I never gave too much thought as to why the West Texas park known as Big Bend National Park was so-named. I found out when I took my first solo road trip to West Texas in December 2010. The trip would take me from Austin to Marathon – Alpine – Big Bend National Park – Terlingua Ghost Town – Marfa and Fort Davis Observatory in West Texas.
It was not a road trip planned in advance, the reason being I don’t much care for road trips and I don’t much care for winter either. Warmer than usual winter temperatures in Texas prompted me to explore the idea of a solo road trip.
A friend told me of a marvelous bed and breakfast she had stayed at in Marathon Texas – just a few miles from the entrance of Big Bend National Park. Eve’s Garden Organic Bed & Breakfast looked a little pricey by my standards at $190/night but the rooms looked gorgeous and I decided I deserved a year-end bonus for all my hard work.
There were no rooms available at the Chisos Mountain Lodge located within Big Bend National Park as these rooms are booked months in advance. Limited accommodation availability can be a downside to last-minute travel.
I emailed Eve’s Garden on December 18th to inquire about availability from the 25th onward and they had 3 nights so I booked it. The rest of the trip I left my accommodations to chance even though it was the Christmas holiday season.
I was arriving in Marathon Texas on Christmas Day and the population of the town is around 430 so I emailed Eve’s Garden to inquire as to whether there would be anyplace to buy dinner. Alaine responded by inviting me to their turkey dinner and I was delighted to accept!
The drive from Austin to Marathon Texas on Christmas day was great due to sparse traffic and the speed limit most of the way is 80/mph (128/km) which means I could set my little Yaris on cruise control at around 85 mph and enjoy the drive – sort of – there is nothing of interest west of the hill country town of Fredericksburg.
I made good time on the road and arrived in Marathon in early afternoon, the total drive being about 6 1/2 hours with one bathroom break in Fort Stockton. Before I left Austin I had reviewed a map of Marathon via google yet I was still surprised how small it was when I drove into town. Not even I could get lost in Marathon. I was greeted by Kate at Eve’s Garden Organic Bed and Breakfast and given a tour.
I enjoyed turkey dinner with all the fixin’s including fresh yams and potatoes from the garden and home-made bread. Everything was delicious and I felt right at home with Kate, Clyde, Alaine, Noble, and guests. I slept great that night. I enjoyed the breakfast prepared by Alaine each morning – each day something different and delicious – so wonderful to eat home cooked meals on the road. And great coffee! Surprisingly I have no food photos from this visit – and all the other photos were taken with my Blackberry Tour phone as I did not bring a proper camera with me so the quality is not so great. Will have to visit again to remedy that!
On December 26th I drove to Big Bend National Park for the first time – around 17 miles to the main gate from Marathon Texas. I visited Boquillas Canyon to do a little hiking and I will always remember the sound of someone singing in Spanish in the distance as I took this photo. I can hear him singing every time I envision this – a wonderful moment.
I stopped at every historical marker along the way in Big Bend National Park. It was educational and nice to get out and stretch the legs and take a wander around too.
The days were sunny and warm even though it was the end of December – highs reached into the upper teens (60’s in Fahrenheit) but the nights were chilly – getting down to around freezing each night.
I wasn’t quick enough to capture any photos of the various animals in the area but I did see hawks or golden eagles (edited: previously I erroneously stated I saw bald eagles, but one of my readers pointed out my mistake), lizards, javelinas (small wild pigs), and roadrunners which were my favorite!
I loved hiking around Big Bend National Park and enjoyed all the wide open spaces. I was often the only person in the area when I stopped along the road and rarely saw other vehicles along the way.
After my three nights at Eve’s Garden I packed up the car and said my goodbyes to Kate, Clyde, Alaine, and Noble. Alaine gave me some homemade scones to take with me on the road. Driving into Big Bend for my final visit I stopped at a Ranger’s station to use the facilities. While there I asked the ranger for advice on the most scenic route to take on my way through the park en route to Marfa in West Texas. He suggested I take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon.
The road is full of hills and twists and turns. The scenery is gorgeous and I stopped several times to read historical markers and to enjoy the views. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive took me to Santa Elena Canyon with a trail to the Rio Grande and voila! The Bend of Big Bend National Park!
I thoroughly enjoyed my road trip to Marathon Texas and Big Bend National Park and I hope you have the opportunity to experience this extraordinary place.
Solo Road Trip Tip for Big Bend National Park: Remember the temperature will vary drastically from higher elevation – much cooler – to lower elevations which will be the hottest. During hotter weather plan to visit the lower elevations in the mornings. Air temperature changes by 5 degrees F for every 1,000 feet of elevation (6 degrees Celsius per 1,000 meters) so plan your road trip packing list accordingly.
Here are some useful links to help you plan your own solo road trip to Big Bend National Park:
Plan Your Visit – National Parks Service – US government website – search for any park in USA
FAQ National Parks Service – Info about Big Bend National Park hours, fees, ATMs, weather, camping, fishing, lodging, showers, hot springs, border crossing to Mexico, and lots of other info.
I never was fond of road trips but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed my little solo road trip to West Texas.
Read about my latest solo road trip from Austin to West Texas in 2015 – the beginning of my nomadic lifestyle adventure.
Want to do some hiking? Read about my favorite hikes at Big Bend National Park
How about you? Do you love road trips or not so much?
Address: Main entrance on 1 Panther Drive, Big Bend National Park
Phone Number: +1-(432)-477-2251
Hours: Open 24 hours but entrance fee stations and visitor centers close at 4PM or 5PM, depending on the season. Check here for current information: Big Bend Operating Hours & Seasons.
Admission Cost (as of July 2015): $25 per vehicle or $12 per individual if entering without a vehicle. For more information, check here: Big Bend Entrance Fees.
Tours: Info on day hikes and river trips available on the National Parks Service website.
How to Get There: There is no public transportation. Check National Parks Service – directions for directions and transport information.