It’s hard not to feel yourself taken back in time when visiting Big Bend, and the way to really explore it is the same way as the Indians, Spanish Explorers and even the Mexican Banditos did, on horseback!
Big Bend Stables is located in Study Butte, and offer great horseback riding tours of the Chihuahuan desert, and their sister stable is located in nearby Lajitas, which offers rides up into the mountains!
Know Before You Go
Arrive 30 minutes before your reserved time.
Reserve your rides in advance, they do fill up quickly. With that said, it never hurts to call and ask if they happen to have something available last minute.
Bring PLENTY of water! The stable furnishes bags to hold your water.
DON’T leave your car keys in your water bag! This may sound a little specific, but it’s exactly what I did! Thankfully, I realized they were missing the day before left Big Bend. My kids haven’t quit laughing about it since we came home, and every morning I find my daughter has relocated my keys to the saddle pommel of my son’s stick horse!
FYI – Big Bend Stables is in the hamlet (not an incorporated town) of Study Butte, which is part of the Terlingua territory. Terlingua is in Brewster County, which is the largest county in the state, and 3 times the size of the state of Delaware!
Our 3 hour trail ride started at the stables. We were quickly leaving flat ground and leaning forward and backwards as the horses manuevered up and down the small hills. Our guide was excellent at reminding my 7-year-old to hold on, and helping him control the horse! It was his first time to ride without being “led”. He LOVED it!
Old Quicksilver Mine
The Terlingua region was very active during World War I in the mining of Quicksilver (Mercury) which was used by the defense industry. The end of the war and technological advances made the price drop drastically, and the mines were closed and abandoned. Our tour took us through one of the old mines.
The ruins of the old mine aquaduct.
Dynamite was stored underground to keep the HOT summer temperatures from igniting it!
We then headed down into an arroyo, which led us to Rough Run Creek, which was very dry. However, in the desert you must always be aware of flash floods that can occur from rain miles away! We looked in the soft mud for tracks, most of which were deer and coyote.
We leaned forward as we ascended up to Ocotillo Messa, so named for the ABUNDANCE of the beautiful, but prickly, ocotillos! Lovely when it rains and the leaves open, exposing the colorful leaves at the top! You’ll see them growing wild all around, and used as landscaping in places like Lajitas Golf Resort, as well as in much of the art produced in the Big Bend area.
We were told if we were quiet we might see some of the huge jackrabbits that frequent the mesa, but that seemed to only make our youngest speak louder! He was so excited, and our guide was wonderful and answering his many, many questions!
Before we left the mesa, we were given a lovely view of Big Bend National Park’s most iconic landmark, The Window.
Descending was a thrill, and yes, that path does look narrow. Thankfully, the horses are very sure-footed! The ground around us was sparkling with natural glass in the soil, created during volcanic eruptions millions of years ago!
Native American Pictographs
The base of Indian Head Mountain is home to Native American pictographs. The Indians used cinnabar, the Mercury containing ore sought in the mines, to create the rock art.
We stopped here to stretch our legs, explore a little and drink more water before saddling up and returning back to the stables!
Big Bend Stable’s sister stable is Lajitas Stables in Lajita, which also offers trail rides, but in a more mountainous area. They also offer sunset rides, 2, 3 and 4 day rides, saddle and paddle rides and much more! I can’t wait until next year when our youngest will be old enough for a 3-day ride!
Gratuity for Guides
When planning to take a tour, always remember that your guide usually counts on gratuity as part of their income. There isn’t a hard rule on how much to tip, but an article in Outdoor Magazine offers some guidelines, click HERE to read it.
More to do in Terlingua/Big Bend Area!
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.
Terlingua Ghost Town has dining, shopping and unique places to stay in the old ruins of this Quicksilver mining ghost town. Click HERE to read more.
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! While in Lajitas, don’t forget to buy a beer for the town mayor, Clay Henry III, an old goat, literally, who will happily guzzle it down! Click HERE to visit the Lajitas Golf Resort website.
Big Bend Ranch State Park is 300,000 acres stretched along the Rio Grande River. Camping is all primitive. Click HERE to visit their website. 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.
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.
Big Bend Stables
Click HERE to visit their website.
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