Texas Travel

Texas Travel Guide: West Texas City Spotlights

By Patrick Reardon 12.14.22

West Texas is what non-Texans tend to imagine when they think of the Lone Star State: Big Bend mountains and the Panhandle plains, frontier forts and ghost towns, and valleys and gulches fit for a Western flick. The towns in the region are hot spots for seeing ancient Native American art, learning cowboy lore, and gearing up to explore the great Western trails, mountains, and rivers in the area.

So when you’ve finished exploring North Texas and East Texas towns, follow our Texas Travel Guide out to the Western frontier and discover 10 new towns that embody the true American West.

1. Albany

Albany was forged by frontier life, a story it retells every year during its Fort Griffin Fandangle, an enormously popular historical musical production. While you’re in town for the show, dinner at the Beehive Restaurant & Saloon is practically mandatory — it has been touted to be the best country steakhouse in all of Texas.

2. Alpine

As you might guess by its name, Alpine is settled in the foothills between the Davis Mountains and Glass Mountains. As the unofficial gateway to Big Bend National Park, many hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers often stop in town to gear up and visit the Museum of the Big Bend before exploring the frontier.

Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

3. Canyon

Canyon is a small town in West Texas, but it’s home to the longest-running outdoor musical in the state. The show takes place every year in the eponymous Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest canyon in the U.S. that was home to several Native American tribes for some 12,000 years.

4. Comstock

Comstock sits along the Rio Grande River in one of the most historic areas in Texas. Some of the best-preserved rock art in the world can be found here, chalked up on canyon walls by Trans-Pecos people more than 6,000 years ago.

5. Fort Davis

Originally a stronghold on the Western frontier, Fort Davis was the headquarters for the famous Buffalo Soldiers, freed slaves who were hired to protect settlers from territorial disputes with the natives. It’s also purported to be the highest town in Texas, so these days it’s a mecca for hikers looking for majestic views and adventures in the rolling green Davis Mountains.

winter road trips

6. Marfa

When they think of Marfa, most people think of the mysterious Marfa lights, large balls of ghostly light that sporadically (and inexplicably) appear and dance over the Chinati Mountains outside of town. But Marfa is also home to some of the best modern art in Texas and attracts as many art aficionados as ghost hunters.

7. Midland and Odessa

The Midland-Odessa metroplex is world-famous for its role in the petroleum industry. While both are small towns, each one is rich with oil and culture: Midland’s Permian Basin Petroleum Museum has an exhibit on Chaparral Racing Cars, while Odessa’s high school football history inspired the Texas classic “Friday Night Lights.”

Salt Flats Texas
Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

8. Salt Flat

Salt Flat is a ghost town, so there’s not much to see here. But the salt flats for which the town is named were once a violent battleground between Texan pioneers and Mexican natives who both wanted control over the precious minerals. Today, however, the flats and town are a muddy and abandoned site you might briefly glimpse on your way to El Paso.

9. Shamrock

Irish immigrants settled Shamrock in the Texas Panhandle in the 19th century. Today it’s a must-stop for Route 66 travelers and one of the most popular destinations for St. Patrick’s Day parties in all of West Texas.

10. Terlingua

Terlingua is another ghost town in West Texas, just outside of Big Bend National Park. Although there are approximately 100 people who call it home, nearly 10,000 Texans flock to the little town each year to compete in one (or both) of Terlingua’s annual chili cookoffs.

As you explore the cities of West Texas, be sure to visit the seven state parks here, too.

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