who find their way to this land of enchantment.
Located in far West Texas, the park is nestled in the bend of the Rio Grande River along the TexasMexico border. It’s a long way from anywhere, but getting there can be part of the fun. If you’re flying, the closest airport is Midland/ Odessa. From there, you’ll have about a 200-mile drive to the park’s east entrance. Along the way, stop in Fort Stockton, if only to see Paisano Pete, one of the most recognizable roadside attractions in the Southwest. The town’s unofficial mascot was erected in 1980 and declared the largest roadrunner in the world at 11 feet tall and 22 feet long. “Pete” has been an enduring symbol of the community since his arrival and is one of the most photographed “birds” in the world.
You also might want to stop for an overnight in Marathon, a quaint high desert town that serves as the gateway to the park. Some folks make it their base as it’s centrally located to many of the area’s attractions. There are a variety of lodging options in Marathon, including the renowned Gage Hotel, recently ranked the top hotel in Texas by Condé-nast. This distinctive historical property has been designated a Texas treasure. Each room is finely appointed with artifacts and authentic furnishings from the diverse cultures of West Texas. Dining at the hotel’s 12 Gage Restaurant is a must. The awardwinning establishment offers Texasinspired specialties with a gourmet twist. In the upscale dining room, you’ll be surrounded by cowboy chic décor, while the outdoor patio with its fireplaces and fountains provides an intimate and romantic al fresco setting.
There’s also a full service spa, swimming pool and fitness center on site, as well as nearby Gage Gardens: 27 lush acres with lovely ponds, fountains, rose garden, vineyard, fruit orchard, native landscaped park, walking trail and nine-hole putting green. Eve’s Garden is another unique lodging option in Marathon. This innovative organic B&B is constructed with papercrete, a light-weight, alternative building material comprised of a mixture of recycled paper, sand, clay and cement. The place is a remarkable feat that’s been a labor of love for owner Kate Thayer, along with her son Noble Baker and daughter-in-law Alaine Berg, as well as former construction manager, Clyde Curry. Large indoor organic gardens bloom with roses, bougainvillea and countless flowers, while the seven distinct, handcrafted guest rooms open to a central covered courtyard with a pond and tea room. Walls are painted in contemporary Mexican colors that give the space a bright, joyful aura, and local artwork is incorporated within the decor. There’s even a solar-heated lap pool and a stargazing deck to take in those memorable starry Texas nights.
For those who wish to stay right in Big Bend, there’s one lodge in the park, as well as several campgrounds. The Chisos Mountain
Lodge, located in the Chisos Basin, is a well-situated, full-service property. From there you can access many popular hiking trails and major sites of interest. To orient yourself, make sure to stop at the Panther Junction Visitor Center, where you’ll find friendly park rangers ready to answer all your questions. They’ll steer you in the direction of the perfect hike. With over 200 miles of trail, it’s helpful to get some guidance. There are also several interactive exhibits at the center which provide an overview of geology and natural and cultural histories of the park, as well as an introductory movie that does a commendable job of showcasing the park’s bold landscape.
Chisos Mountains Basin, nestled among the stunning, cloudkissed Chisos Mountain peaks, is in the heart of Big Bend. These spectacularly eroded mountains rise nearly 8,000 feet and are akin to an island in the desert. If you have limited time, take a walk along the Window View Trail for easy access to mountain vistas and a memorable sunset view. The Basin Loop is another short hike for an overlook of the basin area. For a hike with elevation, take the Lost Mine trail. It’s of medium distance and difficulty and provides a maximum of views, but no mine. The trail gets its name from a legend that suggests that a secret mine existed in the area. Story has it that workers were blindfolded before being brought to the mine to work and so could not disclose the location of the mine. Later, they were supposedly killed by local Comanche, and the mine closed up to hide its location. As you’re hiking, you’ll spot Casa Grande Peak, and once you’re at the top, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent vista of Juniper Canyon and the South Rim.
Another highlight in the park is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Big Bend’s geologic splendor is on display via the many scenic overlooks and exhibits along this route. Of note is Castolon Peak,with its multiple layers revealing millions of years of volcanic events, and Mule Ears, a formation that perfectly fits its name. Continue the drive to famed Santa Elena Canyon,