Our last water stop was the beautiful Balmorhea State Park. The spring fed pool was built by the CCC between 1936 and 1941. The water is around 72 degrees year round. We had a beautiful morning swim chasing fish and turtles. If you have not visited this Texas Treasure, add it to your travel list.
For our third spring, we had to drive on El Camino del Rio. The scenic drive along the River Road (Texas FM 170), following the meanders of the Rio Grande, is among the most spectacular in the nation. You can take this road to get to Big Bend State Ranch Park, another favorite park of mine. There is also a magical spot filled with hoodoos (weather-carved volcanic ash), always a great spot to get out and look around.
The farm pictured is part of an area that is believed to be the oldest continuously cultivated farmland in Texas.
The Third spring we visited was at Chinati Hot Springs. It is west of Big Bend State Ranch Park and south of Marfa, very remote (no wifi, no cell service). The hotel/campground has adorable cabins and a very large and functional community kitchen. It was the perfect place for short hikes, watching birds, relaxing in the spring and cooking good food. The community spring ‘tub” was wonderful for soaking during day and night.
From Chinati Hot Springs we drove to Marfa. Due to a thunderstorm the night before we were unable to take the Pinto Canyon Road to Marfa, saved for another trip. After a rain, the low water crossing areas become possible mud traps. We left later in the day to let others make a path and for the mud to dry some.
While Texas can be extremely hot and dry, the secret to stay cool is the cold springs and the secret to relaxation is the hot springs. In January 2017, as a far well tour before I left the country for a few years, my friends and I decided to do what we called the “West Texas Water Tour”. We picked 4 springs to visit on our travels, some new to me and some I had visited before.
We started by heading south from Austin to Fort Clark in Brackettville Texas. It was built in 1857 and was home of the 2nd Calvary division. The spring is 68 degrees year round. We had a beautiful 70 degree day for our fist swim.
Got back to Big Bend National Park over Thanksgiving 2015. No mountain lion sightings but we did see some bears.
I did my favorite hike in a new order: Blue Creek Canyon up to South Rim and then down Pinnacles. The hoodoos in Blue Creek Canyon were gorgeous in the morning sun and the grasses on Pinnacles trail were golden in the afternoon sun.
We got to the hot springs during the day and found the short 1 mile hike up and around the bluff very lovely.
We had the most beautiful weather 70s and 40s and a few awesome cloud viewings.
And I finally got to walk into Santa Elena’s Canyon, just spectacular.
While traveling in West Texas in January, I came across lots of great public/street art. I like street art and reuse art and look for it whenever I travel.
The largest set is a trail of art called “One Man’s Junk Art Trail” and is outside Alpine, Texas. Read more about the artist, Harry Weekley Jr, in this Big Bend Galleries & Artists article.
Big Bend Ranch State Park– the Other Side of Nowhere!
While many people are familiar with Big Bend National Park, fewer people are familiar with the Texas State Park that is located near the National Park. Big Bend Ranch State Park is about half the size of the National park and is also about the same size as all the Texas State Parks put together. It takes some patience and time to visit this park as the ranger station and most of the camping and lodging facilities are located 27 miles of rugged, dirt road from the main highway (FM 170) and this is after the 5 hours it takes to get to the entrance if you are driving from Marathon, Texas via the scenic route.
I visited the park with 7 other hikers in January 2015. Due to the time of year, we stayed at the Hacienda House and I would recommend it and the bunk house for small or large groups. And the campgrounds are amazing and very secluded if you like to camp. We had a guided tour by one of the rangers that really helped me understand more about the geology, plant life and history of the area. I highly recommend this if you have the time. It is a great park for novice to experienced hikers and bicyclists; however, select the proper vehicle to take there as many of the trail heads require a 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicle to access. It is also a great place to check out the stars and the park is working towards it’s International Dark Sky certification.
Trails hiked: Closed Canyon, Fresno Canyon, Puerta Chilicote, Cinco Tinajas, and Ojito Adentro.