Marfa, that modish art colony in the desert, has reached zeitgeist status as a must-visit destination for hipsters and art lovers looking for an extra dose of inspiration. But there’s much more to do in West Texas than get in touch with your inner artiste. For the intrepid nature lover, there’s Big Bend National Park and its ancient limestone canyons. For the cosmically inclined, there’s the impossible dark night sky. And for those who just want to take in the stark landscape from the front seat of a car, the towns of Alpine, Marathon, and Balmorhea form a constellation of sorts, with highways between that capture the spirit of the desert—as you fly by at 80 miles per hour.
“Where we are in Texas is very particular,” says Rocky Barnette, owner of the Capri, one of Marfa’s best restaurants. “We call it Northern Occupied Mexico because we are on the north end of the Chihuahuan Desert, and it’s more like Mexico than the rest of Texas.”
And that’s the thing about West Texas: At its heart, it’s a crossroads—of landscapes, of adventures, of fast-fading relics of America past. Its charm lies in extremities: harsh, arid landscapes amid lush pockets of desert shrubs. Intense sunlight that turns rosy and soft before it melts away into winter nights. Great expanses of sand and rock, canyon and crag, that are home to jackrabbits, coyotes, and bears. It’s one of the last places where you can go deep and go wide, and, if you do, you can expect to find West Texas’ pink dust on your mind—and in your pockets—for a long time to come.