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Alpine - Texas

 What to See and Do | Where to Stay

This small town is the northern gateway to Big Bend Country, centered around Big Bend National Park which lies directly south. One highway route (TX 118) leads in a general southerly direction to the western park entrance near Terlingua and Study Butte. The other main route to the park lies to the east of Alpine, leading south from US Highway 90, 31 miles east of town.

 

This is US 385, running 40 miles south to the park entrance, and another 30 miles to park headquarters. Park roads connect the two main routes, providing an incredibly scenic loop drive to and from Alpine.

The town sits off the southern edge of the Davis Mountains, and just north of the Del Motte Mountains. These ranges are of volcanic origin, covered with forests, with the basins around Alpine perfect grassland for ranching. Huge ranches cover the areas between the mountains, with commercial orchards located in the canyons west and south of town. Alpine has a celebrated climate, having been fortuitously located high enough to have a moderate temperature during summer months when the lower reaches of Texas to the east suffer with incessant heat. Originally named Murphysville in 1883, the town was renamed in 1888 to reflect its location in what local settlers called the "Alps of Texas." It's the quintessential West Texas town: small, semi-rustic (capturing the ambience and memories of the Old West), with educational facilities that provide ongoing cultural activity.

What to See & Do

Sul Ross State University carries on the traditions of the teacher-training institution which was founded as Sul Ross Normal College. A current specialty of the university campus is the study of the Chihuahuan Desert, with a focus on biology, geology, and range management. The annual rodeo at the university brings travelers to the town from far and wide. The college was the birthplace of trhe National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

The Museum of the Big Bend, on the campus, provides a great introduction to a Big Bend vacation, offering a look at the early settlements in the vast Big Bend region (including Native American life), as well as artifacts from the mining, ranching, and settlement eras. The museum is accessed through the upper gazebo gift shop. Including the hands-on Discovery Center, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Alpine has a nine-hole golf course, a half-dozen motels, plus RV parks and bed and breakfast homes. The town and surrounding area have become a haven for a growing number of artists who exhibit in local galleries or show their own works, and gather together several times each year for "Gallery Night," with about 15 galleries participating. Other than art and crafts, shopping runs to boots and saddles, and almost anything you could want in the way of Big Bend and Texas outdoor recreation information in the Apache Trading Post.

Twenty-six miles to the west is the small town of Marfa, where the mysterious "Marfa Lights" are seen periodically. The bright sky scene -- to the southwest -- is seen from a viewing area about nine miles east of Marfa. Otherwise, Marfa's distinction is that the 1955 motion picture Giant was filmed here, with Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor staying in private houses while most of the other actors and crew stayed in the El Paisano Hotel (still operating). Marfa is the county seat, with a courthouse, and the Presidio County Museum which features an exhibit on the Marfa Lights. The museum is open Wednesdays from 2 to 5 p.m. Marfa's 9-hole golf club is the highest golf course in Texas.

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