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Visiting Terlingua, Texas

Visitng Terlingua, Texas

So if you’ve been following this blog for a while and have gotten to know me, you will find this post is going to be different. Instead of giving you a trip report on how cheap I traveled, I’m going to show you how to have fun and explore the small town of Terlingua, Texas.

Things to do

Terlingua Ghost Town

In the early 20th century, the town of Terlingua became the world’s quicksilver capital. It produced 40 percent of the nation’s mercury by 1922. A flood and the drop in the price of minerals after World War II dried up the boom mining town of Terlingua. Remnants of the old town are still around today, and visitors can walk around among the buildings. You can learn about the history, imagine what life was like 100 years ago, and if you’re lucky, find a local waiting for his dinner to tell you stories. My nephew and I toured the town and were very fortunate to visit with a man whose family has called Terlingua home for many years.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

A truly remote park, Big Bend Ranch State Park is just west of Terlingua, Texas. The park stretches along the Rio Grande, which is also the United States and Mexico’s international border. Big Bend Ranch State Park offers mountain biking, paddling, horseback riding, and some of the best night skies on planet Earth.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is shown

Big Bend National Park

Not much different, Big Bend National Park offers much of the same adventures but is to the east of Terlingua. It also stretches along the Rio Grande and international border. Big Bend National Park is home to some of the highest peaks in the Chisos Mountains. One thing I love about Big Bend is that it has three distinct ecosystems: the river, the desert, and the Chisos Mountains.

Float the River

When we visited Terlingua, I wanted to take my nephew whitewater rafting. Unfortunately, when we went, it was not prime time for rafting. But we were still able to canoe. We used Big Bend River Tours and they were great. Our canoe trip went through an amazing canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park. It was beautiful and I loved that we literally teetered along the US-Mexican Border.

A bonus was that I got to take my nephew to Mexico without actually going to Mexico.

For other river outfitters click here.

Floating the Rio Grande

Horseback Riding

One thing I wished we had done but didn’t have time for was to go on a horseback riding tour. There’s just something about visiting the wild west and exploring on horseback. Also, my brother-in-law who says we take him on excursions that require too much effort, said horseback riding is more his style. To find stables in the Terlingua area click here.

Places to stay


If you are like me and spending less money on lodging is your thing, there are several campgrounds within the town of Terlingua. The website and app Campendium is a great resource for finding campgrounds. You can also read reviews from others who have stayed there.

The sun rises over the mountains in Terlingua Texas


If you are like my brother and sister-in-law and a warm bed and roof over your head is more your style, there are numerous hotels within Terlingua to choose from. They stayed at the El Dorado Motel and enjoyed it. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and I stayed in a nearby campground. And it was nice to have a basecamp because it snowed on us. Sitting around the campfire was not really an option on our visit.


For a more upscale experience, Basecamp Terlingua has some pretty amazing places. The ones that I was most impressed with were the bubbles. The Big Bend area of Texas is a premier dark-sky destination. The local man I visited with said it only has one rival in the entire world. And that is located way on the other side of the world in Australia. So of course staying in a Bubble makes a lot of sense.

But don’t delay, the Bubbles book up quickly, sometimes a year and a half in advance. That is why we didn’t stay there. We only started planning six months out. Darn!

Big Bend National Park is shown outside Terlingua

Airbnbs and Condos

There are also several Airbnbs within the area of Terlingua. Some of them are exquisite and give you a real desert town experience.

Where to eat in Terlingua

Starlight Theatre

Our favorite place to eat dinner was the Starlight Theatre. Because we visited Terlingua over New Year’s, we saved this place for New Year’s Eve. We had about an hour’s wait, but we did not mind. While waiting my nephew and I explored the Terlingua Ghost Town and the rest of our party enjoyed drinks and the sunset.

Drinks at the Starlight Theatre

High Sierra Bar & Grill

The High Sierra Bar & Grill is also a great choice. We sat outside and enjoyed the night sky. The food was also really good.

Chili Pepper Cafe

The Chili Pepper Cafe is a great place to get some true Tex-Mex. They specialize in Northern Chihuahuan fare, which I loved because of its real local flavor.

A plate of Mexican food is shown

Rio Bravo Mexican Restaurant

After getting off the river, we had lunch at Rio Bravo Mexican Restaurant. It too tasted amazing and felt like we were invited into someone’s home in Mexico.

A plate of Tex-Mex is shown

Espresso Y Poco Mas

Coffee is very important, and because we were camping, but not cooking at the campsite, we knew we needed to find a local eatery with it. Espresso Y Poco Mas also serves authentic border-town breakfast, which is very good. I ate there every day for breakfast.

A woman holds coffee

Visiting Terlingua

Terlingua, Texas, is a wonderful place to basecamp while visiting Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, or just the area in general. I loved that while we were in the town, we had amazing views of the Chisos Mountains and Santa Elena Canyon. And of course, we had amazing views of Mexico.

Terlingua, Texas, is a wonderful place to basecamp while visiting Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, or just the area in general.

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