Updated: Mar 9, 2020
There was no question - our first blog post HAD to highlight none other than Big Bend, the heart and soul of West Texas. Andrew and I took our first trip out there together in November 2018. It’s a place that's near and dear to our hearts. I’ve been there 3 times, he’s been just over a DOZEN! It's a long blog, but hopefully it'll be all the information you need to help plan a magical time out West.
1. Our Favorite West Texas Towns
2. Big Bend National Park
Our Favorite West Texas Towns
This small town is definitely worth the drive. Fort Davis is a historic town filled with unique things to do like visiting the largest reptile exhibit at Rattler's and Reptiles, stargazing at The McDonald Observatory, and staying at the Indian Lodge Hotel in Davis Mountains State Park. Grab coffee, lunch, and groceries at Stone Village Market and hit the trails for a hike. For dinner, go to Blue Mountain Bistro- it was absolutely phenomenal!
Indian Lodge The only place we've stayed in Fort Davis. One of the most unique places mentioned in this blog. This hotel was built by the Civilian Conservation Core in the 1930's, and is an all white pueblo building. If I'm going to stay in Fort Davis, this will always be my first option. (Hotel Limpia also looked really cool as we drove past, but that's all we know about it haha)
• Blue Mountain Bistro
• Stone Market Village
• Double Shot Coffee Lounge
• Black Bear Restaurant (inside Indian Lodge)
This is our favorite little town! Eve’s Garden B&B and The Gage Hotel are located here. The people are so incredibly friendly and inviting. There are a few shops that you can stop by along the main street. Make sure to grab locally roasted coffee, sandwiches, smoothies, or yummy earl gray cookies at V6 Coffee Bar. Then check out the Gage Gardens just across the road, we walked through the gardens in the early morning hours and it was so peaceful & relaxing. Next, grab lunch or dinner at Marathon's fantastic Brick Vault Brewery & Barbecue - which we HIGHLY recommend. The food and beer are both phenomenal, and the folks that work there are as genuine as they come.
Eve’s Garden Bed & Breakfast
We absolutely loved everything about this B&B. You can’t miss the bright paint colors, the lush indoor garden, and the overall calm feeling you get when you enter this little slice of heaven. The breakfast is made in-house, and is absolutely amazing. We can’t recommend this place enough, it’s worth the drive! P.S. they have friendly outdoor cats roaming the property as well.
Gage Hotel For another classy stay in Marathon, TX, check out the historic Gage Hotel. It's located just off the main road, and very near to Eve's Garden! Inside the Gage, you'll find a delicious upscale restaurant and bar called the 12 Gage. This spot is more of a classic hotel feel (as opposed to Eve's Garden) so you'll have a better idea of what to expect.
• Brick Vault Brewery & Barbecue
• v6 Coffee Bar
• 12 Gage Restaurant
• Oasis Cafe
Alpine is one of the larger small towns out in West Texas. Yeah, that sounds funny - but it's home to Sul Ross State University and has a population larger than the other three towns combined! As a result, it's more built up, and has a bit more to offer all around in terms of food, places to stay, and shops. Driving from Alpine to Big Bend National Park is my favorite drive into the park. Alpine is also home to the Museum of Big Bend, which we haven't been to, but we've heard its awesome. Theres also a hike you can do to the top of Hancock Hill, where someone put an old school desk and chair. It's a unique hike for for those looking for a study spot! Halfway in between Alpine and Marathon, there's a tiny Target on the side of the road too! It's a fun stop for a unique photo op. Lastly, Wasserman Wranch! Just look it up, and do it!
Quarter Circle 7 Hotel and Spa This is the only place we've stayed in Alpine, but it was fantastic. The folks working there were beyond amazing, and made our stay awesome. When we stayed here, Big Bend Brewing Co. was still open right across the street and that added an awesome two hours to our stay.
Holland Hotel This historic hotel is one place we wanted to stay, but couldn't find availability. It's located in the center of town and is a block away from our favorite breakfast spot, Judy's. If you get a chance to stay here, let us know how it is!
• Guzzi Up
• Century Bar & Grill
You miiight live under a rock if you haven’t heard of Marfa by now. This town is growing more and more popular every year. Understandably so! It’s home to the famous Prada Marfa art installation, giant murals of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor (about 5 miles west of Marfa), Chinati Foundation (a contemporary art museum), amongst many other galleries and shops. If you love vintage shops, check out Raba Marfa. There are a variety of places to stay depending on your vibe - El Cosmico, Hotel Paisano, and Hotel Saint George just to name a few. And we can’t forget to mention the annual Marfa Lights Festival, filled with vendors galore & live music. Check out the mysterious Marfa Lights and decide if you’re a believer!
Hotel Paisano Another historic hotel on our list! This is where the cast of the 1956 film, 'Giant', stayed while they were filming the Hollywood classic. You can even stay in the same rooms that James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor stayed in! Inside this hotel, you'll find shops, a restaurant and a beautiful swimming pool.
• Jett's Restaurant
• El Camino Cafe
• Planet Marfa
Big Bend National Park
Camping & Car Camping:
The Chisos Basin Campground
Located in the park, this option gives you easy access to trail heads within the Chisos Basin, as well as visitor centers and stores. If you're lucky, at night the wind will howl through the Basin and give you some nice ambiance to sleep to. There are a few other options for car camping within the park, but if you can camp here - do it!
If you're into backpacking, Big Bend's backcountry sites are a must. For those needing clarification, 'backpacking' refers to hiking X amount of miles, with everything you need on you back, setting up your tent, and hiking out the next day. DO NOT consider it an option unless you are well prepared, especially in a park as rugged as Big Bend. That being said, there are some incredible campsites near the South Rim, where you can watch the sun set over Mexico. The Southeast Rim sites are fantastic as well. Be sure to check in with the visitor center for permits and availability.
Not quite Camping:
Located in Terlingua, Texas (~15 minutes outside of the park), if you love camping, but also want the luxury of taking a shower, this place is for you. They have a restroom and shower on site. We stayed here because we needed a last minute spot. Check in was super easy through Airbnb. There was WiFi too, which we usually don't care about but needed in order to finish planning our trip. We got to enjoy one of our favorite sunrises ever from this spot as well.
The Chisos Mountains Lodge & Cabins Located in the park, these cabins can be hard to find availability for, but look totally worth it. Their prime location makes them popular options for folks who want to wake up in the heart of Big Bend without worrying about packing up a tent. These are the only actual rooms available within the park.
**There are TONS of awesome B&B's located close to the park, in Terlingua, TX. We might do a whole separate blog on those**
Hikes in Big Bend National Park
Oh, where to begin...
There is absolutely no shortage of hiking in Big Bend. I could sit here and talk about different hikes, the best time of day to do them, and what camera lens I recommend you take for days! I'm just going to list out a bunch of hikes I love, and throw some photos underneath.. enjoy!
1. Emory Peak
The highest point in the park! I always love hiking to the highest point in any National Park I visit. This hike is totally doable at 10.5 miles round-trip - but start early and come back down before it gets too hot!
2. South Rim
The holy grail of views in Big Bend as far as I'm concerned... This hike can take a little bit longer than Emory Peak, about 13-14 miles, but is a must do. The only issue with this hike for me, is that it's up the same way as Emory Peak. Unless you're real fast, it's typically too much to do Emory Peak and the South Rim all at once, but if you do them on two separate days, it can feel like you're covering a lot of the same ground.. if that makes sense. But it's totally worth making whatever effort you have to, to get here. This hike is gorgeous and allows you to look into Mexico as the sun is setting.
3. Lost Mine
My personal favorite sunrise spot in the park! The trail is about 5 miles round-trip, but if you just hike up the first half mile, you'll come to a beautiful overlook where you can see the sun paint the mountains orange.
4. Balanced Rock
We started this hike after it got dark, and I'm happy we did. These are some of my favorite photos I've gotten in the park. It's a short 2.2 mile trail, and with a headlamp and flashlight we had no issues finding our way.
5. Santa Elena
I've never actually hiked the trail into Santa Elena Canyon, but driving down to the trail-head is a must! You can also do a 'boomerang' river trip from here! You paddle up stream as far as you want, and then come downstream back to this same spot.
6. Hot Springs
A hot spring right on the Rio Grande? Sign me up. There's a winding dirt road that will take you almost all the way to the spring. It's a short walk in, and if you're lucky like us, you'll find yourself as the only ones there!
7. Boquillas Canyon
There is a trail that goes to the top of the canyon, but we've only ever done the short trail to the river. With Mexico right across the river, this hike is as 'Big Bend' as they come.
8. Mule Ears
This is a beautiful dessert hike to the mountain formation that looks like..... you guessed it, MULE EARS! The photo below is not from the actual hike, but is a great shot of Mule ears.
9. Window Hike
"The Window"is the beautiful mountain formation pictured below. This is a 5.6 mile out and back trail that takes you from the Basin to the bottom of this formation. It's funny because it starts off downhill, and you'll feel fine hiking the first half.. but when you turn around to come back up, it gets a lot tougher!
Other Honorable Hikes
• Devil's Den
• Sam Nail Ranch
• Chimney Trail
• Cattail Falls
As mentioned above, you can also go on river trips along the Rio Grande. This is something that we highly recommend doing! We did a guided river tour through Far Flung Outdoor Center (FFOC) and it was a blast. We met some incredible people on this little trip, and FFOC even brought a little picnic with snacks for us at a halfway point. We want to head back out to do a trip, just us two, but that'll have to be some time down the road. Here are some photos from our trip!
Well everyone, That's it! We hope you enjoyed this blog. We covered A LOT, so some spots are a little more abbreviated, but we are always willing to answer questions you have! There's so much to see in West Texas so we tried to keep this a good length. Our next blog will probably go into more detail about a small region or town in Texas... let us know if you have suggestions! So, get out and explore this beautiful area of the United States and don't forget to ask us any questions you have! You can find us on Instagram @Andrewfisher7 &