We meet our guides at 7:00am at our host hotel in the multicultural border city of El Paso. After a brief orientation, we drive to the spectacular Davis Mountains to begin our ride near the McDonald Observatory, on the highest paved road in Texas. Our visit to this preeminent astronomical installation includes lunch at the StarDate Caf���, followed by a thrilling downhill ride to historic Fort Davis. There we pay a visit to Fort Davis National Historic Site, one of the finest examples of a frontier military post in the American Southwest. Afterward, we ride across sprawling ranch lands toward Marfa, where we check in for our stay at a hotel on the National Register of Historic Places. Our after-dinner treat? The mysterious Marfa Lights! Lunch and dinner included.
Cycling: 54 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,862?/-3,823'; Van transfer: 3.5 hours
We start our day with a must-see exploration of the Chinati Foundation, the brainchild of artist Donald Judd who transformed a sleepy ranching town into a world-renowned minimalist art hub and the eclectic enigma that is Marfa today. Afterward, we make a run for the border, cycling from Marfa through the Chinati Mountains to Presidio. Along the way we picnic in Shafter, a ghost town once noted for its silver mines. Then we enjoy a 1,600' descent with a fast finish as we roll into Presidio, the oldest continuous settlement in North America, dating back to 1500 BC. Relaxing poolside might just be the perfect balm for tired legs in advance of our Mexican fiesta-style dinner. All meals included.
Cycling: 60 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,028'/-4,100'
Today we experience the mighty Rio Grande at its finest as we ride El Camino del Ri��� from Presidio to Terlingua. The route is described as one of the most scenic stretches of roadway in North America, and by day's end, you?ll know why. We take a well-deserved rest at the overlook atop Dark Canyon, known locally as "The Big Hill." Our efforts today are greatly rewarded with a jaw-dropping mixture of dramatic canyons, lush Rio Grande floodplain, and majestic mountains as the road rises, falls, and twists its way through this incredible landscape. We stop by the Barton Warnock Visitor Center, which presents an outstanding perspective of the entire Big Bend region. Finally, cap off the ride with more amazing scenery as we pedal into Terlingua to our historic accommodations: a restored mansion in heart of a ghost town. We celebrate the day's accomplishments with dinner at the iconic Starlight Theatre in Terlingua. All meals included.
Cycling: 63 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +3,360'/-3,060'
Enjoy a rest day in Terlingua, the best little ghost town in Texas. From the 1880s until the 1940s Terlingua was a boom town with more than 1,000 hardy souls mining quicksilver in the harsh desert environment. Today Terlingua has been reincarnated by some true West Texas characters as a center for river rafting, music and general mayhem, perhaps most famous for its annual World Chili Cook-offs. For your free day, pick your own brand of adventure from a variety of options: a river trip on the Rio Grande; a mountain bike ride in Big Bend Ranch State Park; a zipline adventure on Lajitas Mesa; or maybe a round of golf. If you truly desire something more relaxing, then in true Terlingua style, just do as the locals do and chill on the Trading Post porch and watch the world go by. Meals are on your own to allow the greatest flexibility with other activities. Breakfast included.
Bidding a fond farewell to Terlingua, our route today takes us through the heart of Big Bend National Park, our ultimate destination. Encompassing more than 800,000 acres (larger than Rhode Island) the park is a remarkable land of contrasts, combining river floodplain, high mountains, and Chihuahuan desert in three distinct ecological zones. We cross the park from west to east, with stops at Panther Junction Visitor Center and lunch at the Dugout Wells picnic area. When we arrive at Rio Grande Village with Mexico's majestic Sierra Del Carmens looming just beyond, take a leisurely stroll to Boquillas Canyon to witness the stunning views, sheer cliffs and riverfront beach of Big Bend's deepest canyon. Afterward, saddle up for the short ride to historic Langford Hot Springs where you can soak in the natural springs while enjoying unparalleled scenery right on the Rio Grande. From the hot springs we take a van ride to the Chisos Mountains Lodge, ideally situated amidst the towering Chisos Mountains. All meals included.
Cycling: 62 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +3,041'/-4,097'; Van transfer: 1 hour
Today we experience the Big Bend triple treat, riding through mountains, desert and river floodplain all in one day. Beginning in the Chisos Basin, we climb through Panther Pass before a breathtaking five-mile descent out of the Chisos Mountains and back into the Chihuahuan Desert below. Then it's on to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, where the road becomes a roller coaster of scenic vistas, with the beauty of the Chisos Mountains as our constant companion. We pedal until the pavement ends at the trailhead to spectacular Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend's most westerly canyon and every bit the equal to Boquillas. After a short hike, we take the van back to our overnight in the Chisos Basin. All meals included.
Cycling: 46.8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,097'/-5,335'; Van transfer: 1.25 hours
Our final ride doesn't disappoint as we make one last thrilling descent from the Chisos Mountains, heading to the town of Marathon. We take a brief but fascinating stop at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, which details 120 million years of the region's paleontological history, then continue northward, riding alongside the towering Del Carmen mountain range. Our route follows the old Comanche war trail through Persimmon Gap, where we say goodbye to Big Bend National Park. Then it's back to the grandeur of the open range that characterizes the hardscrabble life of West Texas cattle ranching. Before you know it, we arrive in Marathon at the end of a long, final day in the saddle. We hop in the van which takes us to Alpine, the Gateway to the Big Bend, where we settle in for the night. All meals included.
Cycling: 78 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,716'/-3,913'; Van transfer: 30 mins
After breakfast we depart Alpine for El Paso, arriving around 11:30am. Departing flights should be scheduled for 2:30pm or later. Breakfast included.
Van transfer: 3.75 hours