Big Bend, TX
Outside the Park
Considering the driving distances in West Texas, it makes sense to stop along the way, if for no other reason than to keep the kids from killing each other. The roads leading into the park from west and north offer some of the finest scenic drives in Texas -- and three great places to spend an hour, or a night.
- El Camino del Rio
Also known as The River Road or Hwy 170, this route parallels the Rio Grande for 50 miles west of the park, slicing through Big Bend Ranch State Park and offering superb views of steep canyon walls. Several picnic areas and trails leading to the river bank dot the route. Plan at least an hour, not including any stops, to make the drive.
- Ft. Davis National Historic Site
Just outside of the town of Ft. Davis, you'll find this well-preserved historic fort, which protected travelers and mail shipments through the Southwest. Tour the ruins and restored buildings to get a sense of what life was like between 1854 and 1891, when the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry and the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry were garrisoned here.
- The University of Texas McDonald Observatory
About 10 miles west of Ft. Davis, this observatory (elevation 6,800 feet) gives families a chance to see and learn about the sun and stars. Take a 90-minute guided tour, participate in a solar viewing session, or look through the big telescope. The observatory's most popular program is its sunset star parties, where you can view the moon, planets, and stars through smaller telescopes as they appear in the evening sky.
- Balmorhea State Park
A two-acre swimming pool brimming with crystal-clear water will make the kids forget they couldn't take a dip in the Rio Grande. Stop at this park in San Solomon Springs on your way to or from Big Bend.