5 Desert Adventures to Try While Out West for the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love
Explore the area around Marfa by bike, on foot or by soaking in a hot springs
By Pam LeBlanc and Vanessa Blankenship
El Cosmico photographs by Daniel Cavazos, Andi Palacios and Chad Wadsworth
It’s time to set up camp for the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love at El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. Music lovers can dance to live performances by Broken Social Scene, Margo Price, Luna, Chicano Batman, Girl Talk and more from Sept. 26 – 29. Festivalgoers can also join workshops on water marbling with artist Mercedez Rex and wine tasting with Scribe Winery. The 14th annual event will also include day parties, food trucks, art installations and a pop-up desert spa.
And while you’re way out west, why not bring along hiking boots and a spirit of adventure to experience more of what the desert has to offer? Check out these five spectacular day trips around the festival:
1. Ride your road bike from Fort Davis to Marfa.
Forget the daunting 76-mile Fort Davis Scenic Loop, take the 21-mile road between Fort Davis and Marfa instead. For best results, get someone to shuttle you and your bike to Fort Davis and start your ride there. You’ll enjoy an ever-so-slight downhill cruise all the way into Marfa, the official terminus of Texas Highway 17, and along the way you’ll see some huge greenhouses and spectacular views of the desert. When you’re finished, reward yourself with a nap under a tree on the grounds of the Presidio County Courthouse.
2. Visit the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.
Stroll through gardens, hike into a box canyon, dip a toe in a desert spring or explore a sprawling greenhouse bristling with 200 types of cacti and succulents at this hidden gem just east of Fort Davis. Hiking trails crisscross the 507-acre preserve, and a hilltop exhibit explains how volcanos helped form the surrounding landscape.
3. Soak in Chinati Hot Springs.
Pack your swimsuit and take the two-hour drive down rugged Pinto Canyon Road to the rustic (and we do mean rustic) Chinati Hot Springs. The 640-acre “resort” perches alongside a creek that cuts through a rocky canyon, and cottonwood trees create a shady oasis in the spine-covered desert. The best part? Easing into the naturally-heated, rock-walled outdoor tub for a soak.
4. Ride your mountain bike at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Where else but West Texas can you pedal through the prickly desert, into the ancient remains of a volcanic dome, past the ruins of an old wax factory, and into dry riverbeds filled with sand? Check in at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center near Lajitas, and take the East Main Trail into the park. The single-track trails that branch off the main trail – Dog Cholla, Crystal Trail and Camino Viejo – will make you whoop with glee. (But beware of the cactus that snag you just for spite.)
5. Hike to Mesa de Anguila.
Most folks have never heard of one of the best trails at Big Bend National Park — the Mesa de Anguila Trail, which starts behind employee housing for Lajitas Resort. (Nope it’s not the state park; a portion of the national park extends this far west.) Follow the path for about 30 minutes through the flat desert, then start the climb up the boulder-strewn gully. When you reach the top (count on a little more than an hour), look for a faint spur trail off to your right. Chug up that hill, then look south. The reward comes in the form of a million-dollar view of a huge horseshoe bend in the Rio Grande far below.