Texas's Wide Open Spaces

Do you want horizons for miles, the feeling of space, and the possibility to make your own manifest destiny? It's hard to do better than the more than 800,000 acres that make up Big Bend National Park, located in Texas's southwest corner and one of the National Park System's least-visited parks, owing to its remoteness. If you're not camping in the park, check out the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon - it looks like a Deadwood set and is a reasonably priced spot to call home after a day on the range. And after you've had your fill of hot dogs and s'mores, enjoy the first-rate "Texas Cowboy Cuisine" at Reata Alpine in the nearby town of Alpine. If you'd like a professional's take on the park, the World Outdoors' seven-day Big Bend-Rio Grande Hiker combines hiking and canoeing for a trip back in time that lets you experience the true meaning of the Wild West. You start with a visit to Fort Davis, a nineteenth-century frontier military post, and then hike and paddle your way through Santa Elena Canyon, its walls soaring to 1,500 feet.

Billing itself as "the ultimate hideout," the chic Lajitas sits on 25,000 acres between Big Bend National and State parks and offers the amenities of contemporary Western living, including an 18-hole golf course with four holes on an island in the Rio Grande and an optional par-one in Mexico, as well as a spa with an aptly named three-treatment, two-and-a-half-hour special called the Escape ($225). But if you're hankering for the perfect combination of old and new, sign up for the "So You Wanna­ Be a Cowboy" package: The two-night stay includes custom-fit cowboy boots, a shooting lesson, two half-day horseback rides to a nearby mine and ghost town, gourmet cowboy grub, and accommodations. Prefer to explore the area on a bike? The X Bar Ranch has 16 miles of moderately technical, mostly single-track trails that run through hills, mesquite flats, and dry riverbeds.

Natural Wonders | TEXAS

Big Bend National Park
(432) 477-2251
$15 (per vehicle) entrance fee

Gage Hotel Marathon
(800) 884-4243
from $69

Reata Alpine
(432) 837-9232
203 North Fifth Street

Big Bend-Rio Grande Hiker
(800) 488-8483

(877) 525-4827
from $195

X Bar Ranch
(888) 853-2688
from $80