How do I describe Terlingua… It’s famous for its annual chili cookoff–which is actually two competing cookoffs, and one giant party–every November. It’s a tiny ghost town in the desert with nightly live music and delicious margaritas. It’s a surprising little Wild West oasis that you just have to see to understand. It’s also a good jumping-off point for exploring Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. For more impressive sentences than I can produce, read this short article in the NYT from a real writer about her experience in the Terlingua area.
We spent the night at BJ’s RV Park, a nice little campground a short drive from the ghost town where we knew we’d be spending the evening. The RV camping options in Terlingua are limited, so plan ahead if you’re Terlingua-bound.
We chatted with some locals at Harry’s in Alpine who told us we should check out Lajitas Resort, a fifteen minute drive from Terlingua. The resort offers lots of excursions and activities, but we just wanted to have a cocktail on the sunny, grassy lawn behind the resort’s Thirsty Goat Saloon.
Back in Terlingua, we started our night at La Kiva underground bar which seemed like a fun spot, but we wanted to be outdoors for the sunset, so we moved on to High Sierra for Big Bend beers on the little deck upstairs.
Finally, we arrived at our main reason for visiting Terlingua: the Starlight Theater. Apparently the Starlight Theater used to be more of a cowboys-with-six-shooters scene, but we saw nary a cowperson amongst the tourists. The margaritas and food and music were fantastic, and it was there that I experienced the highlight of my stay: I learned about Clay Henry. Please do yourself a favor and read about him.
Terlingua is tiny, so it doesn’t take very long to explore the ghost town. Here are a few suggestions for the rest of your time in the area:
Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas, and the east side visitor’s center is just outside Terlingua. Stop there to learn about hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities in the park. We didn’t have time to play in the state park, but read that its beauty rivals that of the national park. Note that the state park has the same anti-hiking dog rules as the national park.
If you’re short on time but still want to experience the gorgeous surroundings, drive from Terlingua past Lajitas toward Presidio, one of the most scenic drives in America. We didn’t make it all the way to Presidio this time (we did it two years ago when returning to Fort Davis after our Big Bend day, but we went far enough to get a metaphorical taste of the scenery, and for Bugsy to get a literal taste of the Rio Grande.