We’ve often viewed the western part of Texas as land to be driven through on the way to someplace else. This time it was getting from El Paso to Austin. On an earlier RV journey, we were headed to Big Bend National Park and passed within 25 miles of Marfa, but didn’t detour. This time, since we had a few extra days, we decided to slow down and check out the area. That mentality often leads to buried treasure. We’d heard of Marfa—recalling a write up in the New York Times. Marfa in the New York Times?!? So, this time, we took a closer look.
Top Stops in Marfa
The “Marfa Lights” are the major reason for this town’s claim to fame. Arrive at dusk and park at the officially designated viewing platform to see the mysterious orbs. Unfortunately, we weren’t planning on spending an overnight, so we did miss our chance to see this phenomenon. We did, however, discover many other wonders that, well, really made for an unforgettable side trip.
Driving toward Marfa on Texas route 17, we saw the first sign that this was going to be no ordinary small western town. About 30 miles out, on the west side of the road surrounded by Texas scrub desert, was a Prada store! Smaller (by far) than the Atlanta or Las Vegas stores – after all, this is a small town. It featured Prada shoes in the window displays, along with handbags visible on the inside. We parked our Winnebago on the shoulder of the road (no lot needed) to check out this oddity. Not a real store, just one of many art forms, and an introduction to the personality of this town.
While we always have lunch supplies with us, we wondered what kind of surprises this town would have on the food scene. We didn’t have to go far to find a food truck– the ‘Food Shark,’ featuring freshly prepared Mediterranean food. Great food, and judging from the line that formed, maybe the best and only place to eat in Marfa for lunch.
Next, we drove on to the Chinati Foundation, which was founded by artist Donald Judd. His work has added fame to this small town. In addition to a number of galleries in this former military base, he has scattered his concrete cube art around the landscape on the Foundation property. Concrete cubes as art, we wondered?
But like the whole town experience, we were in for a treat. We had fun climbing through the cubes, checking out the views from the insides, exploring the different cube configurations, and most of all, enjoying how the light played on the cubes in the late afternoon. There are also two hangars filled with sculptures. A surprise to us!
RV Park Options
With so much to do, it made us think we should have allowed for an overnight in Marfa. So, before continuing our journey, we had to check out two of the RV campgrounds – we’re bound to be back here someday.
Very near to the Chinati Foundation is Apache Pines RV Park. At this park, there are a number of vintage trailers that occupy a site and can be rented for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have their Winnebago with them. It was fun to see these retro RVs mixed in with the newer motorhomes and trailers there for a night or more.
Also, on the east side of town, there is the Tumble In Trailer Park, another RV park with vintage trailers to rent. Next time, we will plan to stay the night, check out the ‘lights’, and camp in one of the vintage trailer parks.
Bonus Stop at Nearby Balmorhea State Park
And for other lovers of unusual places, we must also mention another stop in this part of west Texas. A great overnight option on Texas route 17 is Balmorhea State Park, just 54 miles from Marfa. This is a 46-acre state park located on the San Solomon Springs. In addition to a 34-site campground (most with electric and water hookups), there is the amazing 1.3-acre pool as well.
With over 15 million gallons of water flowing through this pool daily, this is a great place to take a dip in the year-round water temperatures of 72-76 degrees. The CCC, which built the pool and a nearby motel style retro lodge, left the sand and vegetation on the bottom. So, when you jump into the cool clean spring water, you can swim with the local fish, and if your timing is good, have some ducks fly in for a rest on their route.
There’s more in the scrub land of west Texas than you may think. Check this area out!