Things to Know about Far West Texas

Far West Texas, as has been said about the state of Texas in general, is like a whole other country. A few things to know before the journey.............




Listed as both the main appeal and the main challenge of Far West Texas is its distance from pretty much anywhere else. Unless you plan on getting here by private plane, it’s a long journey. But that is also the biggest draw. Being this far away from everything can be very liberating.



How to get there

From all parts Texas, the easiest way is to drive. If you are coming from further away, the best way is to fly into El Paso then drive to your specific destination. From El Paso everything is 2-4 hours away. Alternatively, you can also take the train. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited runs through El Paso and Alpine. There are car rental options in each town.




While all of Far West Texas is very dry, the temperatures can vary quite a bit, both from region to region and from night to day. The summers are usually very hot during the day but pleasant at night and early morning. Hiking in the summer heat in Big Bend can be risky. Winters can get cold (for Texas) with snow not uncommon. Temperature swings in the higher elevations can be dramatic. Overall, most of the region can be enjoyed during all 4 seasons, but plan accordingly, dress for the weather, and bring lots of water on hikes.



Gas, groceries and food

Continuing on the remote theme, getting the essentials can sometimes be a challenge. Every town has a gas station, but there are very few gas stations between the towns, and you will pay more per gallon in the more remote areas. The local grocery store chain, Porter’s, has locations in many of the towns (including Presidio), and has regular hours and surprisingly reasonable prices.



Variety of food

Far West Texas can be a bit of a challenge if you are a vegetarian. Not to say there are not options here and there, but life is whole lot easier if you enjoy a good steak. The beef dish is usually the best option on the menu, and it’s generally advisable to stay away from the seafood options. Regardless of what anyone tells you, there is nowhere in Far West Texas where “the fish is flown in daily”.




The entire region is in the Chihuahuan Desert, and water is scarce. It is strongly recommended to bring your own water and conserve water wherever possible, including ordering water at restaurants and bathing/showering. You are almost guaranteed to use more than you think you will, especially in the hotter months. And few things are more critical that ensuring you have enough water for hikes.



Hours of operation

Given the limited year-round population and the ocassional spike in tourist crowds, business hours for restaurants are all over the place. Most restaurants don’t stay open past 8, many closing at 5 or 6. In Marfa, most restaurants are only open on the weekends. Like everything else listed here, planning is key. It is also wise to pack at least a few snacks in case a restaurant can’t be found at the right time.



Cell phone coverage

Coverage is a whole lot better than it used to be, but it can still be a challenge. It is fairly dependable on the interstate and in most of the towns, but outside of that it can be a bit spotty. The coverage maps for most major carriers are a bit optimistic. It’s best to plan any important calls while in the more “urban” areas. That said, many people find being disconnected from the "outside world" for a few days to be quite enjoyable.




Crowds vary wildly throughout the year, particularly in the state/national parks and in Marfa. Holiday weekends and festivals can stretch the capacity of the towns, hotels, and restaurants. As with everything else listed on this site, additional research is key. If you must go during peak times, it’s advisable to start early in the day and avoid the most popular attractions.



Time Zones

Most of Far West Texas is in US Central time, but the westernmost 2 counties (which include Dell City, Sierra Blanca, and El Paso) are in Mountain time.




What to pack depends on where you are going. If you are doing Big Bend or The Guadalupes, the list is longer and will include all necessary outdoor gear. If you are hanging out in the towns/cities, it’s not that different from anywhere else. The short answer is food and water. Both can be hard to find in certain areas.



Border Check Stations

Due to the amount of narcotics and illegal aliens that travel up from Mexico and through border towns, there are US Border Patrol checkpoints about an hour outside of all highways leaving El Paso and Presidio (Big Bend). All cars must exit the highway and go through a checkpoint where you are asked your citizenship. As both Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson will tell you, if you have weed in your car, they’ll find it.



Be nice

The area is seeing more and more tourists ever year, as well as an influx of people from "less friendly" regions of the country and the world. The region can also see extreme crowds and rather dramatic temperatue swings. People who are not prepared for some of these events, or who are expecting a different vacation experience, can be rather unpleasant to locals and hotel/restaurant/park staff. Please don't do that.