12 Most Fun Things To Do In Terlingua, TX

Terlingua, a historic ghost town in Texas, has been famous since the mid-1800s. Originally a mining town known for its quicksilver (mercury) production, Terlingua experienced a boom during the early 20th century before declining in the 1940s. 

Its unique blend of Native American, Mexican, and Anglo cultures contributed to its distinctive character. Today, Terlingua is famous for its thriving tourism industry and historical sites. 

The annual Terlingua International Chili Championship draws thousands of visitors, celebrating its chili cook-off tradition since the 1960s. The town’s colorful past and desert landscapes attract artists, writers, and photographers, making it a hub for creative expression.

Its proximity to Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park also adds to its allure, offering outdoor enthusiasts hiking, river rafting, and stargazing opportunities with exciting things to do in Terlingua. 

Terlingua’s vibrant community, with rustic architecture and quirky locals, further contributes to its charm. 

Its transformation from a mining town to a tourism hotspot showcases its resilience and adaptability while preserving its historical significance and fostering a unique cultural atmosphere.

If you’re passionate about weather and have some specific choices, Terlingua experiences a desert climate with hot summers and mild winters. Summers (June to August) are scorching, with temperatures exceeding 100°F (38°C). 

Winters (December to February) are more comfortable, ranging from 40-70°F (4-21°C). The best time to visit is fall (October to November) and spring (March to April) for pleasant temperatures and outdoor activities.

So, whatever interest you have, choose your season and hunt down the places below for an amazing journey!

1) Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park, established in 1944, showcases diverse landscapes in Texas, USA. It encompasses the Chisos Mountains, the Chihuahuan Desert, and the Rio Grande River. 

Big Bend National Park
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Rich in history, the park is home to ancient indigenous cultures. Its rugged terrain offers hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, including black bears and mountain lions. 

The Rio Grande forms the park’s southern border, with Mexico on the other side, while stargazing is exceptional due to its remote location. The park covers 801,163 acres, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventurers.

Big Bend National Park has many outdoor activities and things to do in Terlingua for an unforgettable experience. Campsites are available, allowing you to immerse yourself in the stunning surroundings. 

Hiking trails, like the Window Trail and Emory Peak Trail, provide breathtaking vistas, while birdwatching enthusiasts can spot over 450 species. 

Canoeing or kayaking along the Rio Grande River offers a unique perspective on the borderland landscape. Stargazing is phenomenal due to the park’s International Dark Sky status. 

Take advantage of the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, revealing ancient inhabitants. For comfort, the Chisos Mountains Lodge offers lodging with a diverse ecosystem and a rich history. 


Big Bend National Park, TX, United States

2) Terlingua Ghost Town

Terlingua Ghost Town, located in Texas, was once a thriving mining community in the late 1800s due to its cinnabar deposits. Home to around 2,000 people, it produced mercury for nearby mines. 

Terlingua Ghost Town
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However, the mining industry declined, leading to its abandonment. Today, it is a tourist attraction known for its historic ruins, unique culture, and annual chili cook-off. The town’s rugged beauty and rich history make it a captivating destination for those interested in exploring the past.

Terlingua Ghost Town offers an intriguing blend of history and entertainment things to do in Terlingua. While visiting, you can explore the well-preserved ruins of the old mining town, soaking in its Wild West charm. 

Embrace the artistic spirit by checking out local galleries and artisan shops. Take advantage of the famous Terlingua Chili Cook-Off, a lively annual event that draws crowds with its delicious food and vibrant atmosphere. 

The surrounding Chihuahuan Desert also invites hiking, stargazing, and nature photography. Accommodations vary from rustic lodges to campsites, letting you immerse yourself in the unique ambiance.


Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas 79852, United States 

3) Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon

The Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon is a historic establishment known for its lively atmosphere and entertainment. Located in the city’s heart, it has been a popular venue for dining, live music, and dancing since its opening in 1920. 

Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon
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With its Old West charm, the Starlight Theatre offers a unique blend of history and modern entertainment, making it a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

The Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon offers an array of relaxing things to do in Terlingua for an unforgettable experience. Inside its charming walls, you’ll find a rustic yet cozy dining area serving delectable cuisine. 

The saloon boasts a fully stocked bar, offering an extensive selection of drinks. Live music performances and line dancing nights provide lively entertainment, while the outdoor patio offers a relaxed setting under the stars. 

With its rich history and vibrant atmosphere, the Starlight Theatre is perfect for friends’ gatherings, date nights, or special occasions. Immerse yourself in the blend of tradition and modernity, making lasting memories.


631 Ivey Road, Terlingua, TX 79852, United States

4) Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park, located in Texas, USA, is a vast and rugged area known for its natural beauty and diverse ecosystems. Since its establishment in 1988, the park has covered 311,000 acres, making it one of the largest state parks in Texas. 

Big Bend Ranch State Park
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Its history traces back to ancient indigenous settlements and evidence of early ranching remains. The park offers outdoor enthusiasts opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, and wildlife watching, showcasing the stunning Chihuahuan Desert landscape and the iconic Rio Grande River.

Big Bend Ranch State Park has infinite outdoor activities and fun things to do in Terlingua. Campsites, both primitive and improved, cater to various preferences. Explore over 238 miles of trails, ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, unveiling breathtaking desert vistas and unique geological formations. 

Witness diverse wildlife, including bighorn sheep and golden eagles. The park’s proximity to the Rio Grande provides opportunities for canoeing and kayaking along its scenic waters. 

Capture stunning photographs, stargaze in the designated dark sky areas, and relish in the tranquility of this vast, untouched landscape, creating memories that will last a lifetime.


21800 FM170, Terlingua, TX 79852, United States

5) Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon, situated in Big Bend National Park, Texas, is a geological marvel carved by the Rio Grande River. Towering limestone cliffs form the canyon’s walls, rising over 1,500 feet high. 

Santa Elena Canyon
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Native Americans and early settlers left their marks in the area. It’s a popular spot for hiking and kayaking, offering breathtaking views of the rugged landscape. 

The canyon encapsulates a rich natural and historical legacy, attracting visitors to experience its awe-inspiring beauty and learn about its cultural significance.

Santa Elena Canyon has many facilities and things to do in Terlingua for an unforgettable visit. Discover well-maintained hiking trails that lead you through the stunning gorge, offering breathtaking vistas of the towering cliffs and the Rio Grande River’s meandering path. 

Engage in exhilarating kayaking adventures, navigating the calm waters flanked by impressive limestone formations. Picnic areas invite you to savor meals amid nature’s grandeur. 

Unwind in the visitor center, where insightful exhibits delve into the area’s geology, history, and ecology. Embrace the serenity, immerse in geological wonders, and relish recreational activities that make Santa Elena Canyon a haven for nature enthusiasts.


Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Texas 79852, United States 

6) La Kiva Bar & Restaurant

La Kiva Bar & Restaurant, located in Terlingua, Texas, was established in the early 1990s within a refurbished mine shaft. Well known for its unique atmosphere, it attracted locals and tourists with its eclectic decor and live music. 

La Kiva Bar & Restaurant
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La Kiva Bar & Restaurant offers a distinctive experience with its historic mine shaft setting. The establishment boasts a full-service bar with a wide selection of drinks, including local craft beers and cocktails. 

Patrons can indulge in delicious Tex-Mex cuisine, known for its mouthwatering flavors. Live music performances also create an energetic atmosphere, enhancing the dining and social experience. 

The outdoor patio provides a comfortable space to enjoy the stunning desert views with relaxing things to do in Terlingua. However, its legacy of unique ambiance, delectable food, and live entertainment continues to captivate visitors today. 


23220 FM170, Terlingua, TX 79852, United States

7) The Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center

The Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center in Texas has a rich history of promoting environmental awareness and education. Visitors can explore the Chihuahuan Desert’s unique ecosystem through trails, exhibits, and programs. 

The Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center
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The center is named after Barton Warnock, a conservationist dedicated to preserving the region’s natural beauty. It’s a valuable resource for learning about desert ecology and conservation efforts.

At the Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center, visitors are welcomed with exceptional facilities and things to do in Terlingua. Experience nature through well-maintained trails that wind through the captivating Chihuahuan Desert landscape. 

Engaging exhibits offer insight into the region’s diverse flora, fauna, and geology. Participate in informative programs led by experts, gaining a deeper understanding of environmental conservation. 

Birdwatching enthusiasts will delight in spotting various native and migratory species. The center’s convenient facilities, such as picnic areas and restrooms, ensure a comfortable visit for families and nature enthusiasts alike. 

Immerse yourself in the beauty of this unique ecosystem while learning and enjoying memorable experiences. 


21800 FM170, Terlingua, TX 79852, United States

8) Rio Grande Village

Rio Grande Village is a historic Big Bend National Park, Texas, area. It’s situated along the Rio Grande River and offers stunning landscapes, diverse flora, and fauna. 

Rio Grande Village
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The village once served as a farming community and trading post in the 1900s, showcasing the area’s cultural heritage. 

Visitors can explore its scenic beauty, hot springs, and historic buildings. Today, it’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and nature lovers, providing a glimpse into the region’s rich history and natural wonders.

Want to have a bunch of enjoyable things to do in Terlingua? Enjoy well-equipped campsites, picnic areas, and access to natural hot springs for relaxation. 

Hike the scenic trails like the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail or venture on challenging treks to the nearby mountains. Birdwatching enthusiasts can spot diverse species, including the rare Colima warbler. 

Canoe along the Rio Grande River, dividing two countries for a unique adventure. Explore historic structures like the old schoolhouse. 

The visitor center provides information and exhibits about the park’s ecosystem and cultural history, so don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in nature and history at this captivating destination.


Rio Grande Village, Texas 79834, United States 

9) Terlingua Trading Company

Terlingua Trading Company, located in Terlingua, Texas, is a historic establishment known for its unique blend of art, food, and local goods. Founded in the late 1800s as a trading post, it has become a cultural hub for tourists and locals. 

Terlingua Trading Company
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The company offers a range of items, including handmade crafts, souvenirs, and southwestern cuisine. Its rich history and vibrant atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for those exploring the Big Bend region.

Terlingua Trading Company welcomes visitors with its rustic charm and diverse activities and things to do in Terlingua. The facility boasts an array of amenities, including a gallery showcasing local artwork, a gift shop stocked with unique crafts and souvenirs, and a restaurant serving authentic southwestern cuisine. 

Immerse yourself in the region’s history through engaging exhibits and displays. Attend art workshops, live music events, and cultural gatherings that capture the essence of Terlingua’s spirit. 

Stroll through the vibrant market, enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, and savor delicious Tex-Mex flavors. With its blend of history, creativity, and entertainment, Terlingua Trading Company is a promising place that no one can forget.


100 Ivey Road, Terlingua, TX 79852, United States

10) Terlingua Chili Cookoff

The Terlingua Chili Cookoff, held near Big Bend National Park, Texas, since 1967, is a renowned chili competition. It began as a feud between chili enthusiasts Frank X. Tolbert and Wick Fowler, leading to the birth of competitive chili cooking. 

Terlingua Chili Cookoff
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Today, it’s a festive event where participants showcase their chili recipes and enjoy music, food, and camaraderie. The Cookoff’s unique atmosphere and history make it an annual highlight for chili enthusiasts worldwide.

The Terlingua Chili Cookoff has many exciting things to do in Terlingua for attendees. You’ll find comfortable camping areas, restroom facilities, and designated cooking spaces. 

The event is a delightful blend of food, music, and entertainment. Explore the captivating desert landscape of Big Bend National Park nearby, with opportunities for hiking, stargazing, and wildlife spotting. 

Engage in chili tastings, savoring various flavorful recipes and experiencing the vibrant culinary culture. 

The lively atmosphere features live music, arts and crafts vendors, and a chance to connect with fellow chili enthusiasts. Terlingua Chili Cookoff promises a memorable experience of Southwestern flavors and Texan hospitality to every individual coming here. 


22970 FM 170 Terlingua, TX 79852, United States 

11) Closed Canyon Trail

The Closed Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park, Texas, offers a stunning slot canyon experience. Carved by the Rio Grande, this narrow gorge features towering walls and unique rock formations. It’s a popular hiking destination, with a 1.4-mile round trip that can be challenging due to steep sections and uneven terrain. 

Closed Canyon Trail
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The trail provides insights into the region’s geological history and Native American presence. Bring water and appropriate footwear for an enjoyable adventure through this captivating natural wonder.

The Closed Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park offers a remarkable outdoor experience and things to do in Terlingua with its breathtaking slot canyon. This hidden gem provides hiking enthusiasts a 1.4-mile round trip filled with awe-inspiring rock formations and stunning vistas. 

While the trail lacks amenities, its natural beauty compensates. Remember to bring water, sturdy footwear, and sun protection. Exploring the trail unveils the region’s geological wonders and connects you with Native American history. 

The slot canyon’s towering walls create an unforgettable adventure, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers seeking an immersive and enchanting outdoor escapade.


Closed Canyon Trail, Redford, TX 79846, United States

12) Terlingua Cemetery

The Terlingua Cemetery in Texas dates back to the late 1800s. It was established during the region’s mining boom and is the final resting place for many miners, settlers, and locals. 

Terlingua Cemetery
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The cemetery’s unique atmosphere and iconic “El Chappo” gravesite have made it a tourist attraction. It reflects the area’s cultural heritage and provides insight into the challenges faced by its inhabitants.

The Terlingua Cemetery, while primarily a historical site, offers a unique experience for visitors. The serene desert landscape provides a peaceful backdrop for contemplation and photography. 

Basic facilities and things to do in Terlingua, like parking and informational plaques, are available. While not a traditional entertainment destination, the cemetery’s ambiance and historical significance interest tourists in local history, ghost town remnants, and cultural heritage. 

Exploring the gravesites, including the famous “El Chappo” monument, offers insight into the area’s mining past. Engaging with the local community and attending events like the “Day of the Dead” celebrations can provide a deeper connection to Terlingua’s rich legacy.


FM170, Terlingua Ghost Town, Terlingua, TX 79852, United States

Best Hotels To Stay In Terlingua 

These hotels offer unique accommodations in the heart of Terlingua’s captivating landscape. With cozy rooms, stunning views, and convenient access to local attractions, they provide an immersive experience for travelers seeking comfort and adventure. 

Choose from various options that promise memorable stays in this charming desert town.

  • La Posada Milagro
  • Terlingua Rentals
  • Terlingua House
  • Big Bend Resort & Adventures
  • Terlingua Trading Co. Lodging
  • Willow House Terlingua