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Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
Yes
ADA accessible
Yes
Guided tours
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Terlingua is not a ghost town in the typical sense of the phrase. When you drive into it, you will see signs for camping and lodging, a general store, and a two-story restaurant. There is even a post office. But look closely and you'll see that modern homes are built on much-older brick foundations, and half-crumbled structures are mixed in with new ones. It is, in fact, a boom-and-bust mining town that is a century old, but this one has been revitalized and is very much alive. Though the permanent population is barely 100, the steady stream of visitors gives the place a lived-in atmosphere, and the community shows off more vibrance than you'd expect from such a tiny place. Streets are lined with sculptures and paintings, creative buildings like teepees and a submarine, and a large sign boasts the "Original International Championship Chili Cookoff," which is a big event here every year.

Terlingua originally popped up as a hub for mining mercury, which was used in weapons manufacturing and therefore boomed in demand during the World Wars. By 1913 it was a thriving, self-sufficient town of about 1,000 residents, and this prosperity continued for more than a decade. The ore supply dwindled by the time of World War II, however, and though the huge spike in demand kept the mine running for a while, it was operating at a loss. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1942, and soon after Terlingua became a ghost town. A few hardy residents hung around as ranchers, but most of the houses and stores fell to ruin. It wasn't revived until the 1960s, when tourism picked up, and slowly people started moving in.

Today people visit Terlingua for a myriad of reasons; for many, it is simply to find camping when all the sites in Big Bend National Park are full. Others come for art galleries, good food, or simply to witness this quirky town in the desert. If you do wander out here past the western edge of the national park, don't miss out on the history of Terlingua. Informational signs are located at the cemetery, which is full of headstones that are so old that they are barely legible. Other than that, displayed information is scarce, but locals will be happy to share their own take on the history. Books and other information are also available in the stores. The town even has free public Wi-Fi, but you may have difficulty finding a spot where it works well.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Pros

Historic mining town. Unique modern revitalization.

Cons

Limited information on site.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Features

ADA accessible
Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Potable water
Wi-Fi
Big vistas
Historically significant

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

Terlingua is one place you have to visit to appreciate. We went here a few years ago and ate at the Starlight Theater and Restaurant. Locals hang out in front and chat with visitors which was a great experience. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was a throwback to the late 1800s.
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