bugsy running on lone rock beach with the airstream and f-150 in the background

One day in Terlingua, TX–Big Bend Loop

We visited Terlingua in January 2018 as part of our Big Bend Loop trip.

How do I describe Terlingua… It’s a tiny ghost town in the desert with nightly live music and delicious margaritas. It’s famous for its annual chili cookoff–which is actually two competing cookoffs, and one giant party–every November. 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.


BJ's RV Park in Terlingua

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.


Bugsy at Lajitas Resort

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.

beer at High Sierra in Terlingua

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.


starlight theater in Terlingua
clay henry at starlight theater in Terlingua

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.


Bugsy at Terlingua Jail
sunset from Terlingua ghost town

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:

Visit Big Bend National Park; here’s our post on our first visit when we mostly did a driving tour of the park, and here’s all the hiking we did in the three days we stayed there before Terlingua. [And here’s a post detailing our third visit… I’ll combine everything into a single post at some point.]

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.

Bugsy and the Rio Grande
Bugsy swimming in the Rio Grande
Bugsy overlooking the Rio Grande outside Terlingua


2 responses to “One day in Terlingua, TX–Big Bend Loop”

  1. Lbrown8888@aol.com Avatar

    OK Lauren, now I know about Clay Henry’s story, and I’m wondering how I got this far in life without this knowledge. You guys are exploring the fabric of America up close and personal!

    1. bugsy Avatar

      I’m so glad you appreciate the Clay Henry story as much as I do! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *