Texas Nature September 06, 2018
Everyone From Texas Should Take This Awesome Mountain Vacation Before They Die
No feeling quite compares to escaping into the mountains and leaving the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind for a short while. This West Texas road trip was designed to do just that, with stops at Big Bend, McDonald Observatory, Guadalupe Mountains, and several other noteworthy destinations.
With cooler weather on the horizon, climbing to peaks and hiking through valleys won’t be quite as miserable as it is during the summer. You might even see some breathtaking fall foliage!
As usual, the Google Map with exact addresses + directions can be found
here. The entire trip takes about 13 hours, so we’ve included one overnight stop to break it up. You could complete the drive in a weekend, but feel free to camp overnight at any of the parks to allow for more time at each place.
Our trip starts off with a bang at one of the most remote, magical places in the state. Big Bend is much too vast to experience its entirety in a single day, but we can certainly hit all the major highlights.
First, we'll take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a road that provides unparalleled views of the park and its surrounding desert landscape. Along the way, we'll stop at Castolon Historic District to take a glimpse into Big Bend's past and explore the iconic Santa Elena Canyon. Finally, we'll embark on the .3-mile Window View Trail that, while easy and wheelchair-accessible, still grants visitors a breathtaking view of the most highly photographed scene in the park.
You'll probably be hot and exhausted after all that hiking, but no worries - our next destination will give you chills strong enough to freeze the sweat right off your brows.
Terlingua is the most well-known ghost town in Texas, but its growing popularity doesn't take away from the eeriness. With a cemetery, dilapidated buildings, and history as a mining town that faded into oblivion, there isn't much about Terlingua that doesn't insight the heeby-jeebies (aside from the International Championship Chili Cook-Off, which is held annually on the first weekend in November!)
Everyone knows about Big Bend, but few are aware that a state park exists by the same name.
Big Bend Ranch State Park, located near Presidio, happens to be the largest state park in the country. With 238 miles of multiuse trails, access to the Rio Grande for floating + fishing, and some of the nation's darkest skies (it's a designated International Dark Sky Park!), there's a lot to explore at this rugged natural area.
It'll be about time to get some much-needed shut-eye by the time you've seen the Milky Way, so we're headed to the famous Gage Hotel in Marathon for the night.
Built in 1927, the Gage has seen its fair share weary travelers and eager tourists alike over the years. The architect drew inspiration from Indian and Spanish cultures with a little American cowboy flavor thrown in as well, making for a unique atmosphere unlike any other hotel.
Fifteen different rooms are available for overnight guests, five on the first floor and ten on the second. There are also several casitas and a large colonial-style house, which you can find details for
You won't even have to venture out for dinner! A restaurant, bar, and coffee shop are all conveniently located on or near the property, so you can rest up and conserve energy for the adventures to come (and have more time to admire the interesting decor, like this skull wall on the back porch.)
Now that you've gotten your beauty rest, it's time to explore one of the most underrated mountain towns in the state.
With a population of just over 6,000, Alpine is a tiny community surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. There's a lot more to do here than one might think: a scrumptious breakfast spot, Museum of the Big Bend, antique shops, a charming ice cream parlor, baseball field, brewery, rodeos, and even a university.
While we won't be spending the night, a trip to Alpine just wouldn't be complete without touring the historic Holland Hotel.
It was built in 1928 and has been the locals' go-to venue for weddings, parties, and other gatherings for generations. Plus, we hear it's rumored to be haunted...are you brave enough to find out for yourself?
Time see the world from a few thousand feet up again! This time, we're headed to Davis Mountains State Park.
Whether you want to hike, backpack, bike, ride horses, or bird-watch, there's so much amazing scenery to take in. With a history of human occupation dating back over 10,000 years, this mysterious frontier is harboring secrets around every corner.
Not too far from the park is McDonald Observatory, a research facility with the goal of educating people about the mystical cosmos all around us.
You can take a daytime tour of the observatory that includes live telescope images of the Sun as well as an up-close look at a 362-inch telescope, or attend a Star Party, which gives visitors a rundown of all visible constellations in the night sky - both with the naked eye and through telescopes. You've never seen space quite like this!
Our second-to-last destination is none other than Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home to the four highest peaks in Texas and most extensive Permian fossil reef in the world.
Over 80 miles of trails wind through the park, all of varying lengths, difficulties, and scenery. Easy trails lead you through diverse flora + fauna, moderate hikes cut through canyons, and strenuous treks take you to the "Top of Texas." The fall foliage here is spectacular and should make an appearance in mid-October! More information on that
The time has almost come to return to reality, but not without exploring one final destination: Franklin Mountains State Park.
Located just 15 minutes from El Paso, this gem sits on nearly 27,000 acres and contains over 100 miles of trails. Hike, bike, and even rock climb on these towering mountains that provide a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Located within the park is Wyler Aerial Tramway, a cable car that takes visitors on a thrilling ride nearly 6,000 feet above sea level.
Editor's note: Please note the tramway is temporarily closed. The view from the top is unlike anything you've ever witnessed. 7,000 square miles encompassing three states and two nations can be seen from Ranger Peak, and you'll be amazed at the vastness of the desert.
Could you see yourself taking this mountain vacation? What destinations would you add? Let us know your thoughts!
To learn more about the charming mountain community featured in this article, check out
Why Everyone In Texas Should Visit This One Tiny Town.