Day 3: Balmorhea, Alpine, Marathon
Depart Marfa by heading north through former military town Fort Davis to Balmorhea State Park, where the Civilian Conservation Corps built the world’s largest spring-fed pool during the Great Depression. The park has modest rooms to rent and places to camp, but it’s the year-round-73-degree water in the Beaux Arts–style basin that makes Balmorhea worth a stop—and a dip—particularly since oil and gas development may destroy the park and pool in the near future. Take advantage while you can.
Loop back south through Alpine and check out Cheshire Cat Antiques, which has vintage Hudson’s Bay and Navajo blankets, Native American silver jewelry, and other southwestern treasures. From there, head to Big Bend Brewing Co., perhaps the most remote brewery in the United States, to sip its locally made beers. In that same craft spirit, but dating to 1905, is Big Bend Saddlery, a dream emporium for custom-tooled leather—everything from photo albums to cellphone belt clips, as well as cowboy bedrolls and, of course, saddles. Spend the night in southwestern luxury at the Gage Hotel, in the town of Marathon, the gateway to 800,000-acre Big Bend National Park. The hotel has a ranching motif, complete with cowhides as rugs and a restaurant that serves elk-and-buffalo meatloaf and stuffed quail.
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