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Tips For Wandering Far West Texas

A Few Reasons to Wander

Because it’s not every day you get out to West Texas.  

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

  • Big Bend Ranch State Park – It may be less than half the size of the national park, but at 486 square miles, it is our largest state park and—with its deep canyons, volcanic mountain ranges, 238 miles of multiuse trails, and preponderance of zone camping (i.e., no designated sites)—well worth a visit, especially when Big Bend starts to feel just a little bit crowded. Get oriented at Fort Leaton or the Barton Warnock Visitor Center before hitting the backcountry.
  •  Fort Davis – The Fort Davis National Historic Site, a well-preserved Army outpost from 1854, is a must for history buffs, and nature lovers will appreciate the wildlife-rich hiking trails at Davis Mountains State Park, just three miles from town. But the must-stop is McDonald Observatory, atop Mount Locke, where state-of-the-art telescopes and star parties offer a new understanding of the universe. 
  • Alpine – Check out arrowheads from the Livermore Cache and one of the state’s largest collections of maps at the Museum of the Big Bend, on the Sul Ross State University campus, then peruse the eclectic array of saddleries, jewelers, and galleries on Holland Avenue. Finish with craft beer at Big Bend Brewing Company, which opened in 2012. 
  • Stillwell Ranch – Hallie Stillwell was a sharpshooting rancher who later served as justice of the peace for Brewster County. Today the general store on her legendary spread, just seven miles from the park’s entrance at Persimmon Gap, is a welcoming place to gas up, grab a cold drink, and hear stories of the olden days. (Also, there’s free Wi-Fi!) Don’t skip Hallie’s Hall of Fame Museum. 
  • Balmorhea State Park – The spring-fed swimming hole here is nearly two acres and stays an average of 74 degrees year-round. Its clear waters are a draw for landlocked scuba divers, though even casual swimmers will be able to spot tetras and catfish. Restored cienegas, rare desert wetlands, provide habitat for endangered gambusia and migratory birds. 

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