The Journey: Big Bend National Park, Texas

May 2, 2016

In our recurring feature "The Journey," we highlight scenic and interesting drives that can be made in a weekend

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Big Bend National Park is home to endless blue skies, towering limestone cliffs, huge tracts of desert, and rugged mountain ranges. It's situated on the U.S.-Mexican border, west of San Antonio and east of El Paso, and its gorgeous vistas make it a great road trip destination.

Getting to Big Bend isn't easy—the nearest airport is in Midland, Texas, an oil town located about 160 miles away. Big Bend's remote location is probably what makes it one of America's least-visited parks, but it's a beautiful hidden gem worth checking out.

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Start your journey in Marathon, an old cattle town with historic lodging and dining options. The Gage Hotel is a great place to grab a meal and spend the night if you've just driven in from Midland.

From there, stock your car with food and whatever other provisions you'll need, and get ready to enter Big Bend. Take U.S. 385 South to Panther Junction, where you'll find a great self-guided nature tour called Panther Trail.

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On the 30-mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, you'll find remarkable geologic splendor, with places to take in the scenery along the way—Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook, and Tuff Canyon are all great places to stop.

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Next, take the River Road (FM-170) and take in the beautiful views of the Rio Grande. Drive through the historic former ghost town Terlingua, built by miners about a hundred years ago and recently updated to provide comfortable accommodations and dining.

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Head north on 118 to Alpine, a traditional Mexican neighborhood surrounded by mile-high peaks. Then take Hwy. 90 west along the breathtaking Paisano Pass. Thereafter you'll come to Marfa, a major center for Minimalist art. It boasts a wide range of attractions, including the Chianti Foundation, artisan shops, and historic buildings. In addition, Prada Marfa is worth a drive and an impromptu photoshoot with your travel companions—it's an art installation and fake Prada store located in the sprawling, otherwise-empty desert.

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