Exploring the Gateway Towns near Big Bend National Park
Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Texas lies Big Bend National Park, an awe-inspiring expanse of desert landscapes, towering mountains, and sinuous river canyons. While the park offers a remote sanctuary for nature enthusiasts, a handful of nearby towns provide convenient lodging, dining options, and a taste of the local culture for visitors. Let's explore what these neighboring locales have to offer.
Often referred to as the “Gateway to the Big Bend,” Marathon is situated about 40 miles north of the park. This small town is an ideal first stop for visitors on their way to Big Bend. Hotel options include the historic Gage Hotel, which has been serving travelers since 1927. With its classic Texas charm and beautiful gardens, the Gage Hotel also houses the 12 Gage Restaurant, offering a fine dining experience emphasizing regional flavors and local ingredients.
Steeped in mining history and known for its ghost town, Terlingua is perhaps the most famous town near Big Bend. Roughly a 30-minute drive from the western entrance of the park, Terlingua provides a rustic yet magical experience for those seeking the full Big Bend atmosphere. Lodging here ranges from hotels to vacation rentals, such as the Big Bend Holiday Hotel. Dining in Terlingua is an adventure in itself, with local venues like the Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon offering Tex-Mex favorites and live entertainment.
Sandwiched between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, Lajitas is another popular stop for travelers. The resort town is home to the Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa, which offers luxury accommodations, a golf course, and eateries such as the Candelilla Café. Guests can enjoy Southwestern cuisine with picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.
Though not as close to the park as the other towns (about an hour and a half drive to the north), Alpine serves as a more significant commercial hub for the region and offers larger accommodations such as the Holland Hotel and several other motels and bed-and-breakfasts. For dining, visitors can indulge in local brews and hearty pub fare at the famous Reata Restaurant, well-known for its Alpine-inspired cuisine.
Approximately 100 miles to the north of Big Bend National Park is the historic town of Fort Davis. While a bit further afield, it is an excellent base for also exploring the Davis Mountains. The Fort Davis Inn & RV Park is among the local hospitality options. The Drug Store is the town’s quaint diner renowned for serving tasty homemade dishes with a side of nostalgia.
Famous Dishes to Try
When visiting Big Bend National Park and its surrounding areas, certain culinary delights are not to be missed. Traditional Texan barbecue, chili, and Tex-Mex dishes, such as enchiladas and tacos, dominate menus, offering an authentic taste of the Southwest. Another local favorite is the flavorful venison, often prepared as steaks or in stews.
Chile rellenos, stuffed poblano peppers, and tamales are also staple dishes beloved by visitors and locals alike. For the sweet tooth, the pecan pie is a must-try, crafted using Texas-grown pecans.
Given the rural setting, many local restaurants pride themselves on using fresh, regionally-sourced ingredients, making each dining experience unique to the area.
To help plan your Big Bend adventure, consider the following websites for more detailed information on accommodations, dining, and the local culture:
- Visit Big Bend
- National Park Service - Big Bend National Park
- Big Bend Chamber of Commerce
- Texas Monthly – Big Bend Travel Guide
These resources offer extensive guides on what to do, where to stay, and how to make the most of your visit to the Big Bend region. Whether you seek the serenity of rugged landscapes or the charm of small-town Texas, the towns near Big Bend National Park will ensure your needs are well taken care of during your exploration of this majestic part of the Lone Star State.