Terlinqua Ghost Town is just one of those rare places that are beyond definition. Located in an area the shape of a slice of pie between the Big Bend National Park and the Big Bend Ranch State Park, is the perfect location for anyone who wants to explore a sampling of the Rio Grande, Chisos Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert.
Once an abandoned ghost town, the town has been re-energized for the tourist industry, but with a regard for the past. Ruins are being restored for living areas, while maintaining their appearance.
Know Before You Go
Fill up your gas tank before heading out to Terlingua, or anywhere in Big Bend. Bringing a spare gas can couldn’t hurt, either. There is only one gas station in Terlingua, and it’s going to run you about $.50/gallon higher than in Alpine.
Make sure you are well stocked in everything you need, although the Cottonwood does sell quite a few things! You are over 150 miles from a Walmart, which is really a beautiful thing!
Bring plenty of water! Always travel with at least a 3 day supply of water in Big Bend.
Don’t depend on your GPS and phone, because service is iffy. Bring a map, write down directions to your hotel and phone numbers.
Make no mistake, Terlingua is a TOURIST destination, and be prepared that everything is going to cost more than you expect. It’s not bad if you are prepared for it.
Terlingua is really like NO WHERE ELSE in Texas! It’s beautiful, clean and as much as I could tell, safe. You can spot the locals in the crowds, and they are all happy to meet you! Tourist are from ALL OVER THE WORLD!
A walk through Terlingua’s history should begin where so many lives ended, in the cemetery. Started during the town’s mining days, the oldest graves date back to 1903, although many of the unmarked graves are said to be older.
We visited during the Thanksgiving break, but there were still many remnants of the Day of the Dead celebration from a few weeks earlier. Locals told us that it’s a beautiful time to visit!
Dotted across the Terlingua region, you’ll find abandoned ruins in different stages of decay, but you’ll find the largest concentration of them in the Terlingua Ghost Town.
Within the past few years, investors have begun reviving the ruins, while still maintaining their appearance. Some are rentals, and some are year-round residences.
You can walk through many of the ruins, where the old beer pull-tabs, rusted car fenders and discards from decades before seem as much a part of the scenery as the ruins themselves.
Chisos Mine, an Abandoned Quicksilver Mine
Just across from the Terlingua Trading Post is the Chisos Mine, one of the areas many abandoned mercury mines.
Stroll through Earth and Fire Gallery for a wonderful example of Big Bend’s many resident artist’s works!
Terlinqua Trading Company
The Terlingua Trading Company sells lots of souvenirs, and even has a Christmas room. Even if you are completely purchased out from the National Park, be sure to visit to go through a room filled with fossils of prehistoric animals found in Big Bend!
Many of our evenings in Terlingua ended at the Terlingua Trading Company’s big porch, known to locals as “The Porch”. Connected to the Starlight Theatre, we would put our name on the always lengthy list (be sure you do this first). My hubby would then pick up one of the porch’s guitars (donated by residents so they would have someone to play with) and jump in with whoever else was there. Meanwhile our kids were busy being kids, meeting other children who’s families were also waiting on tables, or even some of the few resident “local” dogs, who are as well known as the locals themselves. They would play games and take turns using the porch’s HUGE hula-hoops, the largest which boast a 4′ diameter! Of course, it’s an easy evening listening to the quiet strumming of the guitars and the children’s laughter, all under a blanket of a billion stars, who also seem to be locals of Big Bend.
Unfortunantly, we weren’t there when the Farmer’s Market was open, but please visit their facebook page by clicking HERE for more information.
Throughout the region, you’ll find unique, funny and inspiring pieces of art, just sitting in the desert. A testament to the creative minds that reside here.
Places to Eat
Terlingua’s middle of nowhere motif has a down side, but you’ll only notice it when you get hungry. Although the town does offer some good restaurants, there are only a few restaurants to choose from.
Several times I heard tourist say, “What this town needs is….” completed with some type of eating establishment. But I disagree, I think it’s perfect just the way it is. There’s a place for commercialism, but it’s not here.
The La Posada Milagro is the place to start your morning, watching the sun rise over the mountains to the east, it just doesn’t get any prettier. The closest we saw to a traffic jam came about 9am, as guest had made quite a line, so try to arrive a little earlier.
We stopped at Long Draw Pizza one evening at the urging of my 14-year-old daughter, who seems to have a pizza dependency. I wasn’t expecting much, and isn’t it a terrific feeling to have your expectations BLOWN AWAY? Long Draw certainly surprised me, with great pizza and really friendly locals who were very eager to chat. Long tables make it easy to make new friends, along with a big patio and cold beer. CASH only.
As I mentioned, we ate here several nights, and came back one night just for desert. Each night they had live music, and be sure to get a selfie with the stuffed remains of original Clay Henry, the beer-drinking goat who was elected major! His descendant lives down the road in Lajitas, and you can buy a longneck at the local store and watch him guzzle it down!
Places to Stay
Terlinqua Rentals offers a couple of amazing choices for your stay in the ghost town. Choose from this awesome tipi, a vintage RV, or Casa Azul, built from one of the century old rock ruins! For more information, please click HERE to visit their website!
La Posada Milagro also has several guesthouses in the restored ruins in the Ghost Town. Click HERE to visit their website.
Perry Mansion/Holiday Hotel
According to legend, at least the one of their brochure, the Perry Mansion was the original home of the Chisos Mine. We were told that the mine owners always built on the highest points so they would have a good vantage point to defend themselves from Pancho Villa, who frequently robbed the Texas border towns!
The Terlingua Chili Cook-off is held each November, and the Chihuahuan Bicycle Race Fest happens each Valentine’s Day weekend.
More Things to do in the Terlinqua/Big Bend Area
Terlingua isn’t a town, but refers to the region, which includes the Ghost Town, as well as the hamlets of Lajitas and Study Butte. Here is just a few of the things to do….
Big Bend Stables and Lajitas Stables offer 1/2 day, day and even 3 day trips into the Chihuahua Desert! We loved it, and it’s an incredible way to experience Big Bend! Click HERE to read more.
Just past Lajitas and the Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Rio Grande tumbles across the landscape. Far Flung Outdoor Center offers river rafting trips from a 1/2 day to 30 days! They also offer jeep, ATV and hiking tours! Please click HERE to visit their website.
See the pictographs on Indian Head Mountain. Ancient man left his mark all over the mountains of Big Bend, but one of the easiest to see is in Study Butte. Indian Head Mountain road takes you right to the Big Bend National Park boundary (not an entrance), and the pictographs are located right off the road.
Big Bend National Park is huge, and you could spend your entire trip there, and not see a fraction of the park along, much less anything of the rest of the region. There is a restaurant, RV and tent camping, lodging and high-demand cabins. Click HERE to read more.
The Boquillas Border Crossing, in the Big Bend National Park, is a small boat that ferrys you, not your car, across the Rio Grande for $5 a person. You can then take a burro into the Mexican tourist town of Boquillas for lunch and shopping. Passports are required.
Lajitas Golf Resort and RV Park host luxurious rooms, a golf course, restaurant, spa, shops and the only swimming pool I could find in the area! We didn’t have time, but I heard their zipline across the canyon is breathtaking! Click HERE to visit their website.
Big Bend Ranch State Park is 300,000 acres stretched along the Rio Grande River. Camping is all primitive. Click HERE to read more. The Visitors Center has an interesting interpretive center and garden.
The River Road, named one of the most scenic drives in the United States, stretches 40 some-odd miles from Lajitas to Presidio. The road curves and dives through the mountains, with plenty of stops along the way for scenic overlooks. It is also the steepest road in Texas, at a 17% incline. After your drive, stop in the Big Bend Ranch State Park store for a souvenir River Road t-shirt.
Ojinaga, Mexico lies just across the border from Presidio, and is not really a border town, but does boast a good restaurant in the plaza. Be sure and take your passports for everyone in your family, you can’t get into Mexico without them, and you can’t get back.
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