The Trans-Pecos is the biggest playground in the Lone Star State. There are more acres of national parks, state parks, and wildlife management areas located west of the Pecos than in another region of Texas, and they’re all within a few hours of Sierra La Rana.
Rafting the Rio Grande is one of the best-known pastimes in 800,000-acre Big Bend National Park. Mariscal Canyon, Boquillas Canyon, and the Lower Canyons have all been designated portions of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. The enormous park is formed by the elbow of the mighty river, and it features the most representative example of the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem in the country.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park boasts the highest point in the Texas. The world’s finest example of a fossilized reef, the park is the only designated wilderness in West Texas. Like Sierra La Rana, it too was once a working cattle ranch. Visitors to the Guadalupe Mountains are well advised to budget extra time and see Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is an easy half-hour drive across the New Mexico state line.
Nearby Fort Davis National Historic Site is one of the best remaining examples of a frontier-era outpost. Built in 1854 and garrisoned until 1891, it sits adjacent to some of the last remaining portions of the historic Butterfield-Overland Trail.
Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest component of the Texas Parks & Wildlife system. At more than 300,000 acres, this former cattle ranch boasts an impressive heritage not only relating to Anglo and Hispanic settlers but pre-Columbian activity as well. Archaeologists have traced human life back more than 11,000 years. Other state lands within easy driving distance include Davis Mountains State Park, Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, and Balmorhea State Park, site of the biggest swimming hole in the state, San Solomon Springs.