The wide-open region of West Texas features a variety of stunning natural attractions. Deserts, mountains, canyons, lakes and even a stretch of the state's largest river are found in the region. West Texas is also home to some unique towns and villages and some as of yet unexplained attractions, such as the famous Marfa Lights. In short, West Texas is just as unique as it is expansive.
Located on the "big bend" of the Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park is one of the state's largest outdoor recreation areas. Hiking, camping, fishing, birding, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, nature watching (the park is home to mountain lions, a few black bears, and numerous other unique species), swimming, and other activities are all popular activities. Rock and fossil hunting are popular, although no specimens may be removed from the park. Big Bend National Park is so large that it boasts five visitors centers within the park confines, two of which are open year around. If you like being outdoors, you can't miss a chance to visit Big Bend.
Rugged and remote, Hueco Tanks State Park is rich in history and natural beauty. Home to some of the earliest known pictographs in North America, some of which date back to pre-historic times, Hueco Tanks was also the site of the last Indian battle in El Paso County. Today, the park, which is located a short drive from El Paso, draws a fair number of visitors, most of which come to view the cave drawings. However, in modern times, rock climbing has also become a popular activity at Hueco Tanks State Park and climbers come from across the Southwest to climb here.
El Paso Zoo
Located in Texas' western-most city, the El Paso Zoo is one of the state's best-kept secrets. This surprisingly expansive zoo covers more than 35 acres and contains more than 220 animal species. The zoo's nine exhibits are categorized into three sections: Animals of Africa, Animals of Asia, and Animals of the Americas. Although it is often overlooked, the El Paso Zoo is one of the most impressive zoos in the Lone Star State.
First sighted in 1883, the mysterious Marfa Lights have appeared virtually every night since they were first spotted and still no one is able to adequately explain this phenomenon. Through the years (and decades and century) since they were first seen, the Marfa Lights have grown into somewhat of a pop culture sensation. Today. thousands of visitors trek to this tiny West Texas town each year just to view this unexplained illumination. Just outside the town of Marfa is the Marfa Lights Viewing Area, which allows visitors to be situated in an ideal spot to view the lights if they appear. The town also hosts an annual "Marfa Lights Festival."
As part of the University of Texas' astronomical research program, the McDonald Observatory is a vital part of the effort to understand deep space. And, it's open to the public! Located just outside of Ft Davis, the McDonald Observatory features several powerful telescopes mounted on top of Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes. The Observatory features nearly half a dozen powerful telescopes, including the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, which is one of the world's largest optical telescopes, and the Otto Struve Telescope, the first major telescope constructed at the McDonald Observatory, having been built between 1933-39. The McDonald Observatory also operates a Frank N Bash Visitors Center, which features educational programs, a theatre, cafe, gift shop and more.