West Texas Multisport - Page 2

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Paradise, Texas: Big Bend and the Rio Grande River  (PhotoDisc)

Days Two andThree: Monahans Sandhills State Park to Big Bend National Park (240 Miles)
From Monahans you drive through the town of Marathon before reaching the Park Headquarters at Panther Junction in the heart of Big Bend, and the route is a scenic one. Big Bend National Park (432.477.2251; www.nps.gov/bibe) is 801,000 acres—one of the largest but least visited of America's national parks. Much of the beauty of the park and its three major habitats—Chihuahuan Desert, Chisos Mountains, and the Rio Grande—is accessible from paved roads, making it a good driving park. There are also 200 miles hiking trails, many great for families. Among the easiest: the three-quarter-mile roundtrip Rio Grande Village Nature Trail at Rio Grande Village Campground, and the four-mile roundtrip Window Trail at Chisos Basin Campground, which is good for wildlife viewing. The moderately difficult Lost Mine Trail is just over five miles roundtrip in the Chisos Mountains, with one of the park's great viewpoints in the first mile (www.nps.gov/bibe/visit/activities/greathikes.htm). There's a Junior Ranger program (a fun, educational program geared to kids, organized by the National Park Service; www.nps.gov/bibe/visit/activities/juniorrangers.htm) and ranger-led hikes, bird walks, and more. Three campgrounds have a total of nearly 200 sites, and there's one RV campground with hookups (432.477.2293; www.nps.gov/bibe/visit/camping.htm).

Days Four and Five: Big Bend National Park to Terlingua (60 Miles) or Lajitas (76 Miles)
You may be driving out of the park but you still have much to experience in it, because the Rio Grande itself is one of the best "roads" of all—and all you need is a raft. Terlingua and Study Butte, outside the park's west entrance, are headquarters for excellent rafting outfitters that run trips in Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park (432.229.3416; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/big_bend_ranch). There are single- and multi-day trips in Santa Elena and Mariscal Canyons in the national park and Colorado Canyon in the state park, among others. If you have flexibility, go for several days—you won't regret it. Check the park Web site (www.nps.gov/bibe/visit/activities/river/riversb.htm) for outfitters. Horseback is another excellent way to explore this land, and there's no better outfitter than Lajitas Stables (800.887.4331; www.lajitasstables.com), with rides from a few hours to a few days, as well as a combination riding-rafting adventure. Camp with outfitters, then take a break and stay at rustic-elegant Lajitas Resort (877.525.4827; www.lajitas.com), famous as the home of Clay Henry, a beer-loving goat (okay, goats are not elegant but the resort truly is).

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