West Texas is without a doubt one of the most unique regions in the nation. It is teeming with intriguing cultural attractions, odd, aged communities, and an enormous amount of natural beauty.
An eclectic former ghost town, two breathtaking national parks (as well as several state parks), natural hot springs, top-notch art, and an altogether otherworldly landscape that, in many places, feels more like the moon than Planet Earth can all be found in this legendary area of the Lone Star State.
West Texas is a terrific destination if you want to combine the natural outdoors with quaint communities and historical exploration. There are many locations you can explore safely and responsibly even in the midst of the current pandemic, whether you’re looking to go as a couple or bring the entire family.
Best Places to Visit in West Texas
We had the good fortune to experience West Texas last year, and we’ve already established a list of more places we want to visit when we return. We’ve compiled a list of five places you should see to assist you in planning your vacation.
1. State Park at Big Bend Ranch
The national park’s friendly partner, which has spectacular rock formations, steep valleys, and the desert beauty of West Texas, may be found if you drive a little further west of the park.
Watch out for the motorcycle groups that are prowling the area while you enjoy the arid splendor of the West Texas countryside.
2. State Park at Hueco Tanks
Hueco Tanks, just west of El Paso, is a place of enormous stone formations and undulating hills. The so-called “tanks” are actually huge rocks that formerly contained water, which ancient people drank to stay hydrated.
With a unique environment and traces of the people who once depended on its water sources, it’s a beautiful area to trek, climb, or camp. The park has a lot of green vegetation despite being in West Texas.
3. Leaton, Fort
Fort Leaton, an old Texan building that serves as a historical monument and visitor center for the surrounding area, is located near the entrance to Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Midway through the 1800s, the Leaton family built this fort as a US-Mexico trading post, where a protracted, complicated history of politics and murder took place.
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It still exists as an adobe complex that you can visit to learn more about West Texas’s past and its evolving relationship with Mexico.
You might be surprised to learn that this area has a whole town dedicated to hosting artists from all over the world. This location is unique to anywhere else in the globe, dotted with art galleries, food trucks serving home-cooked meals, and hipsters wearing vibrantly patterned shirts and dandelion-yellow chinos.
In Marfa, there is something peculiar or unusual to see around every turn. The fabled Marfa Lights, which suddenly and inexplicably light up the sky in the night, are also located there. Perhaps there is one…You’ll simply have to go and investigate on your own.
5. National Park of the Guadalupe Mountains
Guadalupe Mountains National Park needs some love because it is the ninth most frequented national park in the United States.
This stunning national park in the mountains is easily accessible from El Paso. There are several breathtaking cliffs and rock formations on its landmass. The golden-red dust and sharp rocks you can see in the picture above make up the majority of the park for kilometers.
6. International Ferry to Boquillas
There is a border crossing that the US government formally recognizes deep within Big Bend National Park.
From here, you can ride the $5 per person Boquillas International Ferry to the Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen located on the other side of the raging Rio Grande.
Although it seems like a feat, doing this is actually a very peaceful experience. You can swim or wade across the Rio Grande into Mexico, the US customs official will advise you when you arrive at the border.
Stiles might be the destination for you if ghost towns are what you’re looking for. The Reagan County Courthouse is located in the middle of this modest Texas town. It used to be the neighborhood’s main courthouse, serving the local populace.
The courthouse was destroyed in a fire started by an unidentified arsonist in 1999, but its remains are still visible today. You can clearly tell it was once a stunning, central structure despite the fact that the building and nearby structures fell into disrepair.
Just to the north of Big Bend National Park is the village of Terlingua. Basically, it’s your typical adorable desert village. This neighborhood is distinguished by its brightly colored houses and food trucks, odd kitschy art projects, and a few tumbleweeds.
Despite its small size, the town has a few West Texas motels (imagine the style of No Country for Old Men), a little ghost town, and a few isolated patches of stores and cafes.
A yearly chili cookoff is also held there, attracting visitors from all over the world to taste chili in the middle of nowhere. It sounds like fun.
9. McDonald Research Center
McDonald Observatory was built at Fort Davis, Texas, in a prime location for the dark sky in order to discover more about the cosmos.
The observatory is a working science facility that anyone can visit to learn more about planets, stars, and space. It is funded by the University of Texas.
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It’s a bit of a drive to get there—about 3 hours from both Midland and El Paso. You’ll undoubtedly discover that the journey was worthwhile once you see the pitch-black, starry skies.
10. State Park at Hueco Tanks
Spend a day at Hueco Tanks State Park before you depart from El Paso. Rock climbers and boulderers love Hueco Tanks, but even if you don’t climb, you can still get outside and enjoy the amazing rock formations and scenery.
There are several walks to discover, and you should definitely climb some of the boulders on your own.
Most people have one of two images in mind when they think of Texas: either the eastern trifecta of Austin, Houston, and Dallas, or cowboys, tumbleweeds, and saloons.
If the latter interests you in any way, you might be surprised to hear that this region of Texas has a very interesting history.
West Texas has an interesting past; perhaps this explains why there are so many undiscovered gems there now. It’s a treasure mine of intriguing places, filled with state parks, artistic hipster communities, and scientific observatories.