- For those who like to stay close to home
- For the sight-seers
- If you’re the adventurous type
- For the history buff
- Neighbors to the north
- For those who take kindly to larger crowds
- For the aquatic type
Big Bend has unique appeal like no other vacation destination. Texans and non-Texans alike traverse this wide open space for all different reasons. Some come to slow down the passage of time and find some peace and quiet, while others seek to break off their own piece of adventure with limitless outdoor excursions to be had. History buffs travel far and wide for the abundant prehistory and history of yesteryear. Wildlife and wildflowers annually draw onlookers for hundreds of miles. And Big Bend’s beautiful backdrop – well, that’s just a given.
But no matter what reason brings you here, you’ll eventually sally forth and leave feeling a little different from when you arrived.
For Those Who Like to Stay Close to Home (the cabin)
The Boca de la Roca Mountain Hike
If hiking a desert mountain is on your list of things to do in Big Bend, we’ve got excellent hikes directly on the property that will satisfy the sense of adventure in the more experienced hiker or for those simply looking to take a scenic walk in the great outdoors. The property’s mountain peak is one of the tallest points north of the national park (4,700-foot elevation) and caters to hikers in search of a fun, moderate-to-hard ascent. Guests who climb to the top of the peak witness a breathtaking spectacle that overlooks Big Bend National Park, Mexico and the Chisos Mountains – a sight only seen by a lucky few and well worth the climb.
* guided trail hikes to the peak are available and can be booked in advance. The hike typically takes 2-3 hours round trip.
* from base to peak is an approximate 900-foot ascent
Meteor Showers and New Moons
If you have the luxury, plan to stay at our cabin during a scheduled meteor shower. If you ain’t that lucky, try and visit during a new moon phase – your eyes will thank you. But don’t sweat it, because all in all, the nighttime skies never fail to impress.
Here’s a helpful calendar of this year’s meteor showers: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide
For the Sight-Seers
Big Bend National Park
The main attraction. Backpack the best hiking trails in Texas, kayak 245 miles of the Rio Grande, see Santa Elena Canyon, hike Emory Peak and explore over 800,000 acres of the Chihuahuan Desert. Then, and only then, will you have a first-hand experience of the downright magnetism of this place.
Big Bend State Park
Right around the corner, just as scenic, and just as rewarding.
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Making the cut – time after time – as one of the top things to do in Big Bend is the Ross Maxwell Drive. It is consistently named one of the “Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in the U.S.”
Bring your motorcycle if you have one.
The #1 rule of the Marfa Lights: Don’t read the Wikipedia page, and don’t trust anyone who says, “Eh, it was OK,” or, “They’re just car lights out in the mountains, that’s all.” Those naysayers didn’t see ’em. The lights appear randomly and have been mystifying folks for centuries – long before the kids from UTD said it was “car lights” (wikipedia page), and of course before any of the spiffy innovations of modern man. The Indians called them the “ghost lights,” and believed they were spirits wandering the desert. Early settlers thought they were distant campfires that somehow levitated off the ground.
Locals, including myself, have seen the Marfa Lights a handful of times. They appear just above the horizon in the southern sky after dark. These glowing orbs dance, do figure-eights, change colors, meld together, break apart, move many miles within seconds, disappear and reappear, come together in straight lines, and act out in all kinds of inexplicable ways. Trust me, when you see it, you’ll wonder what the hell you’re looking at, and talk about it around the campfire for years to come.
P.S. – Trying to predict whether or not they’ll show on a particular night is damn near impossible. If you find out their pattern, spill the beans with the rest of us.
If you want an expert opinion of the Marfa Lights, please visit: http://marfatxlights.com/index.html
Terlingua Ghost Town
Hang out with the locals! This hideaway is the heart of the Terlingua/Study Butte/Lajitas area. Built around abandoned cinnabar mines and old Mexican forts, this place is full of history, music, great food and fun for the whole family – it’s free too.
Visit: ghosttowntexas.com for more information.
Dinosaur Skull in the Ghost Town
While in the Ghost Town, be sure to stop in to the Terlingua Trading Company gift shop, and check out the Mosasaur fossil found right here in Big Bend. Many dinosaur fossils are found here all the time. Local paleontologist, Ken Barnes, has been digging up dinosaurs in Big Bend since 1986. The renowned restaurant, Starlight Theater, is just right next door. So grab a bite to eat there while you’re in the area – you’ll be glad you did.
If You’re the Adventurous Type
Hiking In Big Bend
While there are countless things to do in Big Bend, hiking is one of the top reasons for visiting the Big Bend area. No other desert offers hikers the opportunity to traverse small and large mountains, canyons, mesas, and the Rio Grande, all in one location. As you know, this area is huge, but this provides hikers the ability to hike half a day, all day, or all week, in seclusion, peace and quiet. Since the state park and national park alone have over 1 million acres to explore, hikers often enjoy the luxury of not running into another soul on the trail – a rare gift not many national parks can offer.
Don’t hesitate to ask us for our opinions of the must-do hikes around Big Bend
Horseback Trail Rides
What do people think of when they think of the Wild West? Guns and horses. I’m sure you’re plenty aware that Texas is a gun-friendly state – enough said. For those who’ve never ridden a horse, it’s an experience all should try!
Big Bend Stables in Terlingua offers bar-none horseback rides in and around both the state and national park. Friendly wranglers and easy-going horses make this a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll never forget.
Please click here for more information: Big Bend Stables
Imagine gliding into the Davis Mountains in a plane without an engine… Sounds like certain death, right? Nah, it’s perfectly safe, and after you’ve been flying around in one of these gliders, you’ll likely redefine your definition of “sight-seeing in Big Bend.”
Visit: flygliders.com for details
Big Bend harbors a home to all kinds of wildlife. Deer, elk, black bear, big horn, mountain lion, bobcats, aoudad, jackrabbits, javelina, foxes, all kinds of snakes, and rare bird species call this area home. You don’t have to be an expert bird-watcher or experienced animal tracker to get a glimpse of these unique animals during your stay. Chances are, you’ll see some desert-native creatures without trying too hard – just keep your eyes open. But you can bet that you will always lose in a game of “Who Saw Who First” (They will spot you long before you spot them.)
Occasionally, there are hummingbird festivals in the area. Be sure to check local area info, or check in with Boca de la Roca often!
Lajitas Golf Resort
Just a 50-minute drive from the cabin, this 18-hole masterpiece was voted the #1 Golf Resort in Texas – and with good reason. This course is the most scenic golf course in the Lone Star State and maybe the southern U.S. The bright green course is located in the midst of mountains, canyons, cacti, creeks and other desert features, offering golfers a challenging, yet fun, round of golf. Playing 18 holes under par is definitely more rewarding in the desert. You’ll be glad you added it to your list of things to do in Big Bend!
Contact Lajitas Golf Resort for details
For the History Buff
Pictographs, Petroglyphs, and Other Ancient Artifacts
The entire Big Bend area is known for its abundant preservation of ancient life, and even a few artifacts have been found in and around the Boca de la Roca property. But the real showcase is in the national park. Big Bend National Park is still a protected home for 2,000-12,000 year-old cave drawings, engravings, pottery and ancient weaponry. Finding the time to observe these clues into the past, and taking an afternoon stroll through history, is something that never gets old.
Museum of the Big Bend
This establishment is a part of Sul Ross University in Alpine, TX, and offers visitors an exclusive, hands-on look into the past and what made the Wild West in Texas. If ancient civilizations, Cowboys and Indians, and American heritage are your forte, this is a stop you’ll want to add to your list.
See here for more info: http://www.museumofthebigbend.com/
Fossil Bone Exhibit (in Big Bend National Park)
Over 1,200 fossil species have been discovered in Big Bend. This exhibit has over 70 fossils, tons of history, and hands-on activities for all ages and interests.
Visit here for more details: http://fossildiscoveryexhibit.com/
Neighbors to the North
If you’re spending a great deal of time in the area, or if you are a returning spectator, the Davis Mountains are worth the extra gallon or two of gas. The Davis Mountain Range is home to our northern neighbors: Alpine, Fort Davis, Marathon and Marfa. These friendly West Texas towns are definitely “jewels in the crown” of Big Bend and make for great day-trips or evening getaways.
Fort Davis National Historic Site
Go back in time and get a genuine glimpse into the Wild West at Fort Davis. See the fort itself, eat at the old general store, and take in the awe-inspiring terrain that surrounds the town.
The galaxy is better viewed from Big Bend – hands down. Hans Lippershey invented the telescope in 1608. Back in the initial stages, one could make the moon about 3X larger. Today, the Hobby-Eberly telescope at the McDonald Observatory captures the amount of light equivalent to 3.3 million human eyes – an exponentially greater viewing capacity compared to telescopes in 1608. Stargazers of today can see exploding stars, black holes, the individual rings of Saturn, and Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the moon (not really). Oh, and did we mention that McDonald Observatory is in the darkest-of-the-dark spot in the United States?
For Those Who Take Kindly to Larger Crowds
There’s always a powwow or two in the Big Bend area. Festivals draw people for hundreds of miles and never disappoint. Here’s a list of a few crowd-pleasing things to do in Big Bend:
Big Bend Music Festival
Who says you need to go to Austin to hear great live music? Is Austin in the greatest desert in the world?… Didn’t think so.
For all the music lovers who like to boot scoot n’ boogie, this is the festival for you. With an array of musical acts from folk, country, rock, indie, Tejano and more, you’ll get your fill of toe-tappin’ tunes the whole family can appreciate.
Terlingua International Chili Cookoff
Have you ever been to that fancy chain restaurant in the big city called Chili’s? Did you see the photos on the walls of folks outside enjoying themselves with a bowl of chili? Yup, those photos are from this particular Terlingua festival. Enjoy music, dancing, camping, and of course a big ol’ bowl of red during the first weekend in November each year. And if you think you make a mean bowl of chili, enter the contest, and maybe you’ll be dubbed the next world champion.
Visit abowlofred.com for more details
Mountain-biking may as well have got its name from this specific gathering! The Annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest is typically held in February each year – one of the best times to visit. Pedal your way through the desert scenery or spectate from the sidelines. Either way, the fresh air, outdoors and showing off your cycling skills, should make for 3 days well-spent.
Big Bend Open Road Race
Let the horses run free – under the hood of your car, that is. This April race takes place on US Hwy 285 South from Fort Stockton to Sanderson, and then back (about 118.0 miles round trip). If you’re an experienced gear-head, or just want to satisfy your need for speed, this is definitely the event for you. After you’re done racing past the checkered flag, gallop down here to the cabin for some peace and quiet.
Big Bend Nature Fest
Nature is the one thing that’s hard to avoid out here. This festival is what it sounds like – it’s all about nature. Hosted in Big Bend National Park, folks from all over convene to explore, celebrate and witness birds and other wildlife, desert cacti, wildflowers, rocks, big skies and just about anything else to do with nature.
Contact Big Bend National Park for details
Marathon 2 Marathon
Marathon, TX, hosting a marathon? Sounds like the two belong together for some reason… Runners can assume this particular race will be unlike any other marathon in the world. This staple town in Big Bend hosts the Boston-Qualifying 26.2-mile foot race through this unforgettable desert scenery. You can rest assured that no other marathon has better earned the right to call itself a marathon, than the Marathon 2 Marathon marathon in Marathon, TX.
For more details, please visit: marathon2marathon.net
For the Aquatic Type
If you make it down to the area during the fall and winter months, you’re in for a few perks otherwise not available in the warmer months. First, the brisk nights. Visitors can expect a large gap between day and night temperatures year-round, but especially during the colder seasons. Most days in January can climb to 75 degrees then drop to below 30 degrees at night. When you experience this temperature shift, it calls for some quality time spent in the hot springs.
Langford Hot Springs is located in the national park, and has a temperature of around 105 degrees all year long. J.O. Langford claimed to be cured by the waters, and a bath house was in operation until the mid-1960s that was said to be “guaranteed to heal” visitors. The water is considered fossil water, ancient and irreplaceable and is full of minerals. Many say it still has the healing powers – I can believe it. In any case, it’s undoubtedly a good excuse to strip down to your britches for one of nature’s most therapeutic ways to let it all go.
Balmorhea State Park
This is no mirage. Balmorhea is a true desert oasis by definition. Cool off in this giant 1.75-acre pool that garners more than 15 million gallons of water flow each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round, which can be a real relief in the desert sun.
Visit here for more details: Balmorhea State Park
Terlingua Ranch Lodge
In the summer months, it can get hot. Now it doesn’t get humid but once in a blue moon, because well, it’s the desert. So 100 degrees doesn’t typically feel as brutal as areas that have high humidity. That being said, you will still encounter plenty of hot desert days here in Big Bend. A great place to cool off is at the Terlingua Ranch Lodge, just 7 miles from the cabin up the ranch road.
The pool is quite nice, and they always welcome visitors. The Bad Rabbit Cafe has some great food too and is a good choice for home-cooking if you’re in the area.