West Texas and the Legend of Pecos Bill

TEXAS IS A BIG STATE. HOW BIG? ALMOST 270,000 SQUARE MILES BIG. ITS SO BIG, YOU COULD FIT SLOVENIA, AUSTRIA, LUXEMBOURG, THE CZECH REPUBLIC, SWITZERLAND, MACEDONIA, BELGIUM, SLOVAKIA AND MACEDONIA INSIDE ITS BORDERS. THAT’S TEXAS. IN THIS ITINERARY WE ARE GOING TO TAKE YOU THROUGH THE northern PART OF THE STATE, the famous Llano Escatado AND DOWN to the border areas of the Rio Grande.

#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
West Texas

Start/End:
Dallas, Texas

Total miles:
1,800

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, history buffs

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

Pecos Bill, in American folklore, cowboy hero of the Pecos River region of Texas who was an exaggerated personification of Western stamina and values; his vivid exploits are analogous to those of the legendary giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan of the North Woods. The theme of Pecos Bill is to be ready for whatever life throws at you, and to never give up, and that idea embodies the spirit of West Texas. When you think of Texas, more times than not your thoughts are drawn to the dusty plains where vast open spaces are long between water holes and cowboys and bandits and quick-draw lawmen are sharing dusty saloons.  While that western spirit encapsulates Texas in American history, West Texas is also a place of modern cities, eclectic and dynamic communities and, of course, the birthplace of outlaw country.  This route is perfect for those who want to experience the culture and beauty of West Texas.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop. This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, but the outdoor life that typifies West Texas Culture will not be as active. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.

DAY 1: land in Dallas-Fort Worth, travel to Wichita Falls

Barn pained with the Texas flag.

2 hours/140 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into DFW International Airport and renting your car from the airport and setting out west toward your first stop, Wichita Falls. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip. The first thing you need to do when you get into town, is head to Whataburger. Generally on these Itineraries we try to send you to locally-owned establishments, but Whataburger is such a Texas institution, that we figured just this once wouldn’t hurt.

Best place to shop:

Alley Cat Mercantile

Best place for a stroll:

The Falls in Lucy Park

Most unique museum:

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame

Best place to get back to nature:

Riverbend Nature Cener

Can’t Miss It:

The World’s Littlest Skyscrapers

Best place for a local beer:

Wichita Falls Brewing Company

DAY 2: Sweet Amarillo

3.5 hours/224 miles

As far as we can tell, there are around 25 songs about Amarillo, Texas. There is just something about this town that inspires people to sing its virtues. And speaking of inspiration, if you are looking for something to sing your own song about, head to Palo Duro Canyon. The second biggest canyon system in the United States, this dramatic 60-mile long and 800-foot deep canyon is noted for its excellent hiking, birding, fishing and mountain biking. If you happen to be in Amarillo during the summertime, one can’t-miss event is to catch a show at the TEXAS Outdoor Musical. It’s an event you won’t soon forget.

Best place to stretch your legs:

Historic Downtown Amarillo

Best place to shop local:

Alley Katz Antique Emporium

Best place to grab dinner and a drink:

The Metropolitan Speakeasy

DAY 3: Buddy Holly's Hometown

2 hours/120 miles

Lubbock is, hands down, the most underrated music town in Texas. Hometown of the Rock n’ Roll legend Buddy Holly, Lubbock celebrates that music royalty in the top-notch Buddy Holly Center. Today Lubbock has become a mecca for the Alt-Country boom and bands from all over the country come to Lubbock to be a part of this dynamic city’s music scene. Clubs like the Blue LightBackstage Lubbock and The Cactus Room play host to this musical heritage with all kinds of live music and shows.  One thing we would recommend is to get a room at the Woodrow House. It’s a great bed and breakfast and if you want, they have a restored Santa Fe Railroad Caboose you can stay in.

Get some cowboy duds:

The Branding Iron

Best place for dinner

Abuelo’s

Best place to have a great night out:

The Depot District

DAY 4: Abilene

3 hours/170 miles

Known as the Friendly Frontier, Abilene, like many of the towns in Western Texas, got its start as a cattle town. Today it is a vibrant town with a population of 120,000. The county seat of Taylor County, Abilene is home to a number of colleges and is known for its fun and vibrant downtown area.  One thing you can’t miss in Abilene is the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. It’s a great museum and will take you back to your childhood.

Get some culture:

The Grace Museum

Must see:

Fort Phantom Hill

Best place to shop:

La Villa

Best historical walk:

Historical Downtown Walking Tour

Best steak in Texas:

Lyttle Land and Cattle Co.

Best Local Beer:

SockdoLager Brewery

DAY 5: Odessa and the Midlands

1.5 hours/77 miles

Odessa is said to have been named after Odessa, Ukraine, because of the local shortgrass prairie’s resemblance to Ukraine’s steppe landscape. Its not hard to see why, located on the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado, Odessa has been named the 3rd fastest growing city in the United States and that growth has been represented in a surge of culture, art and excitement. One of the first things you should do when you get into town is head to the Sherwood and Woodson Parks Aquatic Center. It’s a great place to cool off before you head out on the town.

Best out-of-this-world experience:

Odessa Meteor Crater

Can’t miss it:

Stonehenge Replica

Best place to shop local:

The Briar Patch

Best historical re-created experience:

The Globe Theater

Get some Tex-Mex:

Rosa’s Cafe

Sing a little country music:

Neon Moon Karaoke Lounge

DAY 6-7: Guadalupe National Park and El Paso

2 hours

This is going to be a longer day but with good reason. On your way to El Paso you are going on a slight detour to visit one of the loneliest national parks in the lower 48, Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  There are a number of thing to do here, which is why we recommend spending the entire day here before heading on to El Paso, and exploring the city the next day. A border town, El Paso is home to a major universitynumerous cultural activities and, as it’s along the flowing Rio Grande, many potential outdoor opportunities. If you decide to take a trip into Old Mexico, here are some things you need to know.

Crossing into Ciudad Juarez

Take a stroll and maybe see a ghost:

Concordia Cemetery

Best Tex-Mex in El Paso:

L&J Cafe

Learn how to Line Dance:

Little Bit of Texas

DAY 8 through 10: Big Bend National Park

6 hours/340 miles

You have a long drive of several hours to reach your next destination, the spectacular landscapes of Big Bend National Park. In a sense, this is one of the best ways to experience the magnitude of Texas, as you will drive through hundreds of miles of flat desert expanse to reach the park, which is nestled along the border with Mexico. This park is especially significant as it is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. The park – which sprawls over 800,000 acres – is host to more than 1200 species of plants, 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles and 75 species of mammals. Backpacking, horseback riding, bird watching and fishing are all popular within this desert paradise. The first place you should stop is at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Plan on spending at least a couple of days in Big Bend to take it all in.

Best breakfast burrito in Austin:

Mi Madre’s

Can’t miss it:

Whataburger in Del Rio

Stock up on supplies before Big Bend:

The French Co. Grocer in Marathon

Best desert hike:

Chimneys Trail

Best river hike:

Hot Springs Trail

Best desert hike:

Lost Mine Trail

DAY 11: Refresh in Marfa

3.5 hours/135 Miles

To get a dose of high culture in an unexpected place, head a couple of hours north to Marfa, a tiny West Texas town that has become a cultural mecca in recent years. What was for decades a sleepy old military town became a mark on the art-world’s map when minimalist sculptor Donald Judd bought numerous buildings in Marfa to turn into studio and living spaces in the 1970s. Today, though still quite rural, the town is host to many world-famous art institutions like the Chinati Foundation, the Judd Foundation and the Lannan Foundation, as well as a handful of smaller galleries and shops. The town has retained its mid-century looks over the years and many Hollywood movies are filmed here to evoke that time. There are, surprisingly, a few stellar places to eat in this middle-of-nowhere locale.

Soak your muscles:

Chinati Hot Springs

Stock up on reading material:

Marfa Book Company

Can’t miss it:

Prada Marfa

Have an Alien experience:

The Marfa Lights

Best place to eat:

Boyz2Men

Fun night out:

Lost Horse Saloon

DAY 12: San Angelo

A turtle on a lilypad. Thinking about background is one of our nature photography tips.
4 hours/260 miles

Today we are sharing a secret with you. And that secret is San Angelo. Located on the banks of the Concho River, the town is known as an oasis in the heart of West Texas. There are an abundance of things to do. Fort Concho National Historic Landmark has restored buildings and displays original artifacts and weapons. The Concho River Walk is a long, green corridor with walking trails, gardens and parks, such as The Bosque and Kids’ KingdomDowntown Concho Avenue is lined with restored 19th- and 20th-century period buildings and has unique boutiques and shops.  San Angelo is a just a really great town, and that’s all there is to it!

Can’t miss it:

Miss Hattie’s Bordello

Best outdoor recreation:

San Angelo State Park

Great place to take a stroll:

International Waterlily Collection

Most eclectic visit:

Chicken Farm Art Center

Best place to shop local:

Fourth Avenue

Best Place for local beer:

SoCo Taphouse

DAY 13 and 14: d-town and the metroplex

1.5 hours/90 miles

Welcome to Dallas!  Long associated as the financial heart of the Texas Oil Boom, the town has grown a lot from it’s wild younger days. It is now a city that prides itself on its dedication to history and culture. Downtown’s Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza commemorates the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. In the Arts District, the Dallas Museum of Art is a world-renowned institution. Dallas has a number of great and eclectic neighborhoods all waiting for you to explore. Though Dallas is a great town, make sure you leave time for Fort Worth. Originally the last stop on the Chisolm Trail, today, it’s a modern city.  Fort Worth has acclaimed museums, fantastic modern architecture and an array of wonderful dining and shopping opportunities.  The Fort Worth Stockyards are home to rodeos, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors the pioneers that made this area great.

Best place to get some culture:

Kimbell Art Museum

Take a ride on a roller coaster:

Six Flags Over Texas

Take a hike:

Fort Worth Nature Center

Best place get outside:

Klyde Warren Park

Can’t miss it:

Dallas World Aquarium

Put on your dancing boots:

Billy Bob’s Texas Honky Tonk