If you’re in the mood for adventure and a subtle whiff of vast, pristine plains, then a West Texas road trip is right up your alley.
There are so many interesting sites to explore and charming towns with their own unique character in this part of Texas.
Also Read: 25 Best Things to do in West Texas
Start with Del Rio, the backdoor to Big Sky Country.. and explore the natural attractions at Lake Amistad.
From there make your way west to visit the ghost town of Langtry where Wild West legend Judge Roy Bean once held court.
Stop by Marfa to witness the stunning desert landscape and way out-of-this-world art installations before heading north to glamp under the stars in Big Bend National Park.
This would be a great place to pause for some outdoor activities like hiking or river rafting down the Rio Grande.
Be sure to see the fossils in Big Bend and imagine this area being a hunting grounds for beasts like the T-Rex and Deinosuchus!
Return to civilization throughout your journey for delicious regional eats like enchiladas, flavorful salsas, and some desert sotol.
Soak in the history and culture. Learn about oil industry at Midland. Dance to some good ol’ country tunes while taking in all that West Texas has to offer!
Here is an ultimate guide to planning a West Texas road trip.
West Texas Road Trip: Essential stops
Taking a road trip through West Texas is an adventure for anyone seeking some outdoor fun.
From the rugged deserts of El Paso to the unique beauty of Big Bend National Park, the area offers a variety of attractions.
Throughout the trip, travelers can explore diverse ecosystems and wide-open spaces with opportunities for activities such as camping, fishing, and horseback riding.
There are many charming towns that provide various cultural experiences while providing access to nature trails and lakes.
Here are the best places to stop on a West Texas road trip.
Del Rio is located on the northern banks of the Rio Grande in southwestern Texas.
It is the county seat of Val Verde County.
The city was founded in 1850s, and named after the nearby Rio Grande.
Today, Del Rio is known for its scenic beauty, bustling economy, and rich cultural heritage.
Visitors to Del Rio can enjoy a variety of activities, including shopping, dining, and exploring the city’s many parks and museums.
Some of the popular attractions in Del Rio include the Val Verde Winery, murals in Del Rio near Casa de la Cultura, and the Whitehead Memorial Museum.
The Laughlin Heritage Foundation Museum is also a great trip for aviation and military enthusiasts.
Read our post on Best Things to do in Del Rio, Texas for more information.
Lake Amistad National Recreation Area
Situated on the borders of Texas and Mexico, Lake Amistad National Recreation Area is a popular spot for fishing, boating, and swimming.
The lake itself is fed by the Rio Grande river and is known for its clear blue waters and scenic views.
Visitors to the area can enjoy hiking, camping, and picnicking in addition to water activities.
The recreation area also offers a variety of educational programs about the local ecosystem and wildlife.
One of our favorite trails in the area include the Diablo East Trails System.
Here you will find a couple of easy nature trails that offer great views of the lake, picnic tables, boat ramp, as well as a scenic drive.
Seminole Canyon State Historical Park
Located in southwest Texas, Seminole Canyon State Historical Park is home to a wealth of history and culture.
The canyon itself was formed by the Pecos River and is surrounded by steep cliffs.
This unique landscape has served as a home for humans for over 10,000 years.
Early inhabitants of the canyon include the Hunter-Gatherers, who left behind evidence of their lives in the form of rock art.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the Fate Bell Shelter to see the ancient rock art.
The park has many other trails and historic sites and is an excellent stop on your West Texas road trip.
Pecos River High Bridge Scenic Overlook
The Pecos High Bridge Scenic Overlook is one of the most popular attractions in Comstock, Texas.
The overlook provides breathtaking views of the Pecos River, steep canyon, and the Southern Pacific Railroad Bridge.
The overlook is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is accessible via a short paved trail.
Parking as well as picnic tables are available at the overlook.
The small town of Langtry is made famous by an iconic West Texas figure: Judge Roy Bean!
Judge Roy Bean named the town after the British actress Lillie Langtry, after being enamored with her.
Today, visitors can tour the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center, which tells the story of the town’s legendary former resident.
On a visit, you can see his artifacts as well as historical buildings including the saloon where he dispensed justice.
The Visitor Center contains many important items used by him on a daily basis as well as preserves his house in a good condition.
There is also a large cactus garden and botanical garden at the Visitor Centre with several hiking trails and native plants.
If you have the time, make a pitstop in Sanderson, Texas on Highway 90.
Charming town of Sanderson is known as the Cactus Capital of Texas.
You can take a stroll along the Cactus trail where you can see a variety of different cacti that grow in this region.
It is the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet of West Texas desert landscape.
Marathon, Texas is a small town located in the heart of the Big Bend region.
It is known as the eastern gateway to Big Bend National Park and is perfect for staying while you explore the park.
The town is surrounded by the beautiful mountains, pristine desert landscape, and the occasional springs.
Marathon is also home to the Gage Hotel, which is one of the most iconic hotels in West Texas.
Other attractions in Marathon, Texas include Gage Gardens, art galleries, and the history museum.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in America.
Located in West Texas, the park is home to a variety of landscapes, including mountains, deserts, and canyons.
Visitors can explore the park by hiking, camping, and birdwatching.
The park also contains a number of historical sites, such as pioneer farmsteads and adobe ruins.
In addition to its natural beauty, the park is also known for its dark skies.
On clear nights, stargazers can see thousands of stars, as well as the Milky Way galaxy.
Big Bend Fossil Exhibit
Start your trip to the national park from Marathon by visiting the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center.
From there, head to one of Big Bend’s highlights: Fossil Discovery Exhibit.
The Big Bend Fossil Discovery Exhibit is a unique display of the area’s rich paleontological history.
The exhibit features a wide variety of fossils, including some that are over 500 million years old as well as touchable casts of fossils.
Visitors can see fossils of ancient fish, amphibians, reptiles, and even early dinosaurs that once lived here.
In addition, the exhibit provides information about the park’s geology and how the fossils were formed.
Rio Grande Village
Rio Grande Village Unit of Big Bend is located in the far east side of the park.
The road here is very scenic and even has a famous tunnel.
The area is home to a number of hiking trails including the family friendly Rio Grande Nature Trail.
This trail takes you right up to the river.
It is fascinating to see the border of USA and Mexico up close.
You can even stand in the river water as you see Mexican lands across the banks.
Boquillas Canyon trail take you deep into the canyon while you can make a day trip to Mexico at the Boquillas crossing.
The popular Hot Springs Trail is also great for families: see historic ruins and soak in the hot springs.
The Chisos Mountains are a mountain range located in the Big Bend National Park in Texas.
The range is home to the tallest mountain in Texas, Emory Peak, which stands at an elevation of 7,825 feet.
The Chisos Mountains are a popular destination for hikers and campers, as they offer stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.
The mountains are also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and cougars.
You will find several popular trails here including the strenuous Window Trail and Lost Mine Trail.
Little legs can easily do the paved, about a mile long roundtrip Window View Trail to enjoy amazing views.
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is one of the most popular attractions in Big Bend National Park.
The road winds through canyons, mountains and desert landscapes, providing stunning views of the park’s unique geology.
Along the way, visitors can stop at overlooks to enjoy panoramic vistas or take short hikes to explore narrower canyons and arroyos.
The drive takes about three hours to complete, and provides an unforgettable experience.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
For many visitors to Big Bend region and West Texas, Santa Elena Canyon trail is the highlight of their visit.
The trailhead is located at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, and the trail follows the Rio Grande for approximately one mile before ending at a beautiful overlook of Santa Elena Canyon.
The canyon, with its sheer walls and the river flowing through, is a sight to behold.
The trail is relatively flat and easy to hike, making it a great choice for families with young children or for those looking for a leisurely stroll.
However, the heat can be intense during the summer months, so be sure to bring plenty of water and start hiking early in the day.
During flooding, the creek crossings on the trail can be too deep and you’ll be in for a hearty scramble up the mountainside.
Ghost town of Terlingua
Terlingua was once a thriving mining town, and its abandoned buildings now stand as a testament to its early prosperity.
In the early 1900s, Terlingua was a bustling hub of activity, with two mines producing cinnabar, the ore used to produce mercury.
However, by the 1940s, both mines had been closed and Terlingua had become a ghost town.
Today, Terlingua is a popular destination for tourists visiting the Big Bend region.
Visitors can explore the abandoned mines and buildings, wander through the cemetery, and even camp out into the desert.
Many glamping options such as yurts and tikis are located in Terlingua, making it another great base to explore Big Bend National Park.
If you’re looking for a remote and scenic stop on your West Texas road trip, Lajitas, Texas is the perfect destination.
Situated on the edge of Big Bend National Park, Lajitas offers stunning views of the Chihuahuan Desert.
The area is home to a variety of wildlife, including javelina, deer, and quail.
Visitors to Lajitas can enjoy hiking, camping, and horseback riding in the nearby Big Bend National Park.
They can also relax in the luxurious Lajitas Resort, which offers a golf course, spa, and restaurants.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Located in far west Texas, Big Bend Ranch State Park is a true hidden gem.
It is the largest state park in Texas.
The park is home to a diverse array of plants and animals, as well as stunning geological features.
Visitors can camp, hike, bike, and horseback ride through the park.
Popular attractions in Big Bend Ranch State Park include Sauceda Historic District, Fort Leaton, and the scenic River Road.
Big Bend Ranch State Park River Road
Big Bend Ranch State Park’s River Road is the best kept secret in far West Texas!
The road follows the course of the Rio Grande, offering stunning views of the river and the surrounding mountains.
Along the way, there are several turnouts and pull-offs where visitors can stop to enjoy the view or take a short hike.
Hike the Closed Canyon Trail for an adventure through a narrow slot canyon while you keep watch for mountain lions!
Enjoy a picnic at the Contrabando movie set and see the beautiful hoodoos.
The around 115 miles long road connects Lajitas and Terlingua with Presidio and takes about half a day to see at a leisurely pace.
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Fort Leaton State Historic Site is located in West Texas, near the Mexico border.
The fort was built by Ben Leaton, a trader who operated a store and trading post at the site.
The fort served as a base for Leaton’s trading operations and was also used as a refuge from hostile Indians.
Today, it is a state historic site that includes a museum with artifacts from the fort’s past.
Visitors can also explore the buildings and grounds of the fort on a self guided tour, which provide a glimpse into what life was like for the settlers who once called it home.
Presidio is a sleepy border town located on the Rio Grande, across the river from Mexico.
It is a gateway community for Big Bend Ranch State Park and the surrounding area.
While there is not a lot to do in Presidio, it is worth a quick stop to see the murals and the beautiful Santa Teresa Church.
Shafter is a ghost town on the way from Alpine to Presidio.
The town was named after General William Shafter, who led American troops during the Spanish-American War.
Visitors can explore the abandoned buildings, mines in Shafter Historic District, and take a stroll down Cibolo Creek.
Alpine, located in the Chihuahuan Desert, is known for its beautiful hiking trails and scenic views.
In addition to its natural beauty, Alpine is also home to a number of historical landmarks, such as the Sul Ross State University and the Museum of the Big Bend.
The town has a lively cultural scene and you will find plenty of art galleries, street art, and shopping on Main Street.
Marfa is a small town in the high desert of West Texas.
It’s home to art galleries, artists’ studios, and a vibrant arts scene spearheaded by minimalist artist Donald Judd and his Chinati foundation in the 1970s.
It’s also home to the mysterious Marfa Lights, strange flickering lights that have been seen in the night sky for centuries.
Some say the lights are a natural phenomenon, while others believe they’re ghosts or aliens.
No one knows for sure, but the mystery of the Marfa Lights adds to the town’s allure.
Marfa is also a popular destination for stargazing.
The clear night skies and lack of light pollution make it an ideal spot for watching the stars.
Located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, Fort Davis is a small town with a rich history.
Founded in 1854, the town was named after then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis.
It served as an important outpost during the Indian Wars, and later became a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail route.
Today, Fort Davis is home to a number of historical landmarks, including the Fort Davis National Historic Site.
The fort has been beautifully preserved, and its buildings and grounds provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the Texas Frontier.
The town is also known for its picturesque setting, nestled among the majestic peaks of the Davis Mountains.
Davis Mountains State Park
Davis Mountains State Park is a unique and beautiful spot.
With its elevation, the park offers cooler temperatures than much of the surrounding area, making it a popular spot for camping, hiking, and picnicking.
The highlight of the park, however, is its scenic drive.
Winding through mountains and canyons, the drive offers stunning views of the landscape.
Along the way, there are several overlooks where visitors can pull off and enjoy the view.
McDonald Observatory is one of the best places to learn more about the incredible West Texas sky.
The Observatory is operated by the University of Texas at Austin and has several prominent telescopes: the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, the Otto Struve Telescope, and the Harlan J. Smith Telescope.
The Observatory is also home to a variety of research programs, including the Dark Energy Survey and exoplanet studies.
In addition to its research programs, the Observatory offers public tours and educational programs for all ages.
Visitors can take part in stargazing nights, learn about the history of astronomy, and even see firsthand how researchers use the telescopes to study the universe.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in West Texas and is home to the Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.
The landscape of the park is diverse, with canyons, desert plains, woodlands, and even gypsum dunes.
There are also a variety of animals that call the park home, including deer, coyotes, and snakes.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a popular destination for hikers.
The popular Guadalupe Peak trail is one of the best hiking trails in Texas.
The park also offers opportunities for camping, horseback riding, and bird watching.
El Paso, located on the border with Mexico, has a rich history and culture.
The city is known for its beautiful scenery, with mountains, desert landscapes, and the Rio Grande river.
El Paso is also home to a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries, museums, and performance venues.
Fort Stockton is the county seat of Pecos County and a sleepy little town.
Despite its size, there are plenty of things to do in Fort Stockton.
One popular attraction is the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum, which is devoted to the history of the town and the surrounding area.
Another must: See the historic Fort Stockton, established to protect the San Antonio El Paso mail route.
The Fort Stockton Visitor Center is also worth a stop to learn about the history of the Comanche Springs.
Best Time to Visit West Texas
The best time of year for a visit to West Texas has to be springtime.
During this season, the landscape is lush and blooming with wildflowers that cover the hillsides and create a unique display of vibrant colors.
The temperature is also no longer scorching as it sometimes gets during summer months.
Also, many animals come out of hibernation or migrate during this time so you are likely to catch glimpses of amazing wildlife throughout your journey.
Late fall through mid winter is another great time to visit.
The average temperatures in November reach highs of around 78 degrees Fahrenheit and lows below 53, providing a pleasant ambiance as you explore.
Not only should you pack sunscreen and a hat for your trip for when you spend time outdoors, but don’t forget to bring layers so that you can bundle up at night.
Summers in West Texas are extremely hot and dry and we would not recommend planning a trip then.
A West Texas road trip is an unforgettable experience.
From the dramatic views of the Davis Mountains to the desolate beauty of Big Bend National Park, you will find adventure, solitude, and memorable moments on this drive.
Make sure to include stops at iconic locations like Marfa and Marathon for a few nights of camping under starlit skies.
Along the way, explore forgotten ghost towns in sprawling deserts and hike canyons flush with cacti.
What are your favorite places to visit in West Texas? When are you planning a West Texas road trip? Let us know below.