I’ll be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect in West Texas. Armadillos? Cowboys? Crappy reception?
But what I got was a week in wide open spaces, good food, and the friendliest people around that make you want to stop right there and put down roots.
I mean you know the locals are going to be friendly when they tell you to drive the Texas way within a foot of crossing the state line.
At first glance it doesn’t look like much. More mountains than you would have expected, more cows than humans, and sadly no armadillos. But the roads fading off into the distance start to feel comforting with every passing mile and every steering wheel wave from a rancher in a pickup.
West Texas is gaining tourism popularity thanks to Instagram worthy murals, night skies, and trendy art installations.
So you’re parked in West Texas for the week and think you’ll run out of stuff to do in one afternoon? Think again.
Where to Stay
The #trending town of West Texas is Marfa and while it has hip boutique motels and a few quirky RV parks, we found our home to be in the neighboring town of Alpine. It’s central location turned out to be the perfect basecamp to explore the area!
We stayed at the Lost Alaskan RV Park, just on the outskirts of town on Highway 118, literally smack dab in between Fort Davis & Big Bend, but we’ll get to that later.
Confession: this was our first RV park we had ever stayed in. I guess I pictured creepy guys scratching their belly buttons as I walked by, or run down cars that have more cobwebs on them then paint. But what we found here at Lost Alaskan was the friendliest snowbirds and permanent residences we could have imagined!
We scored spot D19, and I personally think it’s the best site in the park. It’s an end site that is perfect for sunset watching with unobstructed views.
After spending a week in a chilly and wet Arizona, we were all happily soaking in that Texas sun!
Lost Alaskan is located close enough to town that it’s near gas stations, restaurants, markets, and cell towers for awesome internet speeds; but far away from town to only hear a train horn in the distance and an occasional airplane flyover from the nearby airport.
Full hookups will cost you about $45 a night with a Good Sams discount, but the memories made here were priceless.
What to do
So you made it here. You got your phone charged, a full tank of gas, and a bag of beef jerky for provisions. Now what?
Did you know that the small town of Alpine has over 40 murals itself?!
You can even download a PDF map and do a walking tour of the murals!
At the stoplight on Holland Avenue and 5th Street was our personal favorite, “Big Brewster,” It perfectly captures all of the aspects of West Texas culture in one beautiful, Instagram-worthy painting.
Fort Davis National Historic Site
As I had previously mentioned, Alpine is located along Highway 118. You head south on the 118 you’ll hit the well-known Big Bend National Park. But if you head north, you’ll take a drive in Texas hill country and make your way to Fort Davis National Historic Site.
From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail.
It’s one of the best surviving military posts in the country!
And hey hey hey, another diamond to the Gems of the Road ranking … it’s dog friendly!
You can see Fort Davis as quickly as you’d like, but I’d say you could comfortably spend a few hours here! We took a self-quidded tour of the five buildings that are restored and refurnished from the 1880s.
During the summer months, interpreters dressed in period clothing are stationed at some of these buildings … and they have reenactments that make you feel like you just stepped back in time!
Being from the Western part of the states, we didn’t have field trips to historical sites in the Civil War, we just read about them in history books. So it was a surreal experience for us to walk around these grounds and imagine what it was like here during that era. History came to life!
This is where I wish I was a better photographer. Lucky for me there’s this wonderful thing called YouTube that taught me how to take a decent night sky photo using my Samsung S20 Ultra 5G cell phone.
Marfa has some of the best night skies in the country, thanks to low light pollution in West Texas.
Anthony loves anything having to do with space, so I knew we’d have to make the side trip to the back roads of Marfa to see the view.
Ok confession time … I’m afraid of the dark. To clarify, I’m afraid of what horrible unimaginable things I come up with in my mind … in the dark. So I’d like to give myself a high five here for facing my fear and standing in PITCH BLACK IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE for Anthony to stare at the sky … that means not looking around to see what monsters are going to snatch me away, not even paying attention to me … just looking up in complete oblivious bliss while I try to keep from having a heart attack at 30 something.
I digress .. but maybe it’s because I read about the Marfa Lights and images of little green men kept coming to mind.
But it was all worth it when I calmed my heartbeat, opened my eyes, and looked up.
I have never seen so many stars in my life. This photo doesn’t even do it justice. You’ve just got to go out there and see it for yourself.
Oh, but bonus! We got to see the adorable javelinas on the return trip so #worthit!
Ok ladies, I hope you got on your cutest outfit, stunner shades, and you got your hair did because it’s time to get that influencer shot!
Ok, I poke fun, but let’s be honest, that’s what Prada Marfa is all about. To answer the question I know you’re thinking … no, it’s not a real Prada store. It’s a permanent land art project by artists Elmgreen & Dragset. It’s actually not even located in the town of Marfa, but is on Highway 90, just outside of the town of Valentine, TX.
If you’re going to fast or look down to change the song on the radio, you may just blow by this place. But you may be able to see it coming by a sudden cluster of cars parked on the side of the road. When you see the hipsters you know you’re getting close.
For me, it was a travel day coming from a chilly New Mexico … so ugg boots and a pony tail it is. Guess I’ll never get that blue check mark for Insta …
But we did get to pet the adorable donkey that hangs out behind the boutique, so that was worth it.
Big Bend National Park
West Texas’s most famous attraction. Big Bend National Park is just that … BIG. Sitting on over 800,000 acres, it contains the Chisos Mountains, the Rio Grande, and the Chihuahuan desert.
It gets its name from the location of the bend of the Rio Grande, which provides a natural border between the U.S. and Mexico! There’s a short hike you can take to an overlook with an amazing view of the border!
We had Butters and Tiskies with us, so we weren’t able to truly explore Big Bend to it’s fullest potential. But if you don’t mind being in a car the majority of your trip there’s still a lot that can be seen with your fur babies!
We were surprised to learn about the archaeological importance of this area. We would have never guessed that there are over 1200 different fossil species that are known from the park or that the world’s largest known flying creature of all time was once found in Big Bend NP!
We checked out the Fossil Discovery Exhibit in Persimmon Gap and found it very informative … and fun!
At the time of our visit there was construction going on along the scenic Chisos Basin Road and we missed the iconic Window View and stunning drive to the highest points of the park. Next time!
Big Bend NP is only a couple hours from Alpine, TX and we were only able to take a day trip there. But, I would highly recommend spending at least 2 full days inside the park to get the whole experience. Their peak season is from November – April and campgrounds book fast, so I suggest you start planning your trip NOW!
What to Eat
When we rolled into Texas we knew we wanted to eat two things: BBQ & chicken fried steak.
What we discovered was a hidden foodie mecca!
So which were our favorites? Check it out!
Hot dogs? Really Gems? YES! We love using Yelp! to find where the locals eat and this place was high on the list. Plus, umm there logo is a wiener dog and we had to support that!
Located on the main strip of Holland Ave., Cowdog Alpine is open Wednesday – Saturday for lunch and you’ll spot it a mile away thanks to it’s bright blue color! It shares the same parking lot as a Plaine Coffee shop which seemed to be another popular stop for the locals.
We ordered the “El Pastor” & the “Bad Dog” and they’re so much more than just a hot dog from a cart. The combination of flavors is so creative, it’ll be hard to choose just one! They use 100% beef hot dogs and it’s made with love! We could have eaten here every day if our cholesterol levels would’ve allowed it.
Butters looked a little concerned about our dining choice, but she enjoyed a bite or too of beef!
Chicken Fried Steak
“Now, when you come into Fort Davis, make sure you stop by the Drug Store and get yourself some chicken fried steak. Now isn’t that the most Texas thing you’ve ever heard?!”
This was by far one of the best phone conversations I ever had. While booking our stay at Lost Alaskan RV Park the front desk staff gave us this advice and we had been excited to follow her guidance for weeks.
So when the day came, we skipped out on lunch to save waistline room for this Texas portioned classic.
The Fort Davis Drug Store is located on State St. right about center of the main drive. You can’t miss it because it looks like Billy the Kid could come walking right out the front door guns blazing!
They were kind enough to let us enjoy the patio with Butters, but make sure you take the time to go inside! It’s got an adorable little shop filled with local artisans and gifts.
We of course ordered the chicken fried steak with all the fixings, but I was also recommended to get the chicken strips. Call me basic, but I LOVE chicken strips, actually Anthony and I both do and it was one of the first things we realized we had in common. The waitress says, people come here for the steak, but the locals come here for the chicken strips. Ok I’ll take em.
I give you the happiest man in West Texas. It was one of the best meals we had ever had.
Always, always, always, take a recommendation from a Texan on where to find chicken fried steak.
Davis Mountains Nut Co.
I love pulling up to a campsite and they give you those handy little maps/guides of the campground and they have advertisements for local businesses. It’s the first thing I look at when we get settled into a new place.
Hmm … pecans in Texas huh? I always associated them with somewhere like Georgia or Oklahoma but ok let’s go.
Davis Mountains Nut Co. has been one of our favorite hidden gems we have discovered on this journey so far. It’s a tiny business with big heart,
I walked in just before closing time hoping to just have a sample or two, grab a bag to support a local business and be on our way. Within minutes of talking to the owner, I instantly wished I had gotten there hours before. Davis Mountains Nut Co is owned by two brothers, but is now primarily ran by David, and that is who I had the pleasure of speaking with. Their slogan is “You can taste the difference care makes” and it’s perfect. I’m not a huge pecan fan and I’ve never seen them used with so man fun flavorings! Everything from Key Lime, to chocolate covered, to cinnamon coated, to flavored with Tang.
There wasn’t a flavor I didn’t like. But I walked out of there with the salted jalapeno, the spicy sweet, and the cinnamon toast.
They are ridiculously addicting! So much so that we actually went BACK again a couple days later to restock before leaving town. Lucky for us, they ship nationwide and that’s a relief, because I don’t think I’ll be able to have pecans from anywhere else, ever again!
When we planned the first leg of our full-time RV life journey and Anthony found out we’d be going through Texas, the first thing out of his mouth was “I want Texas BBQ.”
So we gladly obliged my Missouri-born BBQ loving fiancé, and found Smokehouse BBQ located right there in Alpine. Information is hard to find online, you’re not really sure of its hours until you’re there. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it sized establishment but they’re pumping out BIG Texas flavor!
There’s a couple tables inside, but no outside dining, so we ordered our 3 meat plate and a Doggy Snack Pack for Butters to-go.
I’ll say it again, if you want an extra diamond on your Gems of the Road rating, be dog friendly. You want that baby to be the size of the Heart of the Ocean … you have a pup menu.
When I ordered the Doggy Snack Pack, I said hey, she’s a 7lb wiener dog, no need to go crazy on the size portions, a couple burnt ends will make her day. What we got was high quality meat that was as almost the same size as our portions!
Don’t worry Butters didn’t eat all of, although she could have been totally capable of doing so.
She had a few pieces, shared some with her kitty sister and we actually diced up the rest, sealed it in the freezer and will use them for a recipe later!
We ordered the ribs, brisket, and pulled pork with sides of mac n’ cheese and coleslaw. Pure Texas bliss.
The Texas Tater
Another campground brochure find was the Snack Shack, conveniently located only a few hundred yards down the road from Lost Alaskan. It’s another Alpine business with off hours, and somedays they may close early due to being sold out or just not enough customers close to the end of the day.
But when you pull up to what looks like is a house/restaurant combo, you’ll see a worn out sign saying “HOME OF THE TEXAS TATER”. Ok sign me up …
This place is super convenient. It has plenty of parking for RVs, outside dining, and a drive-thru! Hallelujah!
Anthony ordered the beef brisket sandwich, which was delicious. But he had serious meal envy when he got a look at this beauty.
I give you the most beautiful and best loaded potato I’ve ever had (sorry Idahome).
A massive sized potato topped with brisket, grilled onions, broccoli, cheese, sauce, maybe a kitchen sink in there … not sure. But it was amazing. I had to take one for the team and pretend I was too full to finish the rest so Anthony would stop giving me the puppy eyes and finish off “what I couldn’t have another bite of”. Full disclosure, I could have eaten two of these things. They are just that good.
Ok last food thing I promise, and it’s a bit of a *bonus* but if you’re heading east from Alpine towards San Antonio, you have got to stop by Julio’s in the border town of Del Rio.
The morning of our departure from Lost Alaskan we talked to our neighbor who had made his way from Georgia and he said, “You’ll be hungry by the time you get there, there’s one spot for RV parking, if it’s open take it.” So we did.
Julio’s is known for their corn tortilla chips and they are some of the best bagged tortilla chips I’ve ever had!
Due to COVID they only had their drive-thru open at the time, so it was a little tricky to order but a kind local helped me translate and place my order with an accommodating woman who even delivered the food to our truck, so I didn’t have to wait in the hot Texas sun.
Do not attempt to eat tostadas and tacos in a car with a dog and cat unless you’re an expert.
Fortunately, this wasn’t our first rodeo, and yes that was intended to be used as a Texas pun.
West Texas was supposed to be a pit stop to bigger and better things. But we left wishing we had stayed there longer. It’s the ultimate gem of the road.
Kerisa, Anthony, Tiskies & Butters