Adventures in Big Bend
“Riding in Texas must be boring”.
I hear this all the time from folks that live on the West and East coasts, as well as people hailing from the Mountain timezone. In my mind, I believe they assume all roads in Texas are long, big and straight, with nothing even remotely interesting to see, except vast, immense skies.
As it most often happens with broad generalizations, this is not the case. Yes, we have our fair share of straightaways, no doubt about it, but the twisties exist and they are fun! We also have ghost towns, gorgeous springs, caverns, rivers and canyons. You heard that right; they may not be as big or stunning as the Grand Canyon, but we have them and they are really worth your time.
While there are many great places to ride in near the cities (this is specially true near the Hill Country region), the best place to really enjoy the what this region has to offer is on the Big Bend area, roughly 7 hours away from the city of Austin. The long ride there is perfectly boring, yes, but once you get there, the sweet spots never stop.
The first surprise on the way is the town of Marfa, a small town on the edge of the desert that has attracted artists from all over because of its quirky vibe and solitude. There are times of the day when you can walk through the middle of town and not meet a single soul. At other times, the party seems to go on forever. Make sure to check out “El Cosmico” a hotel on the edge of town with more Instagramable things than pretty much any other hotel in the state. We do have mention that some of the staff members are not as friendly as one would like. The place is worth it though.
Riding out to the “Marfa Lights Viewing Center” a few miles away from town is another must. We’ve been there a couple of times and in both occasions, they did not disappoint.
Finally, make sure you visit the Prada Marfa, a modern sculpture that is perhaps the most out-of-place thing you will ever see.
From Marfa, take US-67 and head south towards Presidio. There are some interesting historical landmarks on the way, like Shafter, a former silver mining town, and the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a former fort that has been converted into a luxury hotel. Lunch there is exquisite, but quite pricey, so be warned.
When you get to Presidio, make sure to fill up your tank before you head down the River Road towards Lajitas, and be prepared to stop often, because you’ll soon be in one of the most scenic drives in Texas.
Big Bend Ranch State Park and Lajitas
If you like off-road riding, you’ve come to the right place. Big Bend Ranch State Park is teeming with trails that offer a wide range of difficulty. You can check out some of them here. If you’re more into a relaxing ride and a good meal, ride on through towards Lajitas and enjoy the scenery as you glide a few yards away from the Rio Grande. Make sure to make reservations in advance if you’re planning on staying at Lajitas, because they fill up quickly during the busy season.
While in Lajitas, make sure you have some time to explore the ghost town of Terlingua, especially if your significant other is into arts and crafts, or if you’re ready for great food and drinks. The best places by far are the Starlight Theater and La Kiva, an underground joint that needs to be experienced if you’re in the area.
Big Bend National Park
You’re finally at the park! There are plenty of things to do here, from kayaking down the Rio Grande, to soaking in the historical hot springs, or taking a quick trip to Boquillas del Carmen, a Mexican town just across from the river, where locals will greet you with a smile, a donkey ride and cold cervezas. For more information of the long list of things you can do here, check out this piece from Travel & Leisure. In the meantime, enjoy a few more images from our unforgettable time down there: