west texas

See Early 20th-Century Big Bend Through the Lens of Photographer W.D. Smithers

February 19, 2024 | By Matt Joyce

Inside Valentine Texas Bar Is a West Texas Fairy Tale

February 8, 2024 | By Sarah M. Vasquez

It’s easy to miss Valentine Texas Bar. The building on State Highway 90 looks just like any of the other remote West Texas town’s crumbling adobe, especially with the restoration work at the adjacent HiWay Cafe.

Send Your Love a Valentine from Valentine, TX

January 31, 2024 | By Marisa Charpentier

Roadside Oddity: The ‘Marfa Payphone’

January 10, 2024 | By Sarah Vasquez

Pay phones are a relic of the past. With the emergence of cellphones, the public phones that let you make a call for a quarter became obsolete starting in the early 2000s.

The Most-Read Stories of 2023

December 29, 2023 | By TH Staff

As the end of 2023 approaches, it’s fitting we take stock of what readers enjoyed the most from Texas Highways this year.

Another One Bites the Dust in Fort Davis

November 21, 2023 | By TH Staff

2023 in Photos: A Year of Exploring Texas

November 21, 2023 | By

Revisiting the El Paso Haunts of Pancho Villa

November 21, 2023 | By

A Weekend Getaway on the Edge of the Pecos

November 21, 2023 | By Scott Dubois

Museum of the Big Bend’s Expansion Enters the World of Art

November 17, 2023 | By Pam LeBlanc

Step onto the patio that juts from the recently opened expansion of the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, and the spiny ridgeline of the Davis Mountains rises in the distance.

27 Hours Lost in Big Bend Ranch: How One Man Survived a Hike Gone Wrong

November 13, 2023 | By Emily Brindley

A Father and Daughter Find Healing in the Songs of Jimmy Buffett

September 6, 2023 | By Katey Psencik Outka

A Desert Getaway in Terlingua for the Escape Artist

August 22, 2023 | By Carlie Tise

Welcome to Van Horn, the Biggest Little Town in West Texas

August 22, 2023 | By Nicole Beckley

A Trip Out West Offers a Glimpse at the Final Frontier

August 21, 2023 | By Matt Adams

After driving solo seven hours from Fort Worth to Marathon in West Texas, I was ready for my head to hit the pillow.

A New Memorial Honors Buffalo Soldiers History in San Angelo

August 11, 2023 | By Becca Nelson Sankey

Named for the strong, burly buffalo that roamed the land, the U.S. Army’s first Black enlisted soldiers left a legacy of perseverance and valor in the swath of territory they served, from Alaska, Hawaii, and the Philippines to almost every state and territory west of the Mississippi River.

A Solitary Getaway in Comstock

July 25, 2023 | By Scott DuBois

Did Texas Have a Jurassic Era? Plesiosaur Fossils Found in West Texas Say Yes

July 11, 2023 | By Asher Elbein

Approximately 150 million years ago, a toothy marine reptile swam through the Texas seas. When it died, it drifted to the bottom, where scavengers feasted and silt covered its bones.

Capturing the Untamable Canadian River

June 27, 2023 | By Christopher Collins

Weekend Getaways from El Paso: Van Horn and Sanderson

May 30, 2023 | By James Hernández

Pretty as a Picture in Van Horn

May 30, 2023 | By TH Staff

Voices From Both Sides Festival Reunites Towns Along the Rio Grande

May 10, 2023 | By Sarah M. Vasquez

Growing up, West Texas resident Martie Garcia frequently traveled between the U.S. and Mexico to visit family through an informal crossing on the Rio Grande River.

El Paso’s Future Looks Golden with New Castner Range National Monument

April 7, 2023 | By James Hernández

Among the many things bringing El Pasoans together these days, nature is hardly one of them.

In Search of Texas’ Reptilian Riches and Abundant Amphibians

March 28, 2023 | By Asher Elbein

Spin Class: Why Tumbleweeds Are On a Roll in West Texas

January 24, 2023 | By Asher Elbein

They roll through the deserts of Texas: woody, ball-shaped plants called tumbleweeds. They’re a visual cliche and joke in Western movies.

The Eternal Springs of Balmorhea State Park Pool in West Texas

January 24, 2023 | By Katie Gutierrez

Editor’s Note: Transcendent Texas

January 24, 2023 | By Emily Roberts Stone

When photographer Jessica Lutz moved to Marfa a decade ago, she was drawn to capture West Texas’ light, land, and story.

Celebrate the 50th Birthday of Guadalupe Mountains National Park with 5 Spectacular Hikes

December 2, 2022 | By Laurence Parent

The Christmas Mountains Are the Gift That Keeps on Giving

November 23, 2022 | By Matt Joyce

Finding Isolation on Pinto Canyon Road in West Texas

October 27, 2022 | By Jac Darsnek, Traces of Texas

Even today, Pinto Canyon Road in the Chinati Mountains of far West Texas is a lonely place.

If You Didn’t Post a Selfie From Marfa, Were You Ever Really There?

October 27, 2022 | By Lauren Hough

Organized by El Paso Students, Texas’ First Bordalo II Mural Made of Recycled Trash Pops with Hope

September 5, 2022 | By James Hernandez

Instead of waiting for politicians to take action, members of a high school art club in El Paso decided it was up to them to act. 

A West Texas Photographer Chases Nature’s Constant Change Through Art and Photography

August 25, 2022 | By E. Dan Klepper

The Daytripper Meets the Goat Mayor of Lajitas

May 26, 2022 | By Chet Garner

If you head west and keep going, you’ll end up in one of the roughest parts of Texas.

Experience Life in Texas’ Highest Community at McDonald Observatory

March 24, 2022 | By Joe Nick Patoski

The astronomical research station in the Davis Mountains welcomes visitors for star parties and a sky-high lodge

A Close Call in the Davis Mountains

January 14, 2022 | By Ali Montag

There’s More to Midland Than Oil

December 23, 2021 | By

Going Galactic in The Big Bend of West Texas

November 24, 2021 | By

Flying Kites Over the Stark Chihuahuan Desert Landscape

October 28, 2021 | By

How a Scrappy Volleyball Team from West Texas Won the First 2 Women’s National Titles

October 28, 2021 | By Jaime Aron

Marilyn McReavy Nolen pulled into Alpine in the summer of 1968, headed from her family’s home in the West Texas town of Big Lake to California.

Willow House in Terlingua Offers Out-of-This-World Views

March 25, 2021 | By Clayton Maxwell

A Perseid Meteor Shower Under West Texas Dark Skies

December 24, 2020 | By

A Sparkling Autumn Sunrise Illuminates Big Bend National Park

November 26, 2020 | By

Not Wild Pigs: In Appreciation of Javelinas, Iconic Native Wildlife of Texas

November 4, 2020 | By Dale Weisman

During West Texas sojourns, I watch for collared peccaries like forgotten spirit animals along backroads and hiking trails.

A West Texas Volunteer Firefighter Finds Community by Helping His Neighbors

September 24, 2020 | By E. Dan Klepper

My Favorite Texas Trip: Witnessing the Mysterious Marfa Lights

September 23, 2020 | By Judith Fein

My husband, Paul, and I are travel journalists who follow a few rules while we are on the road.

Photographer Mabry Campbell Gives a New Perspective on Familiar Texas Landscapes

August 27, 2020 | By Mabry Campbell

How Two Small-Town Radio Stations Are Serving Their Rural Communities During COVID-19

July 17, 2020 | By Joe Nick Patoski

Community radio was made for times like these. Not-for-profit and listener-supported public radio stations exist to provide critical information in times of emergency as well as to entertain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two Texas stations are living up to that mission statement. 

My Favorite Texas Trip: To Marfa and Big Bend with Low Expectations

June 19, 2020 | By Ciara O'Rourke

Governor Coke Stevenson Takes the Davis Mountain Scenic Loop in 1958

April 30, 2020 | By Traces of Texas

Small-Town Dispatches: Sleepy Marathon Quieter Than Ever During COVID-19

April 7, 2020 | By E. Dan Klepper

Although it’s a spring morning in Marathon, gateway to the Big Bend, it looks more like a hot midsummer’s afternoon—vacant sidewalks, shuttered shops, and empty streets.

New Postage Stamp Depicts Big Bend’s Santa Elena Canyon

December 20, 2019 | By Pam LeBlanc

Coming soon to a package near you: A glimpse of Big Bend National Park.

The Daytripper’s Top 5 in Odessa

November 27, 2019 | By Chet Garner

Photo: The Old Stardust Hotel in Marfa

November 25, 2019 | By

My Hometown: A New Frontier of the Old West in Dell City

October 31, 2019 | By Joe Nick Patoski

Andrew Stuart is the poster boy for the “next best place.” Raised in Austin, Stuart lived on both coasts before falling in love with West Texas. He spent two years as a reporter for the now-defunct Desert-Mountain Times in Alpine and three years as the news director at Marfa Public Radio. In 2009, he moved to Dell City, a Chihuahuan Desert farming community with little but a mercantile, a gas station, and two cafés. It’s a place once described by The New York Times as a “borderline ghost town.” But factor in the Guadalupe Mountains—the area’s primary tourist attraction, rising 20 miles to the east—and the feeling that you’re out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s easy to see Stuart, 44, has found his place. “I knew I wanted to live in the desert by myself, a go-west-and-reinvent-yourself kind of thing,” he explains one morning over breakfast tacos at Spanish Angels Café. “The writer Marilynne Robinson said, ‘Out west, lonesome is a positive.’”

The Daytripper’s Top 5 in the Davis Mountains

October 31, 2019 | By Chet Garner

When it’s time to ditch the phone, the Netflix queue, and civilization in general, then it’s time to head west to the Davis Mountains. One of Texas’ three sky islands, this majestic range rises from the desert floor, creating a postcard-worthy panorama in every direction.

Find Rock Art, Relaxation, and Rare Wildflowers at Twistflower Ranch

September 30, 2019 | By Clayton Maxwell

O ften the most exceptional things are found by accident.
That’s what happened at Twistflower Ranch, 5,800 acres of West Texas mesas and canyons, named for the rare bracted twistflower that bathes the arid landscape with delicate purple blossoms in the spring.

Fall Really Does Happen in Texas – You Just Have to Know Where to Look

September 23, 2019 | By

Mother Nature’s autumnal coloration of leaves before she applies her cruel winter grip is a visual gift typically associated with areas of the country that actually experience four distinct seasons. In Texas, where for the most part it’s oppressively hot and dry in September and October, green can abruptly give way to brown, without displaying even a hint of the kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, and yellows typical of a postcard New England fall. There are hidden pockets of the state, however, where the trees, beneficiaries of just the right weather conditions, offer one final, dramatic blush. Follow our photographers to these special places for some of the best foliage in the state—from the Nolan River in North Texas and Garner State Park in the Hill Country, to the Canadian River in the Panhandle and Guadalupe Mountains
National Park in West Texas.

Slither Into the Outback Oasis Motel for a Lesson in the Snakes of West Texas

August 29, 2019 | By Asher Elbein

The hills outside of Sanderson teem with snakes: long-nosed snakes with rusty stripes; rock rattlers and diamondbacks; tiny, cat-eyed nightsnakes; and coachwhips like swift red racers. Walk the right roadside bluff at the right time, and you might see the most sought-after prize of all: the gray-banded kingsnake. The West Texas town is a treasure trove of desert reptiles, and the Outback Oasis Motel holds many of its finest jewels.

Basecamp Terlingua Adds New Luxury Bubble to Unique Lodging Options

July 25, 2019 | By Sarah M. Vasquez

Staying in one of Basecamp Terlingua’s two bubbles is like staying in a deluxe, transparent tent with the amenities of a hotel room—a queen-size bed, Keurig tea/coffee maker, AC/heater, mini fridge, Wi-Fi, and a full bathroom with an indoor shower. There are also two outdoor seating areas, an outdoor shower, and a fire pit.

Terlingua Hosts the World’s First Sotol Festival

May 2, 2019 | By Laurel Miller

Nearly 1,000 attendees learned about the native spirit with tastings and more

Explore A Collapsed Volcanic Dome in Big Bend Ranch State Park

May 1, 2019 | By Karen Hoffman Blizzard

Thanks to recent trail work, Big Bend Ranch State Park’s signature geological landmark, El Solitario, is in good shape for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians who want to explore the 10-mile-wide collapsed volcanic dome.

Tracking Elusive Mountain Lions in the Mountains of West Texas

April 25, 2019 | By Asher Elbein

The cat has been gone for hours by the time Bert Geary comes upon the footprint. He sees it as our utility-terrain vehicle bounces over a rough ridgeline trail, the wind gusting over golden grass, heavy and cool with incoming August rain. The tracks are perhaps 5 inches across, clear and distinct. “It’s too big to be a bobcat,” Geary says, swinging out of the vehicle to examine it. “I think that’s a mountain lion. Young one, too. Maybe 60 pounds.”

For Presidio, the ‘Middle of Nowhere’ Is a Fine Place to Be

March 29, 2019 | By Clayton Maxwell

Big Bend wanderers, celebrities drifting down from Marfa, and other end-of-the-liners have officially discovered the border town of Presidio. They’re late by about eight centuries, though: People have lived for so long at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos that the valley surrounding Presidio is thought to be the oldest continually cultivated farmland in Texas, if not the United States.

“It’s funny,” says John Ferguson, the mayor of this dusty town 60 miles south of Marfa. “Presidio is the oldest town anywhere in the entire Big Bend area, but so little of our history is truly known, even to those of us who live right here on top of it.”

Hike from Texas to New Mexico on This 100-Mile-Long Trail

March 18, 2019 | By Wes Ferguson

Pieced together from several existing trails, the GRT begins near the depths of New Mexico, not far from the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and ends on the top of Texas—Guadalupe Peak, which at 8,751 feet is the highest summit in the Lone Star State.

The trail connects Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains national parks via the Lincoln National Forest, most famously the site of Sitting Bull Falls, which tumbles from a spring-fed creek over a mossy, 150-foot-high canyon wall. An oasis flowing year round, it fills clear pools where visitors come to relax, wade, and cool down in an otherwise desolate stretch of desert. If you’ve been hiking for nearly a week on the Guadalupe Ridge Trail, you’ve certainly earned a dip and drink from the falls.

Gallery: Wildflowers of West Texas

March 7, 2019 | By TH Staff

For our March 2019 issue, we sent photographer and West Texas resident E. Dan Klepper out to capture spring color in 2018. These are some of our favorite images that we didn’t have room for in the issue.

Balmorhea State Park Reopens to the Public

March 1, 2019 | By TH Staff

Balmorhea State Park has reopened its famed spring-fed swimming pool with time to spare before Spring Break and the arrival of the West Texas summer heat.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department announced Friday that it had completed a project to repair the concrete apron under the diving board, a problem that resulted in the pool’s closure throughout last summer.The project, estimated to cost $2 million, received a boost from Apache Corporation, an oil and gas company, which contributed $1 million to the project in the form of a matching grant.

Photographers Capture Texas’ Spectacular Variety of Wildflowers in Every Region of the State

March 1, 2019 | By

Awed by the spectacular variety of wildflowers throughout Texas, we sent four photographers on a springtime mission across the state. They combed seven distinct regions of Texas, from the shaded forests of the Piney Woods to the mountains and deserts of the Big Bend, from sandy coastal dunes to rolling hills and the vast plains of the Panhandle. The results are as magnificent and diverse as the lands that nurture our abundant blossoms.

Photo: The Window in the Chisos Basin

January 31, 2019 | By

Big Bend National Park boasts several distinctive and must-visit geological features, and the Window in the Chisos Basin is among the most iconic. The natural break in the rim serves as a picturesque frame for the distant desert landscape below. The Window can be seen from various parts of the basin, including the Chisos Mountain Lodge’s restaurant patio. However, a moderately difficult descent of less than 1,000 feet over a couple of miles of Oak Creek Canyon along the Window Trail provides the most spectacular view.

What the Heck is Ranch Water?

January 31, 2019 | By Shawna Graves

You can belly up to any bar in West Texas, whether it’s a dark dive or a glamorous hotel, and, without even glancing at a menu, order a ranch water. Heck, these days, you can do that at pretty much any bar in Texas. The simple cocktail has developed quite the fan base, and it’s led to contested origin stories and bubbling debate about the proper ingredients.

Epic Photos Reveal Big Bend’s Splendor in Black and White

January 30, 2019 | By

Rob Decker and his wife, marceia decker, arrived in Big Bend National Park in April 2017 with the goal to capture a single iconic photograph he could use as the centerpiece of a poster he was designing. Decker found plenty of options: He says he was taken aback by the craggy peaks of the Chisos Mountains and the remoteness of the desert. “While most national parks are somewhat out of the way, I was surprised at just how far Big Bend is from most anything, how vast it is, and the different opportunities for recreation it offers,” he says.
The couple explored Big Bend from Rio Grande Village and Panther Junction, to the Chisos Basin and Santa Elena Canyon, where Decker hiked to the banks of the Rio Grande. He then took off his shoes and waded into the river. “Even though it was spring, it was a hot day, and the cool water was a welcome relief,” he recalls. “As I sat on the rocks overlooking the Rio Grande, I thought about the Native Americans, ranchers, miners, and pioneers who at one time or another had called this place their home.”
Decker calls Longmont, Colorado, home. He was just 19 years old when he studied under legendary photographer Ansel Adams at Yosemite National Park, an experience that shapes his work to this day.
Decker is on a journey to visit, photograph, and create a poster for every national park in the United States. His endeavor, fittingly enough, is called The National Park Poster Project, with stylings that hark to the popular New Deal-era national park posters of the late 1930s and early 1940s. With each poster, he hopes to raise awareness of both the grandeur and the continued need to protect America’s natural treasures—and with 43 parks down, he only has 17 to go.
After four days in Big Bend, he left with a trove of images, including an epic shot of Santa Elena Canyon. It fit perfectly on his poster.

Treat Yourself With a Desert Cure That Smells Like a West Texas Rainstorm

January 30, 2019 | By Melissa Gaskill

Deep in the heart of a ranch sprawling across the foothills of the Chinati Mountains, a stand of dark-green creosote bushes contrasts with the rocky landscape. The August weather is hot and dry, but these plants have some secret source of water. Candace Covington discovered them several years ago while helping with one of several archaeological digs on the ranch.

10 Tips for Big Bend First-Timers

January 30, 2019 | By Matt Joyce

Plan to spend at least a few days in the park. You could visit for one day, but why do that when you’ve probably already driven at least a day to get there?

Historian and Author Lonn Taylor on Growing up in the Philippines and Settling in the Big Bend

January 28, 2019 | By Wes Ferguson

Now 78 years old, Taylor is an old-fashioned raconteur with a bushy mustache, Stetson Open Road hat, and an assortment of snappy bow ties. He’s also the author of more than half a dozen books and a historian who draws inspiration from his adopted home of the Big Bend.

Best of the Rest: Big Bend for Everyone Photo Gallery

January 28, 2019 | By TH Staff

In our February 2019 issue, Senior Editor Matt Joyce shared 3 ways anyone can easily enjoy Big Bend National Park, even visitors who aren’t experienced outdoorsmen. These are some of our favorite photos from photographer Sean Fitzgerald that we didn’t have room for in the issue.

One Artist’s Mission to Make Rankin the Most Painted Town in Texas

January 14, 2019 | By Kimya Kavehkar

Artist Matt Tumlinson has made it his mission to quite literally “paint the town” of Rankin, a West Texas community with a population of around 800.

The once-barren walls of Rankin, which lies in Upton County an hour south of Midland, are now decorated with Tumlinson’s quirky murals that often portray a Texan sense of humor.

One of his murals is of Willie Nelson painted in the style of Greek religious iconography. Another that’s “turned some heads,” as Tumlinson puts it, features two cowboys on horseback looking at a selfie stick. In another, John Wayne dressed a professor depicts his famous quote, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid,” as a graph on a chalkboard.

Big Bend Brewing Company Shuts Down Operations

December 27, 2018 | By Kimya Kavehkar

The Alpine brewery hopes the closing will be temporary. Texas beer lovers must bid adieu (for now) to “the beer from out here.”

Join Texas Highways’ Celebration of Big Bend National Park’s 75th Anniversary

December 10, 2018 | By

In cooperation with Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Conservancy, Texas Highways has created a special ranger-led itinerary that’ll have you falling in love with the park. And the timing is right for romance, since the event is just days before Valentine’s Day–Feb. 8-10.

Why Every Woman Should Take a Solo Road Trip

November 28, 2018 | By Sarah Hepola

My Hometown: Southwestern History Runs Deep in the Border Town of San Elizario

November 28, 2018 | By Matt Joyce

Explore the adobe streets of this colonial Spanish presidio town with artist and history buff Al Borrego. As he guides walking tours of San Elizario, Al Borrego paints a vivid picture of the town’s 400 years of borderland adventure and enterprise.

On Main Street, Borrego describes the day in 1598 when explorer Juan de Oñate marched through with an expedition of 500 colonists. Outside the immaculate San Elizario presidio chapel, Borrego explains how the community was actually south of the Rio Grande until an 1829 flood realigned the river.

A Visit to Marfa Brings Stylish, Otherworldly Experiences in the Tumbleweeds of West Texas

April 25, 2018 | By Michael Corcoran

That’s what attracted renowned Manhattan artist Donald Judd to Marfa in the ’70s. His large-scale installations, which meld sculpture and nature on an old Army base renamed The Chinati Foundation, made this far West Texas town a destination for the international art crowd. But in recent years, “The Capital of Quirkiness” (as CBS’ 60 Minutes dubbed it in 2013) has broadened its appeal to “bucket list” millennials and tourists who might think Donald Judd was Wynonna’s pop. A fascination for Hollywood in recent years, Marfa also enjoys frequent coverage in The New York Times—which ran at least eight stories with a Marfa dateline in the past two years (including four in the paper’s fashion supplement). All this attention has helped convert this tiny town with its own NPR station into the San Francisco of the Texas desert.

The Daytripper Goes to Big Bend National Park

January 12, 2018 | By Chet Garner

It’s a near-mythical destination where distances stretch and time slows down, a place that can be as dry as a scorching desert or as wet as a raging river. Those who seek great adventures need look no farther than Big Bend National Park.

Winter Whitescapes

November 13, 2015 | By Lori Moffatt

Snow in West Texas, while usually as fleeting as a sandcastle in the surf, tends to imbue the landscape with a diffused, quiet melancholy.

A New Dawn in the Davis Mountains

April 13, 2014 | By E. Dan Klepper

Dawn has just broken above the new Davis Mountains State Park wildlife-viewing station, an L-shaped timber and stucco structure with peek-a-boo portals overlooking a water feature, and birds are everywhere.

Lilo Goes West

February 1, 2014 | By Barbara Rodriguez

Babs Rodriguez recalls her German mother-in-law’s Big Bend epiphanies. Here’s the full story from the February 2014 issue of Texas Highways:

Gather ‘Round

December 17, 2013 | By Matt Joyce

Galaxy Quest

January 9, 2013 | By E. Dan Klepper

The summit of Mount Locke, home to McDonald Observatory, pokes into a particularly isolated patch of the rural West Texas sky, making it a very dark place to be on a moonless night.

Where’s Martha? (Marfa)

January 9, 2013 | By Terry Toler

This exchange happens often, and because I actually worked to build tourism in Marfa, it still surprises me that many folks—especially Texans—don’t know about Marfa. After all, it’s mentioned regularly in The New York Times as well as in countless international publications. Marfa is a regular stop for art pilgrims and patrons from all over the world, and the town serves as a getaway for celebrities and experienced travelers.

Texas to-do’s

December 29, 2012 | By Helen Bryant

Sometimes you can spy a whooper or two in the marsh through a free telescope on the refuge’s observation tower.

Davis Mountains Scenic Loop

October 15, 2012 | By Larry McGinnis

From a distance, West Texas’ Davis Mountains float above the Chihuahuan Desert like a smoky mirage.

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