) 477-2251; Big Bend Natural History Association: (915) 477-2236; Brewster County Tourism Council