West Texas is a great getaway to find a blend of charming towns, a look into history, and the great outdoors. Whether you’re looking to get away as a couple, or bring the whole family along, there are lots of places where you can explore safely and responsibly even amidst the current pandemic.
We were fortunate enough to get a taste of West Texas last year and have already made a list of more spots we want to check out next time we’re there. To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of five spots you should visit.
Recommended Length of Stay: 3 – 5 Days
During our visit, we started and ended our trip here, but it can easily be a stop on your West Texas road trip. El Paso, known as Sun City, is one of the sunniest cities in the world with approximately 300 sunny days a year. That gives you plenty of options, whether you’re into outdoor activities or you’d rather stay inside.
Start off your day at Franklin Mountains State Park. It is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., and you can hike one of its many trails or do a guided hiking tour of old mines. It’s also the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch to take a break before getting out to explore more.
After a long day enjoying the beautiful outdoors, head back to get washed up at your hotel. We stayed at the Stanton House, which is a brand new, chic hotel. If you’re like us, after a day out, we like to pamper ourselves a bit. So get dressed up and enjoy an upscale dinner at Taft & Diaz downstairs.
The next day, start your morning off by checking out the amazing street art in El Paso. There are beautiful murals and sculptures within walking distance of your hotel. After grabbing lunch, head to the El Paso Museum of Art to escape the heat. They have an amazing collection and feature artists from both El Paso and Juarez. In the evening, grab some food at L&J Cafe, which has been around since 1927 and popular among tourists and locals.
Hueco Tanks State Park
Recommended Length of Stay: 1 – 2 Days
Before you leave El Paso, head over to Hueco Tanks State Park for a day. Hueco Tanks is widely popular amongst rock climbers and boulderers, but even if you don’t climb, the crazy rock structures and beautiful landscape is a great place to get outside. There are plenty of hikes to explore, and you’ll definitely want to scramble up some of the boulders yourself.
We only had time to stop by for an afternoon and loved exploring the area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our climbing gear with us, but we’re definitely coming back to climb in the future.
Recommended Length of Stay: 2 – 3 Days
After spending time in the El Paso area, make your way over to Fort Davis. This is a great spot to escape the heat because of its high elevation. As you approach the Davis Mountains, you’ll see why it’s referred to as a sky island. The isolated mountain range is surrounded by an ocean of desert.
Starting in town, check out the Fort Davis Drug Store & Hotel, where you can get food and small supplies. From here, you should walk around town and check out some of the boutiques and architecture. Once you’re done, head over to the Fort Davis National Historic Site. It’s one of the best surviving examples of a frontier military post from the Indian War. Then, if you need to cool off, stop by the Herbert’s Caboose Ice Cream Shop, which is just across the street. Before leaving town, grab some food and supplies to pack a lunch for the next day. We recommend staying at the Indian Lodge, which is a beautiful spot to stay tucked into the mountains.
The next day, explore Davis Mountains State Park. A great place to start is at the Headquarters/Visitor Center, where you can get more information on hikes and points of interest. After exploring some hikes and picnicking for lunch, be sure you don’t miss the Skyline Drive. It’s the perfect spot for sunset and you can even see the Indian Lodge from up there.
If you’re into astronomy, stop by McDonald Observatory to look towards the night skies. They have daily tours and you’ll be amazed at what you can see from one of the darker skies in the US.
Recommended Length of Stay: 2 – 3 Days
No West Texas trip would be complete without a stop in Marfa. The artsy community is full of galleries, exhibits, unique restaurants, and beautiful architecture, not to mention, plenty of photo ops.
Start our out Ballroom Marfa to check out some modern art. You’ll also want to check out Prada Marfa, which is about 30 minutes outside of town, which is extremely popular on Instagram.
After getting your fill of art, grab some food in town. We had lunch at Pizza Foundation, which was delicious and had an outdoor seating area. They do get extremely busy, so it’s recommended to call your order in before you arrive.
In the afternoon, you can check into your hotel. We stayed at Hotel Paisano, which is centrally located and has a ton of history. If you’re a movie buff, check out their Giant memorabilia. After dropping off your stuff, walk around town to see the murals, and don’t miss the Presidio County Courthouse and Central Fire Station. These beautiful buildings are worth checking out and great places to snap a few photos. We especially loved the pink fire station.
Before it gets dark, head out to catch the Marfa Lights. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but ask the locals what their theories are about what these mysterious lights are.
The next day, head over to the Chinati Foundation, where you’ll find amazing contemporary art pieces big and small. In the afternoon, you can walk through the unique boutiques and artisan shops. When you’re ready to relax, head over to Planet Marfa for a drink, where you’ll find a huge teepee and school bus on the property. It’s a great spot to mingle with locals.
Find more things to do in Marfa from the Local Adventurer.
Recommended Length of Stay: 3 – 5 Days
Big Bend was the highlight of our trip. We love exploring National Parks and the Big Bend area is not only home to Big Bend National Park, but you can also check out the small communities in the area, like Lajitas, Terlingua Ghost Town, and Study Butte. We visited as many spots as we could during our short visit, but Big Bend covers a large area, so give yourself plenty of time to explore.
Start off in the park at the Panther Junction Visitor Center to get information and maps. Then head over to Terlingua or Lajitas to use as your home base. Terlingua Ghost Town is a great spot that’s popular with locals. Not only can you explore a historic church and beautiful cemetery, but you can also get a drink and some food at the local watering hole, Starlight Theatre, or check out the other small eateries in town.
For something a bit more upscale, head to Lajitas Golf Resort. You can spend the afternoon on the 18-hole golf course, or if you’re looking for something more exciting, they have zip line tours and Stand Up Paddle Boarding guides (SUP).
During your time in the park, explore each area on separate days so that you don’t get too tired from just driving around. To the southwest, drive along Ross Maxwell Drive for beautiful scenery. Stop in the Castolon Historic Compound to get a glimpse into the history of the area, and take in the views at the Santa Elena Canyon. For a great hike, check out the Window Trail.
The eastern area, which is the farthest, is home to the Langford Hot Springs, where you can go for a soak. Hike the Boquillas Canyon Trail and explore the Rio Grande Village. Before heading home, stop by the Balanced Rock hike.
On the last day, explore the west area close to home. Whether you just want to relax in town, play a round of golf, or SUP on the Rio Grande, there is plenty to do before you end your trip.
Note: More than ever, it’s important to travel safely and responsibly. Please keep these travel tips in mind when planning your trip:
- Wear a mask. Regardless if you have symptoms, masks protect you and the people around you. When wearing one properly, it should cover your nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands regularly. It also helps to have hand sanitizer or wipes with you when you are out so you can wipe down high-contact areas.
- Keep your distance. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, it is still safest to keep at least six feet apart.
- Avoid crowded areas. If you stop somewhere and it’s crowded, move on and come back later.
- Check current hours. Although a lot of places are open, most places are open at a limited capacity or limited hours. It’s best to call ahead or check online to see what their current policies are.
- Outdoor spots aren’t necessarily open either. If they are, not all their facilities will be up and running.
- If you show any signs of COVID-19, including a fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, or diarrhea, do not travel.
- If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, do not travel.
- The situation is fluid and constantly changing. Check the travel safely across Texas page for the most up-to-date information on state regulations. You can also find links to Texas cities to check their local rules and regulations.
- In addition, you can read what protocols are in place at hotels, restaurants, and parks during this time.
- Be respectful to other travelers as well as the employees working to keep places open by following these guidelines.