We’ve been to Big Bend a couple of times, and highly recommend it to anyone in the area.
(Guess that means Texas or New Mexico) Normally the simple act of getting there isn’t worthy of a dedicated post, but this is a drive I have fairly strong feelings about. Basically, there is a right way and a wrong way to plan your first trip to this remote chunk of Texas.
For starters, Google will probably NOT steer you in the right direction. The truth is, this is one of those times you really want to take the long way round. Depending on where you’re starting this may very well add an extra hour to your trip. Don’t get upset. Part of the reason for a trip is to find the good stuff along the way. Besides, if you can’t spare an extra hour on your trip to somewhere as vast as Big Bend, you just might be rushing a bit too much.
If you’re coming from the North or East it is very tempting to head straight South out of Alpine or Marathon. I have taken these routes to get into the park, but they just don’t stack up to the one pictured above. By going the long way you will get several things not possible on the shortcut.
First, you will probably drive though Marfa. Marfa is a Texas landmark in itself. Quirky, artsy, and the home to the Marfa Lights, probably the closest thing to a Texan Roswell. (We had no luck spotting UFOs, but have met people who swear by it.)
Second is Presidio, a border town. I’m not going to pretend that it is much of a destination, but this was my first true Mexican border town. There is something to be said for knowing that you could easily cross a border just by driving a mile down the road.
Scenery, scenery, scenery… This is the real reason for making the detour. Big Bend National Park is certainly known for its grandeur, and coming in from the west gives you the most impressive, and diverse, welcome. Rolling foothills, plateaus, mountains, valleys, deserts, old ruins, the Rio Grande (There are points you’ll think it’s just a stream), Border Patrol, an exceptionally steep hill, and finally one of the best views in Texas.
I could have sworn this particular overlooks had a more inspiring name, but the official Big Bend Ranch State Park simply has it marked as “Big Hill”. Certainly an understatement.
At this point you are right in the middle of Big Bend Ranch State Park. Many visitors to the area don’t even realize that there is an equally impressive state park right next to the national park. I’ll devote an entire post to the state park shortly, but for now just plan on adding it to your itinerary.
From here on out it is all downhill to the park. (Literally, not figuratively) You’ll breeze through the resort town of Lajitas which seems to thrive on a fancy golf course and its lodging. I haven’t spent much time here, but it might be worth checking out some of the shops.
Next you’ll pass through Terlingua. You simply must spend a little time here, and there’s a chance you’d miss it if you took the northern path to Big Bend. I’ll be the first to admit that there really isn’t much to do in Terlingua, but it has a flavor and style unlike anywhere else I’ve been. I’ll address this in detail in a future post, but for now make sure to spend some time in the ghost town and visit a few shops along the main highway.
And, that’s it. You’ll take one last right turn and be to the park!
Check out my next post, Big Bend 2: Terlingua.