Your Guide to the Ghost Town of Terlingua, Texas

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View of a terlingua texas sign

Terlingua, Texas, may not be on your radar of places to visit, but if you love ghost towns, it should be. “It feels like a ghost town to me. And that’s a good thing.”

While the archaeologist and author, Steve LeBlanc, may not be talking about Terlingua, Texas, this statement hits home for many ghost town lovers. 

Whether that’s you or not, paying a visit to this ghost town in Texas might enlighten you to want to visit more. Keep reading to learn more about Terlingua, how it became a ghost town, and things to do while visiting.

What Is a Ghost Town?

Before diving into more about Terlingua, Texas, you might want to know what a ghost town actually is. A ghost town is the ghostly remnant of a forgotten community. It’s usually an abandoned settlement or town formed during the expansion of a more established city. 

Once thriving, markets, houses, and buildings stand silent and empty as if in limbo of a time gone by. This eerie reminder of past inhabitants often captivates visitors. Ghost towns offer glimpses into what life once was like when people lived in these communities. 

Some ghost towns are historical landmarks, with their stories told through tours and educational programs. Others lie abandoned with only your imagination to create what might have been.

About Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua, Texas, is sort of a combination of a ghost town and a tourist attraction. While this holds true for many ghost towns, Terlingua is slightly different.

There are many abandoned buildings and structures, but there are also still a few functioning businesses and lived-in homes. Terlingua, Texas, is a modern-day ghost town. 

Once a thriving community built off of quicksilver mining, this small desert town never quite lost its charm. Visitors today can enjoy a scrumptious dinner at the Starlight Theatre and Saloon. Then, find a place to stay overnight at La Posada Milagro or one of the many guest houses available to rent throughout the area.

Rather explore what Terlingua once was instead of what it is today? You can find plenty of history here. From the old jailhouse to St. Agnes Church built in 1914, many can still find the mysteries of days lost.

Two hundred people still call this now ghost town home. So, you can get personal accounts of what Terlingua used to be versus what it is today.

Where Is Terlingua, Texas?

One reason why Terlingua didn’t simply vanish into the deserted desert lands is its location.

Located between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, tourists are attracted by the roadside art and historical buildings. They are keeping the heartbeat of Terlingua, Texas, beating. 

But while it may be in the middle of these well-known parks and a mere 12 miles from the border, it’s not an easy town to locate. You may decide to embark upon this ghost town adventure.

Just be prepared for some long dusty roads and desert landscapes to keep you company on your drive.

What Happened to Terlingua, Texas?

A once thriving mining community when quicksilver (mercury) was discovered here in the late 1800s, this small town quickly grew to around 2,000 people. However, it didn’t take long for quicksilver to lose its value.

Peaking around 1915 during WWI, the steady decline began shortly after that. When the Chisos Mining Company filed for bankruptcy in the early 1940s, Terlingua’s population dropped drastically.

In the 1960s and 1970s, though, tourists began to bring it back to life. While it’s no longer the booming mining town of the early 1900s, it is still home to around 200 people.

And mining is no longer the main draw; chili is. Terlingua, Texas, is now home to the Terlingua Chili Cookoff. Taking place the first weekend of November, dating back to 1967, this might just be the draw that keeps this ghost town alive.

View of terlingua texas

What Is There to Do Near Terlingua, Texas?

But what do you do if you can’t make it to Terlingua, Texas, that first weekend in November? Plenty!

With Big Bend nearby, fun places to stay, good BBQ to eat, golf nearby, and brilliant night skies, there’s something for everyone here.

Visit Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is an outdoor paradise at what seems like the very edge of civilization, located on the U.S./Mexico border. It beckons to adventure-seekers and nature-lovers alike, with its Chisos Mountains offering plenty to explore.

Stay overnight at one of the park’s three campgrounds, or opt for a more luxurious experience at the Chisos Mountain Lodge.

Big Bend’s beauty is unsurpassed, so why not enjoy it on a scenic drive? If hiking is more your style, there’s a hike for everyone, including options in all terrains – mountain, desert, and riverside hikes. With its vast spaces, bird watching and stargazing are also popular activities at Big Bend. 

Stay at The Perch

If you really want to experience Terlingua, Texas, staying the night in or near town is a must. And staying at The Perch gives you the best of both worlds.

There’s easy access to the ghost town and brilliant night skies. The Perch isn’t just any place to spend the night, either.

This is an off-grid yet modern cliff home and is truly an incredible haven to behold. With a cabin-inspired design, The Perch offers breathtaking views of Terlingua and the Chisos Mountain Range of Big Bend National Park.

It sits on 20 acres of the Chihuahuan Desert and is in a limestone plateau’s cliff edge estimated to be over 60 million years old. 

Pro Tip: Many RVers pick Texas as their domicile! See how you can become a Texas Resident as a Full-Time RVer

Taste Authentic Texas BBQ at DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ

DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ has become the go-to spot for Texas BBQ in Terlingua, Texas, since its opening in 2016. DB, the owner, has been a passionate cook and creator of tantalizing dishes since 1979. 

If you’re after the delicious brisket, pork ribs, turkey, pulled pork, sausage, and all the sides that come with an authentic Texas BBQ experience, DB truly knows how to barbecue.

Play a Round of Golf at Lajitas Golf Resort

Lajitas Golf Resort is the perfect destination for those looking to reconnect with nature and explore a spot rich in history. Spanning 27,000 acres of rugged Texas desert, Lajitas offers luxurious lodging, including villas and lakeside cottages. It offers a variety of activities to suit all interests. 

Its world-class 18-hole golf course includes a design by Lanny Wadkins featuring “Black Jack’s Crossing.” The onsite equestrian center also offers guided family horseback rides in the area.

Guests can further appreciate breathtaking views from Lajitas’ zip lines, indulge in high-end dining, and more to ensure a memorable experience both in and near Terlingua, Texas’ ghost town.

Keep in Mind: Is your golf cart not big enough for your family? Then you need to consider Buying a 6-Seater Golf Cart!

Lajitas Golf Resort in terlingua texas

Enjoy the Night Skies

Terlingua, Texas, is the ideal place for stargazers to explore the night sky due to its low population density and minimal light pollution.

Nearby Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park have been awarded the International Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark-Sky Association. That’s added further prestige as well as protection of its dark skies. 

Terlingua, Texas, may be known for its ghost town status. But that exact status also makes it a brilliant place to stargaze.

A person at Big Bend national park near terlingua texas at night

Don’t Miss Terlingua, Texas, On Your Road Trip 

Historical buildings, desert vistas, and brilliantly lit night skies all add up to the hauntingly beautiful West Texas ghost town of Terlingua, Texas. Ghost town fan or not, adding Terlingua to your next road trip is a must on any itinerary.

You’ll experience an authentic ghost town. With Big Bend National Park right in its backyard, golfing excursions, cliff house stays, and chili cookoffs, this might just be the road trip of a lifetime.

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