Between the rattlesnakes and cacti, the Big Bend region of Texas, along the Mexican border, is not for tenderfeet. But for those in search of great hiking, biking, and rafting amid scenery that rivals the Grand Canyon – but without the accompanying throngs – the slightly seedy throw-back town of Terlingua and the entirely unexpected Lajitas Golf Resort make the perfect escape.

Sandwiched between Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park, Lajitas got a new lease on life a few years back when a couple of investors bought the 25,000-acre spread. The new owners refurbished the main building as well as the historic cavalry post. You'll be tempted to try to hit a ball into Mexico from the carefully maintained golf course, but the real attractions here are off site.  

The highlight for bikers is the Lajitas Trail System. Pick up your "Trails and Tribulations" guide at Desert Sports, which rents bikes as well. There's also the 25-mile Contrabando Loop in Big Bend Ranch State Park, which runs a bit longer than the renowned hike at Mesa de Anguila, a 15-mile loop that soars above the Rio Grande. That trailhead hides not far off main street and starts with a 1.5-mile lung-busting climb that requires, patience, fitness, and a permit.

Running the Rio Grande is sort of like paddling the Grand Canyon: The scenery is stunning, but you'll rarely find anything beyond Class II. The longest canyon in Big Bend is Boquillas. Closer to Lajitas, Santa Elena Canyon's steep red walls hide startling white water. Climb into a raft and enjoy the ride.

More information: Far Flung Outdoor Center has everything you need (except beer) to knock off a full day along the border before heading back to the resort.