As a Native Texan, it is very important to make a trip “out West” at least once in your lifetime. Also, if you are not native to Texas or live in Texas, the term “out West” refers to West Texas, specifically the panhandle area: Marfa, Big Bend, El Paso and anywhere along the Rio Grande.
If you aren’t aware of the size of Texas, it takes around 12 hours to drive from East to West Texas. Its quite the haul, making it out West is not an easy day trip! Brad and I would always say how we wanted to go but never could find the right time to make it out there. We had driven through 2 years ago on our Road Trip to Wyoming, but did not make time to stop.
December opened up a sliver of hope for us to make it out so we took the opportunity!
New Year’s Day 2020 fell on a Wednesday, giving us a 4 day “weekend;” just enough time to spend 2 days in Big Bend and drive back. We packed up the truck and our newest member of the family, Daisy Belle (an adorable blue and white pitbull we rescued in July 2019). We rode off West early morning and made it to Big Bend roughly 12 hours later.
Normally, I will spend weeks preparing plans of trails to hike, local destinations and things to see and do. This time we went on a bit of a whim, with not many reviews or suggestions on specific hikes that “wowed” people other than crossing the Rio Grande for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Not sure as to what we were in for, I still checked the nps.gov site for important information.
Upon our arrival, we knew we needed to ask about specified trails and what would be available since we arrived on New Year’s Eve-Eve. There was good news and then there was bad news.
The bad news is that we couldn’t allow Daisy on the trails at all! Not seeing any information about dogs in parks on the Big Bend site page, we were very upset that we would not be able to trek with her like we originally planned. The boat crossing was also closed across the Rio Grande for the entirety of our time in Big Bend.
The good news is that we could take Daisy on 2-3 trails in Big Bend State Park (a neighboring park to the West).
Prior to this trip we never thought about taking our dogs to parks nor did we ever know you couldn’t take them in most (if any) unless they are service animals. Lessons were learned here!
We stopped just beyond the Visitor Center in a small dirt lot and let Daisy stretch her legs as we roamed some small dirt mounds in the desert. Then we drove further in heading closer to the Rio Grande.
The Santa Elena Canyon Trail was our first and only stop on the first day, we’d left poor Daisy in the car and walked the trail for a quick look around. Surprisingly it gets extremely cold this time of year here. We made it just in time to watch the sun start to set over the Mexican side of the Rio.
It took us almost 3 hours to get to this spot from the Visitor Center, going back the same route seemed exhausting. Instead we decided to take dirt road “short cut” where we bobbled and thumped cautiously to make up some time. We had only seen a few other vehicles on this road and a few sedans that we knew wouldn’t make it far before turning around for a smoother drive. Alas we made it to a normal road near Terlingua, yet we were still another 1-1/2 hours from our night’s stay at the “closest” hotel in Alpine, Texas.
Trust me when I say there is nothing around these parts.
Honestly, you’d be better off pitching a tent and camping in the park. There are hot springs in the park you can visit too! A dip in the morning or evening would be amazing and refreshing. Sadly we didn’t get the chance, but have heard it’s great!
If you do stay in Terlingua, Marfa or surrounding areas, BOOK IN ADVANCE–well in advance! These places fill up quickly. No joke!
Because we were so adamant about getting Daisy out on some trails, we headed to Big Bend State Park the next day. We rounded out the long way to enter through Presidio, its basically Mexico but stateside. You’ll see a few little businesses along the way. If you see a bakery, STOP!!!! You must get some delicious baked goods and tamales. They’re fresh!
There’s a few places to stop in BBSP, we made our first stop at the Hoodoos Trail (Dog Friendly) that leads down to the Rio Grande. Here you can get your paws in the water, which is exactly what we did. Daisy really enjoyed exploring this area. Use caution though as the waters have quite a current here and if you have small children or dogs they could get taken with the current if you aren’t careful.
BBSP is almost as big as Big Bend. From entry to entry its about 4-5 hours.
We also stopped at Closed Canyon Trail (Dog Friendly). Though its mostly canyon, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s “Dog Friendly.” Brad picked Daisy up for a few accents into the canyon. She did really well. Closed Canyon is nice because you can go as far as they canyon will let you until you hit water. Some spots might be full of water, preventing passage. On the way back up we finally ran into wildlife, just as I was starting to worry we wouldn’t see anything.
Then there was a wild Tarantula! No, I’m not kidding!
While we spent literally the entire day exploring BBSP, we drove through Terlingua on our way back to the hotel. This was the last day of 2019 and the sunset was on fire. I made brad pull over so we could watch the last sunset of the year. It was a perfect end to the trip!
After all the driving through the parks and not much hiking we decided that we should just head back to Houston. Since it would have taken an hour and a half to get back down to either park not being able to hike, there wasn’t much point. Instead we headed out to Marfa for a quick stop by the PRADA Marfa art installation that I’d been yearning to visit before heading home!
Though it was a long drive of a whole bunch of nothing and couldn’t have been more “strange.” Marfa is the land of aliens and weird stuff. So why not put a non functional Prada store front there! Needless to say it was perfect, we arrived and no one in sight!
Maybe we will make another trip out to try and conquer Big Bend or Maybe we will opt for Guadalupe National Park next time. For now at least we know what to expect in West Texas!
If you’ve made it out to Big Bend, tell me what hikes we missed or if you prefer Guadalupe!
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