Planning a trip to West Texas and Big Bend area? Then make sure to include the tiny town of Terlingua Texas in your travels. This single lane dirt road town is one of the best places to visit in West Texas. From the beautiful views of nearby mountain ranges, amazing dark sky nights and historic sites, this small town might surprise you. So if you’re curious to learn more, keep reading to discover the top 12 things to do in Terlingua Texas, that will have you talking about this place for years to come.
Where is Terlingua Texas Ghost Town?
Located in the far West Texas desert, Terlingua was once a real quicksilver mining town. Even though it looks like an abandoned western movie set. When mining for mercury crashed in the early 1900s, the city was abandoned during that time and left behind much of what we see today.
The population started to rebound around 1960. But its history, allure and quirkiness, is what makes Terlingua Ghost Town one of the most interesting places to visit in all of Texas.
Hidden between the villages of Lajitas and Study Butte, just 12 miles from the Mexico border, this city / tourist attraction could become one of your favorite small towns. So if you are traveling to Big Bend National Park it is definitely worth the detour to discover all the unique things to do in Terlingua Texas Ghost Town!
When is the best time to visit Terlingua Texas?
Fall and spring are the best times to visit Terlinqua. Summers are a popular time to travel, however the summer would be really hot and honestly unpleasant to visit. Spring and fall have comfortable temperatures. And with that being said, to avoid the crowds, skip spring break and 3 day weekend holidays. We visited in both October and March and in my opinion, I prefer fall to spring, as the landscape was prettier with more water flowing in the river. However both times were enjoyable temperatures, so which ever season you choose, I think you will enjoy it.
Terlingua really isn’t about the activities, it’s about the vibe and energy of the once abandoned town.
Top things to do in Terlingua Texas
1. Visit the Terlingua Trading Company
Be on the lookout for the Terlingua sign, as you can easily miss it. This road will take you into the center of town. At the end of the road, you will be at the Terlingua Trading Company and parking lot.
When you arrive, park wherever you find a spot and take a look around. Notice the trading company building, it is the descendant of the original general store of the Chisos Mining Company.
After you admire the building, then head inside to get a cold beverage. But first walk around the store. It has all kinds of interesting items and souvenirs. We always find a few unique things to take home. After you shop, go grab a cold beer and head out to the front porch.
2. Enjoy a cold beer on the porch
Yes, that is correct. Get a beer and just go sit on the porch. Trust me, it is what we all do. And you will too.
The tradition to sit, sip and take it all in, has been adopted by both locals and tourists. Taking place at all times of the day, usually because its so hot. However, this simple act, is one of the reasons we all grow to love Terlingua. You meet people on the porch, see cats on the porch and watch people drive up in curiosity and have a great view of the mountains.
This spot is considered the center of town and located next to Starlight Theatre.
3. Take a self guided walking tour
After your beer, explore around by foot. Enjoy a walk around the dry desert land, explore the old abandoned buildings and get a feel for the town and the history. You can pick up a map for the self guided tour at the Terlingua Trading Company.
4. Visit the Historic Cemetery of Terlingua
As you walk around, certainly stop by the Terlingua cemetery. Established in 1902, it is one of the quirkiest cemeteries in the United States and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the final resting place for miners and people of the town. And is also one of the most photographed cemeteries in Texas.
5. Say a prayer at the old church
Established around 1914, the St Agnes Church was once the focal point for the mining town. It was the gathering place for monthly church services, weddings and funerals for the people of Terlingua.
6. Enjoy Great Food And Music At The Starlight Theatre
Without a doubt, no stop in Terlingua would be complete without a visit to the Starlight Theater. This old theatre converted into a restaurant/bar with funky decor is a great place for dinner. They have really good food and afterwards you can enjoy live music. So check the website for updates on times and see who is playing.
7. Visit the local jail
Eventually we all have to go to jail, and that is because the restrooms are located in the jail building. It’s just another funky thing about this town.
8. Enjoy a sunset on the rooftop of Sierra
If you have a few nights in this west Texas town, I recommend the rooftop of the High Sierra Bar & Grill. It is a great place to see the sunset and desert mountains. It does get cool in the desert at night, so bring an addition layer if you plan to sit outside.
9. Taste Terlingua Texas World Famous Texas Chili
If you plan a visit in November, try to plan it around the annual Chili Cookoff. The first famous championship chili cook off started in 1967 and continues to this day. So, on the first weekend of November, Terlingua throws the biggest party of the year and serves some of the worlds best chili. This event draws over 10,000 “chili heads” from all over the world. So mark your calendars for this delicious and festive event.
10. Enjoy the night sky
If you like to star gaze, then this is the perfect place for you. The nearby towns of Terlingua have minimal light pollution therefore allowing you to see an amazing night sky.
We always stay at Maverick Ranch RV Park at Lajitas Resort and they have a lights out policy after dark. So you can see so many stars and even the milky way on clear nights. It was the most amazing display of stars I have ever seen.
11. Explore Big Bend National Park
The Big Bend National Park entrance is located about 30 minutes from Terlingua. It is great base location if you want to explore the park without staying in it.
In my opinion, you need at least 2 days to visit the park, but a few more would be better! That way you can see the best places of the park without being rushed.
Big Bend has a variety of activities for all levels including easy trail heads for bird watching or the Ross Maxwell scenic drive. You can also explore moderate hiking trails such as Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Window Trail or Boquillas Canyon. And afterwards soak in the historic hot springs or even cross the Mexican Border via the Rio Grande River.
Big Bend offers a diverse variety of activities from river and water to desert and mountains. So go explore and have fun!
12. Discover outdoor activities of the desert
Exploring Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park are a great way to get out in nature. But if you want to enjoy the great outdoors without hours of driving or research and planning, consider one of these local outfitters for outdoor activities, rentals and tours. Activities available include hiking, biking, horseback riding, jeep and atv tours, river kayaking and more!
- Desert Sports
- Big Bend River Tours
- Big Bend Stables – Day Tours
- Far Flung Outdoor Center
- Float the Canyons of the Rio Grande
Tips for first time visitors
Terlingua is located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is a remote location. Therefore it has limited supplies and service. Here is short list of things to keep in mind for a safe and successful trip.
- Cell service depending on your provider could be spotty
- Bring your supplies as there are not any large grocery stores nearby
- The desert sun is hot, make sure you have plenty of water at all times
- Pack your passport if you want to cross into Mexico
- Desert animals live there such as javelinas, beers and venomous snakes
Places to Eat in Terlingua Ghost Town (best rated)
- Starlight Theatre Restaurant
- Taqueria el Milagro
- Little Dipper Food Truck
- DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ
- Long Draw Pizza
- Espresso y Poco Mas
- Thirsty Goat Saloon in Lajitas
Places to Stay In or Near Terlingua Ghost Town
We always stay at Maverick Ranch RV Park. It is one of our favorite places to stay with resort amenities, beautiful night sky and great location for visiting Terlingua and Big Bend National Park. Here are all the reasons why you should visit: Top 10 Reasons to Visit Maverick Ranch RV Park
Surprisingly there are also many campgrounds located in the Big Bend and Terlingua area. Here is list of the closest RV Parks to Terlingua Texas.
- The Willow House https://www.willowhouse.co/
- La Posada Milagro Guesthouse https://laposadamilagro.com/
- Basecamp Terlingua https://basecampterlingua.com/
- Lajitas Golf Resort https://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/
- Camp Elena
Are You Ready To Visit Terlingua Texas Ghost Town?
Overall, I think Terlingua is a great add or day trip to your West Texas, Big Bend National Park, Marfa or Alpine road trip. With all its history, culture and quirkiness, Terlingua is worthy of a detour to explore all the great things to do in Terlingua Texas Ghost Town!
I hope you enjoy this quirky town as much as we did! Viva Terlingua!
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