Surrounding Towns and Points of Interest.
Lajitas is no longer really a town so much as it is a resort. Expect really high prices on everything, due in part to the ownership and new management. They sell the only gas west of Terlingua until Presidio, but expect to spend well above what you'd spend anywhere for anything.
Go see the mayor. He's a goat. His name is Clay Henry IV. Seriously. Located right off the main highway right next to the Lajitas General Store. One of the best sunset viewing spots in the area—there are no bad ones—is at the turnout off River Road (TX FM 170) at the top of the Big Hill, which you'll know when you get to it. About a 25–30 minute drive west of Lajitas, this vantage point not only offers a spectacular view of the Rio and the mountains but also River Road is widely considered one of the most scenic drives in the US, and the Big Hill is the steepest grade on any highway in Texas. And it's totally free.
OTHER PLACES TO GET TO NEAR THE BIG BEND
Museum of the Big Bend Located at Sul Ross State University, Gate 4 entrance. FREE! Cool museum highlights the history of the people who ended up in the Big Bend throughout history, the impact they made, and its impact on them. Rotating exhibits in other wings, check website. Also, a very cool map room downstairs if you like to get nerdy (by appointment only).
Hancock Hill Located behind SRSU, it's the hill with the giant SR spelled out in rocks. Go in Gate 4, follow the road to the end, take a left. Trailhead is in the parking lot near the foot of the hill. A short hike up gives you a great view of Alpine and is the perfect place to watch the sunset or sunrise. This is also the location of the infamous desk that has been there for many years (Google it!). It's not terribly easy to find, but a great photo op if you do. Trails open to the public 24/7 as far as I know.
FREE! One Man's Junk - Art Walk. Located in the Double Diamond Ranch just south of Alpine off 118. This is a short trail featuring some really cool art made from found objects.
Scenic Turnout on 118 Drive a few miles south from Alpine on 118 and you'll see the parking area on the side of the highway. Cool view of Alpine at sunset, great photo ops.
Wasserman Wranch Want to spend some time with a little kangaroo? Of course you do. Pay these nice people $5 and they'll let you. They'll also show you their alpacas, a tiny aoudad, three different species of mules, and a burgeoning bee farm too. For $3 more, they'll saddle up a mule and lead you on a short ride around. Their insurance won't let you ride without a lead. Kinda fun, even if you aren't a kid. Check Google for their hours and call before you go to make sure they're open.
Harry's Tinaja Everyone is welcome at least once! And as their sign says, if you haven't been to Harry's, you haven't been to Alpine. Cool beer bar, CASH ONLY, and don't be surprised to see a local or traveler picking a tune on one of the house guitars. Pickers are always welcome, don't hesitate. Be sure to memorialize your visit by asking the bartender, who might be Harry himself, for a Sharpie and stapler so you can decorate a dollar bill and add it to the ceiling.
Railroad Blues Self-described world-famous beer and wine tourist trap. One of the widest varieties of beer you'll find anywhere in west Texas, but beware: most are old beers because everyone drinks cheap booze at this joint. Often live music on the weekends, and if so, expect to pay a cover. Occasionally they do get some great, well-known acts that are passing through. Pool tables, dart boards, etc.
Food trucks in Alpine are the best plan for lunch. A few of my favorites are as follows:
Cowdog - gourmet all-beef and veggie dogs with awesome toppings. Open infrequently to frequently, you'll just have to stop by and see. Located at Plaine Coffee Shop.
Tri La Bite - Burgers, sandwiches, salads, and baked potatoes, plus some killer daily specials. Open for lunch and sometimes dinner. Located next to Twin Peaks Liquor.
Smokin Cuban - Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos, located next to Harry's. Open for lunch and sometimes dinner.
FishCat - Badass Japanese food from a cool renovated Airstream trailer on Murphy Street off 5th.
Sake Bar! - inside a converted horse trailer. CASH ONLY, only open Sat/Sun from 11AM–9PM.
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute Located on 118 just south of Fort Davis, about a 20-minute drive north from Alpine. Admission is $5 and they have a great 2-mile or so loop trail with sweeping vistas overlooking the Davis Mountains and surrounding desert. Also, check out the botanical garden filled with native plants and a cactus greenhouse filled with an incredible collection.
Fun fact: the Chihuahuan Desert is home to more unique species of cactus than any other desert on the planet.
Rattlesnakes & Reptiles Located across from the Fort Davis National Historic Site. Admission is usually $4 and the guy working the counter is probably worth it by himself. He's kinda weird, but you probably would be too if you were the caretaker for the largest collection of different species of rattlesnakes anywhere. Lots of other reptiles and tarantulas too. Creepy fun, less than an hour of your day.
FORT DAVIS EATS
Stone Village Market & Deli
Maybe one of the most old Austin kind of places in West Texas. Super friendly staff, great tasty food, lots of organic foods, etc. Fresh-made sandwiches and soup of the day, plus you can buy meat and cheese to go and groceries too.
Mando's TexMex, CASH ONLY.
Quiet, cool laid-back town that serves as the eastern gateway to Big Bend National Park. Not a lot going on here, but that's really the best part. If you are looking for a place to stay, there are a handful of Airbnb rentals and the Gage Hotel.
Brickvault Brewery and BBQ
The newest, smallest brewery in far-est Texas, Brickvault boasts Head Brewer Brodie Pierce, formerly of Big Bend Brewing Co and the United States Marine Corps.
Brewing small batch beers to highlight the tastes and culture of the Big Bend and incorporating local ingredients where possible, Brodie doesn't just love good beer, he’s also a certified Cicerone™ too. Stop by for a beer you can only get right there and some delicious BBQ too.
The Only Target Within 200 Miles Located on the south side of US 90 between Alpine and Marathon, this retired 10' x 10' railroad building sports a Target logo sign and a weird selection of "stock" inside consisting of different stuff people have left. Way cooler than Prada Marfa, in my opinion, and always a funny photo op.
Gage Gardens - Beautiful, lush oasis in the middle of the desert, lots of native flora, a working herb garden for the hotel and restaurant, an English-style garden, and even a putting green and dog park. FREE!
The Post Former site of an army outpost located on Colorado Peña Springs, this little park is about 5 miles south of Marathon. Great place to cast a rod in the sometimes stocked spring-fed pool or hang a hammock from the Cottonwoods and enjoy some shade.
James Evans Gallery Located next to the Gage Hotel and coffee shop. James is one of my favorite Big Bend photographers, definitely worth a stop.
White Buffalo Bar Located inside the 12 Gage Restaurant at the hotel, a cool place to grab a drink and see a very rare true White Buffalo head. It was found by the owner in a museum in Wyoming and he liked it so much, he bought the entire museum collection just for that. I'm not terribly into dead animals on walls, as I prefer to see them alive in their natural habitat, but this is likely the only one of its kind in Texas and beyond.
Lost Horse Saloon
One of my favorite dive bars in Texas and pretty much the only place I drink in the off chance I’m in Marfa. Look for Ty, the owner of the bar, who you’ll know by his tall, lanky stature & eye patch...
Prada Marfa - Valentine, TX, then 5 miles west
Be one of the first people in history to get your picture taken in front of this sure-to-be-historic landmark for all the ages.
Marfa Lights Viewing Center
Believe it or not - get all the info here.