Big Bend Country is vast, and you can think of Alpine as something like its hub. The town of some 6,000 serves as the homebase, the heartbeat, for all the area’s adventures. And while it does rack up trendy, cultural experiences—think food trucks and museums, lofty hotels and street art—Alpine still holds onto its authentic West Texas character.

When you visit, you should certainly make use of your car to explore the surrounding wonders of Big Bend Country. But don’t neglect to get to know Alpine itself, preferably via your own two feet. Here’s some of what you’ll find.

Vibrant downtown colors...

The first thing you’ll probably notice walking around downtown Alpine is the sheer amount of color. Street art—mostly murals by local artists depicting the area’s heritage—adorn many buildings, and they fit right in with the town’s artistic shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Start on the corner of 5th and Holland and walk south down 5th Street, taking a right on Murphy. Along this short stroll, you should be able to spot nine different murals. Head back north up 7th to W Ave E, hang a right, and look for an alley between 5th and 6th. Some dozen more dazzling beauties are hidden here.

Tip: The town’s street art isn’t a new trend—Alpine’s been creating for decades. There’s a beautiful map of the Big Bend region inside the Museum of the Big Bend (on the campus of Sul Ross State University in town) that dates to 1940. “View of Alpine,” which takes up two sides of the medical center, was created the same year. “Big Brewster,” though, is perhaps the town’s best-known piece, covering the Kiowa Gallery. It welcomes visitors with an all-things-Alpine art lesson—in technicolor.

...and vibrant local history.

Alpine stayed off the map long enough that no urban development came for the town’s historic districts, no big-box stores came for the darling shops and boutiques, and few chain restaurants took root along the main drag. As a result, it holds onto its early-20th-century atmosphere, and today it’s one of West Texas’ historic gems.

You can either lace up your boots and tackle a historic walking tour, or opt for the designated “Alpine Historic Windshield Tour.” Grab a map, and—either way—you’ll be able to scout out adobe homes from the 1800s, Alpine’s turn-of-the-century hospital, Victorian homes, Indigenous sites, old saloons, historic jails, Depression-era theaters and plenty of Mission-style architecture. The walking tour alone has 44 stops!

Higher education on Hancock Hill

In 1981, three students at the local Sul Ross State University left a mark on the town’s landscape that can still be seen today. If you hike up Hancock Hill, immediately northeast of the university, you’ll spot the school desk they carried up and left at a commanding viewpoint near the top. A notebook sits in its drawers, filled with decades’ worth of stories, signatures, poems and love letters.

To find the desk, take Entrance 4 to the top of the hill, and look for a trail. Once you’re near the bicycle tree—further proof of the town’s quirky creativity—you’re close. Don’t get too distracted by the art installations, though, as the West Texas scenery spreading out below you deserves attention, too.

A historic home-away-from-home

Most 6,000-person towns might offer you a chain hotel if you’re lucky, but not in Alpine. The Holland Hotel, which anchors the historic downtown, is a regional landmark. The Maverick Inn similarly dates from the 1930s. And the Alpine Bed and Breakfast, just three blocks from downtown’s heart, is a renovated 124-year-old, single-story, 3,200-square-foot home with just four guest rooms and an acre of space to spread out in. And that’s just the beginning of the list!

Note: Alpine lies within a couple hours of Big Bend National Park, Davis Mountains State Park, Monahans Sandhills State Park, Fort Davis National Historic Site, Big Bend Ranch State Park and many other incredible West Texas attractions. With one-of-a-kind lodging here, you’re a stone’s throw from the wide-open outdoors.

Downtown shops, boutiques and galleries

Take a look at Alpine’s events calendar: farmers markets, art walks, music festivals and even a Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Alpine’s citizens are hard at work keeping the community buzzing. Their we-create-it mentality shows itself around downtown as well, and has resulted in an only-in-Alpine grab bag of things to do.

On your strolls—with Cedar Coffee in hand—check out the cactus-and-orange Murphy Street Mercado, Francois Fine Arts Gallery, Big Bend Saddlery, Spradley Hats, Judy’s Bread & Breakfast, Alley View Gallery and other unique local businesses. Combine this with a street-art hunt, and you might just want to tack on an extra day in Alpine so your walking tour isn’t left half-finished.