Not every Texas town is full of obvious tourist destinations. Sometimes, you’ve got to flip a couple rocks to find the good spots hidden out of sight. With around 300 residents, Paint Rock, 30 miles east of San Angelo, is one of the least-populated county seats in all of Texas. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fascinating stops just beneath the surface.
This ranch on the north bank of the Concho River houses the painted rocks from which the town got its name. Schedule a private tour to see 1,500 prehistoric pictographs painted on the cliffs by native tribes such as the Comanche and Jumano. Some may date back 1,500 years. Many of the drawings interact with the shadows of the sun on cross-quarter days, the midpoints between each solstice and equinox.
Paint Rock Grocery
Enjoy a classic, greasy cheeseburger and a slice of homemade pie at this grocer and the town’s best eatery. The business is a one-stop shop for everything you need, from clothing to pantry staples. If you’re in town for breakfast, load up on a massive breakfast burrito that will easily keep you full until dinner.
3 Nail Ironware
Follow the smoke rising across the street from the courthouse and you’ll end up in the workshop of blacksmith Randy Kiser and his family. They hand-forge carbon steel skillets that are so pretty you could hang them on your wall as artwork, but they’re even better at cooking food. You’ll want to take one home, but it may take a while: The waitlist is monthslong.
This mighty river runs all the way from just south of Big Spring to O.H. Ivie Lake where it joins the Colorado River. Just northeast of the square along Jones Street is a small dam that creates a little swimming hole ideal for a hot summer day. The river is home to the Concho pearl—a freshwater variety found in Tampico pearlymussels.
Farm Ale Brewing Company
I’d never had a beer in school until I visited this venue in nearby Eola. The brewery and restaurant occupies a historic school where the former classrooms are now dining rooms. They brew all their beers in the old auditorium and even open the gym for games and fellowship. Come on a weekend and you’ll find locals filling up the schoolyard for a live concert.
So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.To view the Paint Rock episode, visit thedaytripper.com. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.