We checked out all 3 of the NPS campgrounds while there this month. We stayed at Chisos Basin with our 16' Scamp
and Dodge Dakota quad cab all 5 nights. We had picked our site based on the sites available and looking at the map. Our site # 42 was along the road on the 2nd loop, just a small siding where you pull over, so when you unhook it's almost like being parked on the side of a residential street. We just hoped that no-one would take that curve too fast when the freezing rain hit or they might end up in our bedroom. The view was spectacular though!
It would be a good idea to check Google maps satellite view before you pick a site at Chisos, some are better for large combinations than others.
They were still finishing up work on the Chisos dump station so there was no place to dump at Chisos Basin while we were there (looks like just minor finishing work left to do as of last week).
The Cottonwood campsite would be ideal for access to Santa Elena canyon hikes or kayaking. It appeared they only have one potable water outlet there, the rest of the faucets stated "non-potable".
The NPS Rio Grande village campsites were nice, and good for touring from that part of the park. There are also showers available for a fee at the camp store there, along with a laundromat.
The recommendation to spend a little time at each campground is a great one!
The road to Chisos was not as bad as I feared. It's a steady climb uphill but never steep long enough to cause any problems. I think our Subaru Outback would have performed well although we used our V8 Dakota. Good brakes
for the downhill portions are probably more important than power on this road.
Fuel and propane
are pricey at Big Bend. I had to exchange a bottle while there for about $30 (they can refill at the RV village but only on certain days when the propane
guy works). Surprisingly, fuel was about 20 cents cheaper (but still pricey) at the RV village station than the Panther junction station, even though it was farther from civilization. Guess that can fluctuate often though. We used more propane
for our heater than expected due to the low temps while we were there.
We drove down the Grapevine road to Balanced Rock and were surprised to see 2 boondocking
areas along the road (no toilets or water). Seems you can camp there as long as you get a permit, don't know if those are free or not. Those are pretty close to Panther Junction so would be a good central touring base.
We will definitely go back again!