Texas is big sky country, a fact best illustrated among the mountains and deserts of its two national parks. Big Bend National Park, with over 800,000 acres of primitive lands and designated wilderness, rates at 15 of the top 20 sizable national parks in the country. The park is part of the United Nations biosphere reserve program, home to black bear, mountain lions, endemic and migratory birds, historic sites like wax factories, mercury mines, and ranch ruins, and some of the most remarkable geology in the state. The region also harbors the darkest night skies in the continental U.S., guaranteeing that on a clear night it really seems you can see all the stars in the sky. Big Bend lies on the states southern border with Mexico, sharing much of the Rio Grande River where portions of a 196 mile stretch of the river are designated the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, a federal protection status granted some of the most remote and dramatic sections of the river border. Northward to the Texas/New Mexico border lies the only other national park in the state – Guadalupe Mountains National Park. More than 300 species of birds are known to frequent this “sky island”, a unique ecosystem rising over eight thousand feet above sea level and harboring the highest point in Texas – Guadalupe Peak. A hike to the summit entails an all-day, eight-plus mile roundtrip adventure but standing victoriously on the summit feels like the closest thing to flying without the aid of wings.