Texas Road Trip From Austin to Alpine Marfa Big Bend and More

I found some cool places to visit during my Texas road trip vacation so I’m going to share with you some of the best of the west TX travel spots. Living in Austin for over 15 years I took lots of short road trips, mostly day trips or weekend getaways. Since driving from Austin to Alpine takes about 6 hours it’s best to stay for a week or more.

When I began a long-term road trip around the USA and Canada I chose the small Texas town of Alpine as the first stop. Staying for eight days I had time to explore the surrounding towns and I enjoyed it so much I returned to spend another week in Alpine Texas.

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Big Bend National Park, looking out to clear blue sky and mountain landscape of the Window Trail

A view towards the Window Trail hike at Big Bend National Park

 

Alpine is the perfect West TX road trip base

Alpine is a great base to explore west Texas. Marfa, Fort Davis, Marathon, Balmorhea, Big Bend National Park, Big Bend State Park, and Terlingua are all great places to go in Texas. And you can easily get to all of these places from Alpine.

Accommodation in Alpine tends to be more plentiful and less expensive than other nearby towns.

On my first road trip to west Texas in December 2010 I only stopped in Alpine for a few hours so now I wanted to spend some time and get to know Alpine.

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West Texas road trip to Marfa plus hiking at Big Bend National Park

 

Alpine Texas accommodations

Since I am working while traveling I am booking a whole house or apartment through Airbnb (click for your FREE credit for first stay on Airbnb) because I want privacy and room to work. Prior to this trip I always booked just a room so that I could save some money. The other benefit of booking just a room on Airbnb is to stay with local people so that I can enjoy some conversation with them and get tips about the area. This was especially helpful on my first solo trip to Barcelona and on my trip to Mexico City alone.

For hotel stays in and around Alpine TX check out the latest prices and deals

In Alpine I had the best of both worlds – I enjoyed my own private home but my Airbnb host Suzanne lived right next door. She gave me tips about places to eat, enjoy live music, and where to get free/fast internet when I had internet problems the first few days in Alpine. Suzanne was a great host and I enjoyed our conversations, and her beautiful garden.

Downtown Alpine is perfect for hanging out after a day of scenic drives, hiking, and exploring all the attractions in west Texas.

 

Texas license plate 2weird - The Lone Star State

 

Alpine Texas hotels

The Holland Hotel is the place to stay if you want the ultimate west Texas experience. The historic Holland Hotel is perfectly located in the center of downtown Alpine. You’ll enjoy dining at the onsite Century Bar and Grill. Book a room at the Holland Hotel before they’re sold out.

Hampton Inn Alpine offers one of the top rated lodgings in Alpine. Located a couple of miles west of downtown you’ll find great value at the Hampton Inn Alpine. Check out the reviews and prices here. The hotel features an indoor pool, whirlpool, fitness center, flat-screen TVs in all rooms, and free Wi-Fi. Breakfast available and grab coffee or tea 24/7 in the lobby.

Quarter Circle 7 Hotel is more than a place to stay in Alpine, enjoy the indoor pool or get some pampering with on-site spa services at the Seventh Day Wellness Spa. Check for availability now because Quarter 7 is popular!

Holiday Inn Express and Suites Alpine is conveniently located near Sol Ross University and features free continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Find the latest deals on room rates here and book your reservation now.

Still not sure which hotel? Check out more accommodation around Alpine TX and refine your search here.

 

Downtown Alpine Texas mural detail Greetings from Alpine Texas by artist Stylle Read

Greetings From Alpine Texas – downtown mural by Stylle Read

 

Things to see and do in Alpine Texas

Food and drink Alpine TX

I loved that I could walk to downtown Alpine from my Airbnb home located just south of the railroad tracks. Alpine is a small college town with a population of around 6,000 people. Super friendly people. Just hang out at Harry’s Tinaja, on 412 E Holland, for a beer or a glass of wine and you will feel right at home in no time.

 

A skull with bulging eyeballs surrounded by the red white and blue stars and strips of American flags is part of the eclectic decor at Harry's Tinaja beer joint in Alpine TX

Some of the eclectic decor at Harry’s Tinaja in Alpine Texas

 

My favorite place to eat in Alpine is Reata Restaurant located at 203 North Fifth. I enjoyed everything that I tried at Reata – especially the bacon wrapped shrimp with onion jam and pico de gallo. The combination of flavors is superb! Never would I have guessed that I would enjoy eating onion jam – trust me on this one – delicious!

 

Solo raod trip favorite meal - three bacon wrapped shrimp atop onion jam with a serving of pico de gallo at Reata Restaurant in Alpine Texas

Bacon wrapped shrimp with pico de gallo and onion jam – Reata Restaurant Alpine TX

 

Railroad Blues – Great place for live music in Alpine TX. Address: 504 W Holland

Century Bar & Grill – Good eats and libations located at the Holland Hotel

El Patio – Good Mexican food and friendly staff – sometimes they have live music on the patio too. Address: 102 W Murphy

Plaine Coffee & Tumbleweed Laundry – Superb coffee plus pastries, smoothies, ice cream. Tumbleweed Laundry is next door. Hours are 7:30 am to 8 pm. Address: 215 E Holland

Cow Dog – 100% beef hot dog and an assortment of toppings are available from Wednesday to Saturday from 11:30 to 3:00 – look for the trailer parked next to Plaine Coffee

 

Farmer’s Market in Alpine TX

Check out the farmer’s markets if you are in Alpine on a Saturday. I enjoyed chatting with the vendors and other visitors to the market.

I bought a big bag of basil, tomatoes, homemade ginger cookies, apple filled croissant, and a beautiful, colorful knit cap from Cleo, along with a painting from one of her kids. Cleo and I chatted for ages and I felt like I was catching up with an old friend.

Alpine Farmers’ Market

Open from 9 am to 12 pm

105 E Murphy Street (4th St and Murphy St)

 

A wicker bowl filled with organic tomatoes - at Alpine Texas Farmer's Market in west Texas

Organic tomatoes at the Alpine Farmer’s Market

 

Sul Ross University Museum of the Big Bend

In Alpine I visited the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University on one rainy afternoon. For information on current and upcoming exhibits check out Museum of the Big Bend website here. I enjoyed the Tom Lea retrospective when I visited Alpine.

Events at Sul Ross University

I also attended a play at Sul Ross University Marshall Auditorium. Check the Sul Ross events calendar for upcoming performances.

  • Admission to the Museum of the Big Bend is FREE
  • Hours are Tues – Sat 9 – 5 and Sunday 1 – 5 (closed Monday)

 

Painting featuring brick houses throwing long shadows onto the dirt - by Tom Lea in 1960

Everybody’s Gone to the Wedding – by Tom Lea – 1960

 

Historic walking tour of downtown Alpine TX

Stroll around town on the historic walking tour – you can get a map from the Alpine Visitor’s Center at 106 N 3rd Street or have a look at the map online at HistoricAlpine.org

 

Alpine Studio Bed & Breakfast - you make both - painted on the Alpine Studio building on Murphy Street in Alpine TX

Alpine Studio is #4 on the Historic Walking Tour in Alpine Texas

 

Murals in Alpine Texas

Visit some of the art galleries or enjoy some outdoor art – there are several murals around downtown Alpine. A name you will see on a few of the murals is Stylle Read, and he was working on a new mural called Cattle Drive while I was visiting Alpine.

 

Mural based on the painting Poco y Poquito by Jesus Helguera, a man plays guitar next to woman seated next to him

Poco a Poquito mural by Stylle Read – based on painting by Jesus Helguera

 

Visit Kokernot Park on the north side of town or Baines Park at Gallego between South 4th and 5th Street

 

Three metal mariachis playing music in Baines Park - Alpine Texas - the words Jardin de las Mananitas are painted in white below the sculptures

Three mariachis located at Baines Park in Alpine Texas

 

Day trips from Alpine Texas

Alpine is the perfect home base to explore west Texas. You’ll find some of the best places to visit in Texas and you can do these as day trips from Alpine.

Several of these day trip locations are also some of the best vacation spots in Texas. I recommend trying these out as day trips first, then you can decide which ones to return to for your next Texas vacation spot or as a weekend getaway.

 

Balmorhea State Park – San Solomon Springs pool

San Solomon Springs swimming pool is 55 miles north of Alpine on Hwy 118 and Hwy 17

By far one of the best places to visit in Texas! Austin has Barton Springs but Balmorhea is better. First of all it’s the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool. Secondly, the water is warmer by about 6 degrees warmer (about 3 degrees warmer on the Celsius scale) so it’s more comfortable. And finally, you have way more space to yourself at San Solomon Springs.

In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built Balmorhea State Park and it remains a beautiful oasis in the high desert of Texas. With 34 campsites available at the park you could plan your Texas vacation around a trip to Balmorhea. You can also rent motel style lodging built by the CCC at Balmorhea.

You can find info about reserving a campground or motel at Balmorhea State Park here.

In early October the days were still quite hot so I took the opportunity to enjoy swimming at Balmorhea San Solomon Springs pool. I daydreamed about swimming in this enormous spring fed swimming pool since my December 2010 road trip to west Texas. Balmorhea park is definitely worth the one hour drive from Alpine for a dip in the 74 degree pool.

There are other natural springs in Texas but Balmorhea is the best.

Address

Balmorhea State Park is 56 miles north of Alpine on Hwy TX-118 and TX-17

GPS coordinates

Latitude: 30.945036
Longitude: -103.786663

Entrance fee

  • $7 age 13 and older
  • FREE for ages 12 and under
  • $70 annual pass to Texas State Parks

 

View from the diving board looking out to San Solomon Springs swimming pool in Balmorhea State Park in west Texas

San Solomon Springs swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park – 74 degrees year round

 

Fort Davis and McDonald Observatory

Fort Davis is 24 miles north of Alpine on Hwy TX-118

Only a 25 minute drive from Alpine TX while McDonald Observatory is another 20 minutes away. You can visit McDonald Observatory during the daytime and take in a tour or solar viewing. Or visit at night for the Star Party and Twilight program – get all the details at McDonald Observatory website.

I attended a star party back in December but the night sky was cloudy. During my stay I kept checking the forecast for a good night to visit, alas the skies were mostly cloudy in the evenings. There was a blanket of fog over Alpine on several mornings while I was there, perhaps a side effect of El Niño, I was told fog is uncharacteristic in Alpine.

Star party at McDonald Observatory is still on my list for my next visit to west Texas.

 

Dome of the Hobby-Eberly telescope at McDonald Observatory in west Texas

Dome of the Hobby-Eberly telescope at McDonald Observatory

 

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens is 20 miles north of Alpine on Hwy TX-118

Four miles south of Fort Davis on Hwy 118 you can enjoy some hiking, visit the botanical gardens with over 175 species of cacti and succulents on display, learn about mining and minerals at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute mining exhibit. I spent a whole afternoon at the gardens and could easily have stayed the day.

Bring a picnic lunch if you want to spend a day exploring the gardens and hiking trails. Or drive four miles to Fort Davis for lunch.

Stone Village Market is a small grocery store with a great deli and made to order sandwiches. I had a vegetable sandwich – layered with seven different veggies and so delicious!

 

Vibrant orange and yellow cactus bloom surrounded by bright red spines on a cactus at Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute - Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Garden - 4 miles south of Fort Davis in west Texas

Cactus in bloom at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Garden

 

Terlingua Ghost Town

Terlingua is 84 miles south of Alpine on Hwy TX 118

So far, Terlingua is a place I have only stopped by on my way to or from Big Bend National Park. On this road trip I stopped in Terlingua for lunch at High Sierra Bar & Grill on my way to the park. The food was good so I returned to the High Sierra in Terlingua again on my way back to Big Bend after enjoying a half-day rafting tour on the Rio Grande.

The vibe at High Sierra Bar & Grill, and in Terlingua in general, is chill and relaxed. I enjoyed great service both times I visited and I took note of the band tearing down their gear on Saturday afternoon – chatting with the bartender I understand there was a good party going on Friday night. There is definitely a groovy little music scene going on in Terlingua. Perhaps I will make it to the 25th annual Terlingua Music Bash?

 

Tacos rice and beans at High Sierra Bar & Grill in Terlingua west Texas

Tacos rice and beans at High Sierra Bar & Grill in Terlingua

 

Marfa Texas

Marfa is 26 miles west of Alpine on Hwy US 90

I loved Marfa Texas the first time I visited, around Christmas time December 2010. I stayed at El Paisano Hotel, where Giant was filmed in 1956. Staying in the Elizabeth Taylor suite because I wanted to spoil myself a little (I was used to staying in hostels back then) and it was the only room available on short notice during the busy Christmas season.

It was fate.

My visit to Marfa in October 2015 felt a little like reuniting with a lover that had lost his appeal. I wanted it to work out but I was just not that into Marfa anymore. Perhaps I am way too un-hipster to fit in with the Marfa scene.

I suppose Marfa was a bit hipster 5 years ago, but now it is a slice of hipster heaven. This hippie chick did not feel the love anymore. Maybe it’s because Alpine TX already stole my heart?

Marfa is definitely worth a visit and really you need to spend more than an afternoon to get to know a place, or in my case to get reacquainted with the place. I do expect to visit Marfa when I am in west Texas again, we’re not through yet.

 

Paisano Hotel courtyard fountain in Marfa Texas

 

Marfa Texas hotels

105 Lincoln – Located in downtown Marfa, each room includes a kitchen and flat-screen TV plus free Wi-Fi. Hotel 105 Lincoln is pet friendly too. Read the reviews and book your room now!

El Cosmico – Bohemian lodgings with vintage trailers or teepees, really!

Hotel Paisano – Historic hotel where the movie Giant was filmed. The hotel has 41 rooms, a ballroom, fitness center, restaurant and lounge with courtyard seating. Check availability and rates here.

Hotel Saint George – Modern hotel built in 2016 features 55 rooms and suites. Check out the rates and availability.

Riata Inn – One of the more moderately priced hotels in Marfa, the Riata Inn provides free Wi-Fi and free parking. Pets are allowed. Get the latest rates and deals here.

Tacheles Marfa – An eclectic space at a great location you can read reviews/pricing and book a room or you can book via Airbnb here.

 

Presidio County Courthouse building with a pale pink stucco exterior and white statue of Lady Justice atop a dome. Yucca plant in bloom in the foreground - Marfa Texas

Presidio County Courthouse building in Marfa Texas

 

Prada Marfa art installation

Don’t look for the Prada Marfa art installation in Marfa because Prada Marfa is not actually in Marfa Texas.

Where is Prada Marfa?

Head west from Marfa on highway 90 for around 33 miles and you can check out the Prada Marfa art installation just past the township of Valentine Texas.

Did you know that Valentine TX is named after the date it was founded? February 14, 1882.

 

Prada Marfa is an art installation neaar Valentine TX. It is a faux Prada store - complete with shoes and handbags by Prada

Prada Marfa art installation in Valentine Texas – west of Marfa

 

Marathon Texas – gateway to Big Bend National Park

Marathon is 30 miles east of Alpine on Hwy US-90

During my first solo road trip to west Texas I stayed at the whimsical Eve’s Garden Organic Bed & Breakfast in Marathon Texas for 3 nights. I was treated like family and invited to their Christmas dinner celebration.

If Eve’s Garden is full then try Gage Hotel in Marathon.

Marathon is located on Hwy 385 around 40 miles north of Big Bend National Park. On my way to Las Cruces New Mexico I stopped in Marathon so I could visit Eve’s Garden to say hello and check out the changes since 2010.

Target Marathon

Not to be outdone by Prada Marfa there is now another art installation to visit in West Texas. This one is a mini-Target and is near Marathon TX – 30 minute drive from Alpine.

What is the address of Target Marathon? Well, there is no official address for the world’s smallest Target store. To get to it from Marathon take Hwy 90 west for about 15 miles and watch for it on the left side of the road.

 

Target Maraton art installation in west Texas

 

Big Bend National Park  – best hiking in Texas

Big Bend National Park is located 72 miles southeast of Alpine on Hwy US-90 and US-385

One of the most beautiful places in Texas is also one of the least visited national parks in the United States. The hiking at Big Bend National Park is superb. With a variety of hiking options at Big Bend, choose from mountain, river, or desert hikes. Besides hiking there are opportunities for horseback riding, river trips, birdwatching, stargazing, scenic drives, and fishing. The absence of city lights makes Big Bend a terrific place to view the Milky Way. No wonder it’s a popular place for family vacations in Texas.

I opted to stay in Big Bend National Park and the only lodging option within Big Bend is the Chisos Mountain Lodge – expensive but great location. If you like to camp there are more options and the best place to check out your options is the National Park Service website.

If Big Bend National Park is full you could drive about 30 minutes to Big Bend Ranch State Park. Call to make camping reservations: (512) 389-8900 or make a camping reservation online – you will need to create an account to make an online reservation.

Tip: Download offline maps of the area from Google Maps before your trip because there is usually no internet access in most of Big Bend National Park.

 

Solo road trip highlight - landscape of Big Bend National Park - a view towards the Window View - a popular hiking trail and sunset viewing spot

Big Bend National Park window view is a popular trail and sunset viewing location

 

Map of Alpine Texas day trips

I put together this reference map for you to get a visual sense and help you plan out your day trips from Alpine. You can visit one attraction or group them together if you like to hop around and do more in one day. Have fun exploring West Texas!

 

My long-term solo road trip began with beautiful moments revisiting some of my favorite places in west Texas. Hopefully you’ve got some great vacation ideas from this article and you’ll get out and enjoy your own Texas getaways soon!


READ Next:

Big Bend National Park – A Solo Road Trip to West Texas

Mayfield Park – Peacocks and Hiking Trails in Central Austin Texas

Oldest Oak Tree in Texas – The Big Tree – Goose Island State Park

Hiking Enchanted Rock Texas Day Trip from Austin

Hiking Trails in Austin Texas for Bluebonnets Wildflowers

Epic Canada Road Trip Driving Across Country in 6 Days

 

Explore other destinations for your next solo travel adventure

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West Texas road trip to Marfa plus hiking at Big Bend National Park

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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