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Big Bend National Park/Study Butte, Terlingua & Lajitas


Big Bend National Park:
At over 800,000 acres, visitors can get their fill of hiking, biking, birding, camping, exploring, laying in the hot springs or enjoying the magnificent views the park has to offer. Visitors can elect to participate in the many interpretive tours offered by park rangers or private individuals, or just go off on their own explorations. Elevations in the park range from 1800’ above sea level at the Rio Grande River, to 7825’ at Emory Peak in the Chisos Mountains. The main feature of Big Bend National Park is its unique diversity. From the banks of the Rio Grande to the Basin in the Chisos mountains, there can be found such diversity in climate, terrain, and vegetation, choosing the right activity may actually be a bit of a difficulty. As a rule, we suggest exploring the lower elevations during the morning, and higher elevations in the afternoons.  During your visit, it will soon become apparent; no trip to West Texas would be complete without a visit to Big Bend National Park!

The north entrance to Big Bend National Park is located 40 miles south of Marathon on Highway 385. Continue another 30 miles to the main visitor center at Panther Junction. This is the intersection that will take you Southeast to Rio Grande village, the hot springs, village of Boquillas and related attractions, or west to the turn off to the Basin, Ross Maxwell Scenic drive, Castolon, Santa Elena Canyon or west entrance at Study Butte/ Terlingua as well as attractions unique to the west side.

Sample Itinerary

Day One:  Leave Marathon around 9:00am. Drive to Panther Junction, turn left toward Rio Grande Village. There’s many attractions along the way, however, the main points of interest featured on this road are the Hot Springs, Rio Grande Village, and no visit would be complete without a visit to the remote Mexican village of Boquillas! Depending on the time spent at each point of interest, the visitor can expect to be back in Marathon in time for cocktails and dinner!

Day Two: Upon arriving at the intersection at Panther Junction, turning right will take the visitor
to the ‘Chisos Basin’, located in the Chisos Mountains which serves as the natural pour off for the mountains. There you’ll find many hiking trails, dining, lodging, and shopping. At an elevation of over 5000’, the vegetation and cool climate make for a very comfortable visit.

Past the turn off for the Basin, there are numerous hiking trails, but continuing west will take you to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. This road provides the visitor with many spectacular views the park has to offer as well as leads to the historic trading post of Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon.

For higher clearance vehicles, the loop can be completed back to the West Entrance of the park via the ‘Old Maverick Road’. Sites along the way include the original site of Terlingua, also known as Terlingua Abaja and Gilbert Luna’s Jacal. The West Entrance leading out will take the visitor to the communities of
Study Butte, the Ghost Town of Terlingua and 15 miles to the west on Highway 170, the town of Lajitas. Farther west on Highway 170, very popular with the motorcycle enthusiasts, is probably one of the most  striking scenic drives along the Rio Grande River also know as the River Road(not to be confused with  the road of the same name in the National Park) hilly and winding, it will ultimately lead to Big Bend  State Park, the town of Redford, Ft. Leaton, and the Border town of Presidio.

The most popular drive however is the loop, starting in Marathon traveling Highway 385 through the park to communities of Terlingua/Study Butte, then north on Highway 118 to Alpine, then east on Highway 90 back to Marathon arriving in time for, you guessed it, cocktails and dinner.

There are obviously many activities to be enjoyed in Big Bend National Park Region. Many factors should be considered such as time of the year, weather, length of stay, back country excursions, etc. This description is to serve as a sampling of what is available as a day trip from Marathon. Additional information should be obtained at any of the visitors centers located in the park.

We hope you have an enjoyable and memorable stay!

Helpful Links:

Big Bend Lodging/Dining/Shopping
Terlingua/Study Butte
Far Flung Adventures
Desert Sports
Rio Aviation(scenic flights over Big Bend)
Big Bend River Tours
Big Bend Overland Tours
Big Bend Stables
Lajitas Stables


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