Big Bend National Park is a hiking destination that is not easily accessible, therefore less crowded than some of the more popular National Parks. West Texas is pretty remote, huge distances from anywhere and anything, but the scenery and weather are incredible!
We flew into El Paso, direct from O’Hare on American Airlines, on a Saturday. We picked up a rental car and headed right to Whites City, NM for 1 night. Not a lot of lodging choices here, so we stayed at a Rodeway Inn – definitely a 1-star kind of place! This would put us in reach of Guadalupe National Park for some hiking the next day.
Sunday morning we headed into Guadalupe National Park to hike McKittrick Canyon, which is a 5 mile out and back hike. It was a hot, dry hike, with a small stream crossing and the hike ended at an old cabin. There was a lot of cool desert plants and trees along the way.
We then drove to Ft Davis, where we would stay at the Hotel Limpia. This is a beautiful, old hotel on the main street in town. They had 4 large porches, and we watched a gorgeous sunset from one of them. We also spent time at the attached restaurant, and gift shops in town. Very cute small Texas town.
From here, we headed South to follow the Rio Grande into Terlingua, where we stayed for two nights, just outside Big Bend National Park. It was a nice, scenic drive with lots of places to pull out and explore the river and surrounding areas. After checking in to the Big Bend Motor Inn, we drove into the park a bit, and also drove up to the Terlingua ghost town to explore the cemetery at sunset.
The next day, we were excited to do some whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, water levels were too low this time of year, so we settled for a canoe trip instead. We would spend the day in Santa Elena Canyon, which is probably in my top 10 most beautiful places.
It was a really fun, very scenic day of quiet paddling. Of course, our guides were great and fixed a delicious lunch on the shores of the river. We went with Far Flung Outdoor Center – super convenient in Terlingua and excellent guides – typical river rats! I’m beginning to see a pattern to my trips…hunky guys preparing gourmet meals on sandy shores…I’m not complaining!
Other than the guys at Far Flung Outdoor Center, I could live without going back to Terlingua. There was very much an anti-tourist vibe in that town, and service at the restaurants was terrible. We just didn’t feel welcome at all, and we aren’t obnoxious tourists in any way, so I don’t know what the deal was.
After two nights in Terlingua, we packed up again and headed into the park, where we had a room at Chisos Mountain Lodge. The room itself was nothing to write home about – pretty typical of most National Park lodges (very basic and dated) but the location was magnificent, magical! The lodge is more like a motor court, with a couple of chairs outside each room. We had javelina come right up to our room each night, and it was also a great spot for bird watching. Big Bend NP is a destination for birders, especially in the winter/spring!
Another hike we did was down Boquillas Canyon, where I was surprised to see you could just walk on over to Mexico. The Mexicans bring small gifts and walking sticks, leaving them on the rocks for tourists to browse, while they watch their “shops” carefully from across the river. I would have loved to buy a walking stick but knew it would be difficult to fly with, so we bought several little beaded trinkets, which are still on my desk today.
The trailhead to the “Window Trail” was just a short walk from the hotel and restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to hike past the trailhead, so I have a great reason to go back!
From Big Bend, our next stop was Davis Mountain State Park in Ft, Davis, where we stayed at the Indian Lodge. Another gem of a find! The rooms here are very quaint and comfortably appointed. The park itself is teeming with wildlife, including tons of quail!
That night, we had reservations for a star party at the McDonald Observatory. This was such a fun experience, I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you are into stargazing! They had various stations set up with telescopes trained on various planets.
One other item we missed, or saved for next time, is viewing the “Marfa Lights” in nearby Marfa.
All in all, this was a great trip that gave us a great taste of West Texas – enough to give Big Bend a special place in my heart and hopefully a return in the future.
For more pictures, click here!