Texas Road Trip Day 2: Big Bend and Terlingua

The second day of my trip started out with an early wake up call to watch the sunrise. The hotel was on top of a hill in Terlingua so you could see the Chisos Mountains and big bend from a distance.

I packed my bag for the day, and on my way out met the couple who was staying in the same building as my room. They were from the Houston Area. They had explored the areas I was headed for the day, the day prior so gave me some suggestions of things to do. They were going to the Big Bend State Park which is a bit west of the National Park.

I grabbed breakfast at Espresso Y Poco Mas (which is owned by the hotel) and had one of the most incredible sausage burritos of my life. I grabbed a coffee too since I wasn’t quite sure when or where I’d be eating next.

I have the annual National Park pass, so every time I’ve visited a national park in 2019, it’s been free to get in. I just show my pass, they give me the map and sometimes a receipt to tape to the window and I’m good to go.

My first destination of the morning was Santa Elena Canyon. The Rio Grand runs between two huge mountains that creates the canyon. One side is Mexico while the other is the United States. The road down to the canyon has a bunch of vistas, hiking trails, and great views along the way. It took me about an hour or so to go from the main road through the park down to the canyon.

I stopped and hiked two short trails on my way to the canyon. I turned around on the one trail when it warned against bears and bob cats. No thanks.

If you look at the photo just above, you can see how the road is on the right side and twists down into the valley. The Santa Elena Canyon I was headed for is the little gap you see in the top left of the photo.

When I finally reached Santa Elena, I grabbed my hiking backpack and headed out toward the Rio Grande. There’s a trail you can hike called the Santa Elena Canyon trail, but you have to wade through a decent sized creek to do so, so I decided to pass on that. Instead, I laid out my vest and sat on some rocks in the empty part of the river bed and got out my journal and prayed. I had asked anyone who wanted prayers for them to send them to me prior to my trip. I wrote them all out and sat in the sun by the river and prayed Texas sized prayers for family and friends.

After my time by the river, I took the road I came in on back north. There’s limited roads in the park, so you have to retrace your path back to get to your next destination. I was headed to Chisos Basin next which has very different vegetation than the canyon did.

The road to Chisos Basin begins flat and then twists and turns up into the mountains. There’s a few places to hike along the way, but not as many as along the path to Santa Elena. The best hiking is rather when you get up into the basin. There’s hiking down out of the mountains which seemed to draw a lot of people.

The bottom right photo above is the top of the basin. There’s another campground down there and there’s also a small lodge near the visitor’s center. I ate lunch in the lodge and had a beautiful view of the basin from the room.

After lunch I did a little exploring, and then headed back toward Terlingua. I wanted to rest a bit before dinner and plan my next day’s adventures. I ran into my hotel neighbors while I was sitting outside enjoying the view, and they told me all about their day’s adventures. They said the hike they did to a spring at the state park wasn’t as exciting as the hiking in Big Bend. We chatted a bit about traveling and their kids before we both got ready for dinner.

I had dinner at the Starlight Theater. It is down the hill from my hotel so I walked there. They had a band performing that night and I really enjoyed them. They’re called the Roth Brothers and you can find them on Spotify. I ordered fried antelope and a prickly pear margarita and enjoyed the music.

The restaurant was pretty empty when I got there but filled quickly. Considering it’s one of the only restaurants and bars in the town, it’s no wonder why it filled on a Friday night. Overall, I had a great day so after dinner I walked back up to the hotel to head to bed before check out the next day. To check out day three, click here.