Ten Days in Southern Texas

If you watched the video from our time in Texas, then you saw how much fun and delight awaits you in this HUGE state! With only a little time, we generally made our way east along the southern border from El Paso to the coast and then traveled along the coast with an exit to Louisiana near Port Arthur. 

We previously wrote about an El Paso itinerary here, so this adventure begins after that.

On our first day after leaving El Paso, we woke from our campsite the previous night at the Licon Dairy and Petting Zoo. This wonderful dairy, renowned for its Azadero cheese, allows campers to park overnight.  We began our morning with a visit to the petting zoo and purchased some cheese before heading further east.

 

There isn’t a whole lot to do in this remote part of Texas, which locals refer to as the “Far West,” but there is a magical little town called Marfa that everyone should visit. The town is known for mysterious lights that appear in the desert, but has also become an eclectic town full of pubs and art shops. 

We suggest visiting the Marfa “Prada Store” on the way into town. It’s a large scale art installation/commentary on modern consumerism, but some suggest it may be an alien trap. Your guess is as good as ours!

 

In town, you should definitely stop by the Presidio County Museum. They have a wonderful display with information about the lights, but also the local history, including the surprising number of films that were made in the area.

That evening, we set up our camper at the Marfa Lights Viewing Area, open to boondockers, to try our luck at seeing the mystery lights. However, we did not see them :(. 

On our second day, we drove south towards Presidio, Texas. We first stopped at the Fort Leaton State Historic Park, an entry point for the Big Bend Ranch State Park. This quaint former homestead and trading post has significant history for the area and features a pretty astounding collection of stills from Pancho Villa films, some of which were filmed just over the border!

  

After our visit, we set up camp at the nearby Loma Paloma RV Park and headed out to hike a bit in the Big Bend Ranch State Park

We began with the Closed Canyon Trail, a delightful slot canyon that travels all the way down to the Rio Grande, though you can only access the river with technical equipment. It was a lovely cool and easy jaunt.

Next, we tackled the much tougher Rancherias Canyon Trail, which traverses the spectacular, arid desert north of the river road. It was dry and remote, but beautiful in it’s openness. 

We ended the day by playing around on the Hoodoos Trail, which features hoodoos right down next to the Rio Grande River!

   

On our third day, we continued our way east along the scenic River Road, a winding and steep road that follows the Rio Grande. We were warned by another camper that it was a scary road to drive, but we had no issues or qualms.

Once we reached Big Bend National Park, we made a beeline for the Chisos Basin Trailhead. We had limited time in Big Bend because we could only get one night in the campground. It is VERY busy there in December! Also, note that campers longer than 20 feet are not recommended on the road to Chisos Basin!

We opted to start our visit with a highly recommended hike on the Window Trail, named such for the window like aspect of the canyon as it heads down to the Rio Grande. 

Next, we drove further east to the Rio Grande Village Campground, where we managed to get one night in their fairly large primitive campground. On our way in, we stopped at the visitor’s center and got a kayaking permit for the day. 

We had an ambitious plan for a kayak/hike loop ending with a dip in a hot spring and it worked! We began by putting our kayaks in at the Hot Springs trailhead. We had to portage the kayaks about 200 yards through a dry creek bed, but that was no problem. We took the river downstream about 4 miles to the Rio Grande Village Campground launch point. The canyon was pretty and the water was just swift enough to be exciting. 

   

We then locked up the kayaks at the launch site and walked about a mile to the Hot Springs Canyon Trail to hike back to where we left the car. 

   

Of course, the most wonderful part of the gorgeous hike along the Rio Grande is that it ends at a natural hot spring that has been well developed for a nice relaxing soak!

On our fourth day, we were very excited for an early morning crossing of the Rio Grande into Mexico for an authentic Mexican breakfast. Pro Tip: Be sure to bring your passport with you to Big Bend National Park!

It’s quite easy to cross the border; you just go to the Boquillas Port of Entry during operating hours. First you walk through the gates to the river and then you can either pay $5 (round trip) to take the ferry or walk across if the water is low enough.

Once on the other side, you can either walk, ride a horse, ride a burro, or ride a truck to the city. It’s only about 3/4 of a mile. We chose to take burros there but walk back. There is also a nice hot spring you pass if you have the time.

The actual town of Boquillas is quite small with few amenities and doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to traverse. There are two restaurants and we chose to eat at Jose Falcon’s, which affords a fantastic view of the river. We ordered huevos rancheros and chorizo. Yum!

Next, we easily returned to the United States, using an automated passport processing machine and enjoying delightful dialogue with the border patrol at the station.

Before leaving Big Bend, we stopped in at the Fossil Display to learn about the incredible dinosaur bones that have been discovered in this remote part of our country. 

That afternoon, we put in some bigger than usual miles to drive closer to Del Rio for our next day’s activities. Be sure to fuel up whenever possible when driving through this part of Texas! 

On our fifth day, we started our day with a visit to the Seminole Canyon State Park, renowned for its incredible 5000 year old pictographs! 

The only way to see the pictographs is on the Fate Bell’s Shelter Pictograph Tour, led by very knowledgeable guides. We highly recommend this opportunity!

Next, we continued southeast to Del Rio, where we stopped at the Amistad National Recreation Area to kayak. One thing we really liked about the Texas state parks and recreation areas is that they all seem to include paddling trails for kayakers. The water was low, but we attempted to paddle Kayak Paddle Trail 2

After our fun aquatic excursion, we headed into town for a night’s stay with a Boondockers Welcome host, who also happened to have a Hi-Lo camper!!

On our sixth day, we arose early for a long-ish drive to San Antonio. Our first stop was Government Canyon State Park. We had intended to hike the Loop Trail, but discovered that half of the park had been closed, presumably for hunting season though it was unclear and no one was in the park office. So, instead, we hiked the shorter Lytle’s Loop

We were personally excited to visit San Antonio because they have an REI, which we haven’t seen for a while. So, we definitely spent more time than necessary perusing gear and sales racks. We had intended to visit the Alamo after that, but Reuben had already been and we were concerned about parking, so with dwindling time, we drove straight to our home for the night, the Texas Air Museum, which allows campers to park in their yard.

On our seventh day, we arose with the sun for an early bike tour of the San Antonio Missions. The city has developed a wonderful bikeable Riverwalk that connects all the old missions, which also constitute a historical national park. 

   

After our 15 mile ride, we returned to the impressive Texas Air Museum for a visit. We were particularly struck by the fact that the affiliated air field and flying school were founded by a family (the Stinsons) whose two daughters were of the first female pilots and actually hired to train pilots for the Air Force.

After our history lesson, we headed south towards Wilderness Lakes RV Resort, a WONDERFUL RV community where many “Winter Texans” set up camp multiple moths a year. The park has multiple daily activities for their guests and we wish we could have stayed longer. 

On our eighth day, we took advantage of the busy calendar of events at Wilderness Lakes RV Resort by attending a morning line dancing class!

After our rigorous Texas warm up, we continued towards the Gulf of Mexico to spend the evening at the Padre Island National Seashore, where free camping on the beach is allowed on south beach. It was an incredible spot!

    

We had intended to kayak from the nearby Bird Basin, but it was so windy, we opted instead to go for a horse ride on the beach! It was a thrilling and beautiful way to spend a windy afternoon on the beach!

 

On our ninth day, we went for a short run on the beach to get the most out of one of the best campsites we’ve found so far.

Since we didn’t get to paddle the day before, we were excited the wind had died down for a paddle at Mustang Island State Park. Like other Texas state parks, this one also provides multiple paddling trails and we opted for the Shamrock Paddling Trail.  

    

After two fairly tiring activities, we had a long drive up the coast to Galveston, where we had arranged to stay two nights at Haak Vineyards. While we normally really enjoy staying at wineries, this one was only so-so. We parked in a puddly parking lot and though we arrived about an hour before closing, they didn’t want to get glasses dirty again before closing so seemed irritated that we wanted a tasting. However, they complied and we bought a decent (but fairly pricey) bottle to have with our dinner.

On our tenth day, terrible rain was predicted, so we decided to change our plans to do more paddling at Galveston State Park and research some indoor options. We settled on Moody Gardens, a kind of educational amusement park! A day pass includes visits to the rainforest, the aquarium, a 4D movie, a 3D movie, Iceland (a HUGE ice sculpture collection), a ride on the bayou ferry, ropes course, holiday lights festival, and ice skating! It was a day packed full of fun.

                      

Next, we continue in Lousiana. Stay tuned for our adventures there!

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