Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas. It is located South of Marfa and southeast of Presidio.The park encompasses a number of former cattle and sheep ranches in the unforgiving Chihuahuan desert.
The land is raw and the roads are worse. I must say that they are much improved over the washed out mess we found there in September of 2015. This year the main roads have been graded and we could approach the posted speed limit of 25 MPH (40 kph) in the park without jarring our fillings loose.
Don't get me wrong. Even with the improvements in the main road, this place is not for the faint of heart or overly civilized visitor. If you're driving a Prius, hire an outfitter to show you around or just stay in Marfa and sip on a nice Chardonnay.
The main ranger station, Sauceda, is 27 miles, (43 km) from the nearest paved highway, FM 170. From there you continue into what they call the interior of the park. Add another 15 miles or so for that. The road skirts around an ancient collapsed lava dome called the Solitario. The Solitario is 10 or twelve miles across and it dominates the landscape. On the far side of the Solitario lies a croup campsite called Tres Papalotes (Three Windmills). This is the site of an old miner's shack, er, I mean office. There is also a large water tank or pila there. The pila was full of water when we were there, with the level maintained by a solar powered pump instead of a windmill.
About a mile south of Tres Papalotes you will find a fork in the road with the Lower Shutup Trail to the left and the Road to Nowhere on the right.
The Road to Nowhere is a single lane road that winds its way up a mountain. The scenery is spectacular, in a desert kind of way. The road is moderately rough but does not require rock crawling equipment or experience.
While on the road, we hoped that we wouldn't encounter anyone going the other way. With a cliff on one side and a 400-foot drop on the other, there are very few places to pass anyone.
I read somewhere that the Nowhere sign in the Solitario is the only one in the park with red letters. You need to have your photo taken with that sign.
We thoroughly enjoyed the drive. We recommend it to anyone with an adventurous nature. If you decide to go there, take plenty of food and water, and make sure that you have enough emergency gear to get your vehicle and you out of a jam. We didn't see a single person after we left the Sauceda Ranger Station. You will truly be on your own.
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