Distinctive Travels Distinctive Travels
Resorts Hotels Cruises Tours Spas

Lajitas, Texas
web: lajitas.com
email: reservations@lajitas.com

By Roberta C. Stone, Correspondent

Lajitas is named for the small flat rocks that blanket the area born of ancient volcanoes and inland seas. Its history reads like a Michener novel. Just north of the resort, 40 million year old bones of long-necked dinosaurs were found to have roamed this desert landscape. About a thousand years ago, descendants of Pueblo Indians farmed here, followed by Native American Comanche tribes. The first Europeans were the Spanish explorers coming in around 1535 looking for gold. By the 1800’s rugged settlers had established expansive cattle ranches and had to constantly fight off raiding Comanche tribes and Spanish bandits. By 1916, Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, the only six-star general in U.S. military history, built the Lajitas military outpost to protect the settlers and pursue the elusive Mexican folk hero, Pancho Villa.

The Trading Post at Lajitas, built in 1899, still bears bullet holes from Villa’s gun. Down the road apiece, the tiny, neighboring town of Terlingua was the USA’s quicksilver mining capital during the Second World War, supplying the precious metal for bomb ignitions. As mercury was no longer a needed commodity after the war,Terlingua became a ghost town and is now a thriving tourist community/artist’s haven and area curiosity.

Of course, there are the cowboy stories along with the miner’s tales of drink and peril in every crevice of the red rock buttes that encircle the area. Lured by this rich lore, in 2000, Steve Smith, an Austin entrepreneur, bought the entire 25,000 acre parcel replete with an authentic western style town that John Wayne could have sauntered down in his dusty cowboy boots, and turned it into a world class four star resort.

About Lajitas // The Ultimate Hideout If solitude is what you are looking for, this is the place for you. Lajitas is a lonely spec in the barren but beautiful Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas with its pink cactus, careening canyons and towering buttes. Along the south end of the property, the Rio Grande River slithers silently along beckoning the curious to wade across to Mexico, literally a stone’s throw away. Lajitas is far away from everywhere, and according to developer, Steve Smith, it’s supposed to be. He wanted to create a “bastion isolated from the hectic pace of the rest of the world.” Isolated is the key word, as the closest major highway is 100 miles away and the closest airport is more than 300 miles away, unless you land on the resort’s gravel airstrip in Lajitas International Airport in your own private jet.

To many, the trip to the middle of nowhere is worth it. Smith has created a surreal escape; it is as if you are part of an old western movie as you move about the quiet old ghost town with its authentic general store, unique gift shops Victorian and comfortable eating holes. But don’t let the dust and watering troughs fool you.

The resort is an AAA four diamond award winner and a member of the “Leading Hotels of the World.” It also appeared on the cover of Architectural Digest Magazine in 2004 for its genuine southwest design. Among its amenities is an 18 hole international golf course with a 19th hole in Mexico, a world class spa, a fitness center, tennis courts, a lovely pool, a hunt club and an equestrian center. It also boasts a 6000 square foot banquet and meeting facility.

There are ninety-two luxury roomshoused in four unique buildings offering several lodging choices ranging from reasonable rooms to lavish suites, all with satellite TV, complimentary mini bars and beautiful views. All rooms are decorated in cowboy chic or Victorian themes and have cozy, comfortable beds with ample quilts for those cool, desert nights. In the Officer’s Quarters, for instance, guests wake up to cups of cowboy coffee, don plush robes and comfortable slippers (all provided by the resort) and get a front row seat on the porch to enjoy the sunrise over the golf course with a rugged backdrop of mountains. Noise level – zero, except for the birds.

Entertainment // As I said, Lajitas is far away from everywhere, so if it is a night life you are looking for, there are limited choices. Cowboy Doug serenades diners in the Candillera Café or the Thirsty Goat Saloon Wednesday through Sunday evenings with old west cowboy melodies. Perhaps the family can sit around an open campfire and eat S’Mores while singing camp songs with other guests. Family movie nights are a treat Thursday through Sunday. Or hop in your car and drive 15 miles east on Route 170 to Terlingua where you can listen to really fine live local talent at the Starlight Theatre. It is raucous, crowded and wonderful! If you are really adventurous, drive 50 miles west on Route 170 to Presidio where you can cross the border into Ojinaga, Mexico to listen to Spanish entertainers.

Cuisine // There are two excellent restaurants and one outstanding one on the property. No need to take a car – you can walk to all of them. Casual dining (breakfast lunch and dinner) can be had in the Candillera Café, a charming eatery overlooking the Ambush golf course and the mountains surrounding it. Enjoy some of the regional offerings like Lajitas fajitas or Tijuana Caesar Salad. Similar offerings can be had in the Thirsty Goat Saloon, adjacent to the Candillera. I enjoyed the best steak I ever had at this restaurant. Angus beef is prime here. Choose a table outside to enjoy the romantic breezes, birdsong and moonlight.

All meals have some terrific local fare so be adventurous and try the Tex-Mex menu items. For more gourmet dining, you must try the elegant Ocotillo, offering delectables like Diamondback Rattlesnake cakes or hot and crunchy ruby trout. The ambience is cowboy cozy. If you have a car drive to nearby Teralingua ghost town, especially on a Monday night, for the two for one burger night at the Starlight Café. The food is homey-good and there is live entertainment.

Also in Teralingua, casual fare can also be had at the Boathouse Restaurant and Bar, where the locals meet to eat or Tivo’s Mexican Restaurant. La Kiva is best known for barbecue and steak. Fifty miles away, in another country, literally, dine in Ojinaga, Mexico at Los Comales with great Mexican dishes washed down with the best Margaritas.

Shopping // The shops in Lajitas are mostly located on the boardwalk and include Smith and Co, Red Rock Outfitters, The Mercantile and Christina’s World, which sell mostly local gems, pottery, limited clothing and sporting goods and cowboy apparel. The General Store has food and sundries and reminded me of an old style five and dime – charming. The Trading Post has food and deli items and serves ice-cream on weekends. The Agavita Spa sells beauty items and the Ambush Golf Shop has everything a golfer could ask for. Teralingua has some funky souvenir shops that carry some interesting native American and western artifacts. The ghost town also has some unusual art galleries with original but affordable art.

Activities // The Agavita Spa offers body and facial treatments that are the ultimate in pampering. Most ingredients are indigenous extracts that contain the “healing properties of the desert.” Treatments include therapeutic massage, facials, manicures and pedicures. I thoroughly enjoyed the Rio Grande Mud Wrap, a comprehensive de-toxifying treatment ending with a scalp massage. If you are a golfer, you mustn’t miss the Ambush Golf Course with challenging fairways set against a rugged backdrop. Golfers won’t know whether to look at the greenery or the scenery. The last hole is in Mexico, which makes it the world’s only international golf course, but don’t plan on retrieving your ball on the 19th hole, since the hole is over the Rio Grande.

If you are a horse lover, look no further than the Equestrian Center at Lajitas. Aside from the standard trail riding, including sunrise and sunset treks, the center has other unique activities, like a weekend cattle drive or roping clinics for those rodeo aficionados. The Shooting Range at Lajitas is a haven for skeet and trap shooters of all types. The Hunt Club, located 40 miles from the resort, has 650 acres along the Rio Grande for all types of game hunting, and a kitchen and chef to cook your catch.

Red Rock Outfitters, located in the resort village will organize river trips on rafts, canoes or kayaks, hiking or biking treks, and jeep or ATV adventures. How about a fossil tour where you can play archeologist and go on digs for shark teeth or marine fossils? Lajitas puts out a weekly calendar of free activities like wine tasting in the Ocotillo Bar or how about Mixology, where you can learn to make your own drinks? There are many other activities to choose from, from putting lessons to salsa lessons.

Places to See // The one place I wouldn’t miss is Big Bend National Park, located 25 miles east of the resort. No matter how long you stay, put this beautiful National Park on your list. It has hikes for all abilities and the staff is really knowledgeable. Because the park is located in such a remote area of Texas, there are never crowds. If you like to drive, take a meandering excursion on Route 170 to Presidio, which was chosen by Automobile Magazine in the April 2006 edition as one of the 20 most outstanding drives in America. National Geographic Magazine rated it as one of the most scenic roads in the country as well.

Perhaps it is because of the many sheer canavarous drops to the Rio Grande along the way, or maybe just the raw desert landscape. Whatever, you should take it. The town of Marfa, about an hour north of Lajitas, is a rancher’s town made famous when the movie. “Giant” was filmed here in 1956. When night descends, drive over to see the mysterious “Marfa Lights,” a series of colored lights, first seen in 1899, that bounce through the dark. There is no reasonable explanation for their occurrence, though some theories blame aliens, swamp gases or car headlights. The best viewing spot, according to locals is going on 90, east of town. Make sure you take a hike or a boat on the Rio Grande. It is a river with a lot of history. In the Lajitas/Big Bend area, it has carved imposing canyons that are awesome to see.

Take a walk along the blacktop road right in the middle of the yellow line to see the massive rocky peaks cut by millions of years of wind and water. Buttes rise like sentinels above the desert floor while the road winds like a black river through them.

How to Get There

By Commercial Air // Midland Airport is the closest commercial airport to Lajitas. You will probably need to connect through Dallas. It is approximately 3.5 hours drive, or 245 miles from the airport to the resort.

Car // You can be picked up (for a fee) by one of the “cowboy Cadillacs” ((Chevy Suburbans), or rental cars are available at the Midland airport. Head West on I-20 to Monahans. Take the Highway 18S exit toward Fort Stockton and turn left onto 18S, then turn right onto FM 1776. Cross over I-10W. FM 1776 turns into US 67S. Follow US 67S 55 miles to Alpine, then turn left onto TX 118S (Cockrell Street). : Follow TX 118S 80 miles to the Study Butte/Terlingua junction, then turn right onto FM 170 and continue 14 miles to Lajitas. Once in Lajitas, look for the state park information station (The Barton Warnock Center) to the left, and continue for approximately 1 mile until the Boardwalk comes into view. Park behind the Boardwalk and follow signs to the Badlands Hotel for registration. You can also fly in from any major airport on a private jet to Lajitas International Airport, five minutes away. A Lajitas cowboy taxi will pick you up.

Tips: // Expect limited cell service, as you are in the “Ultimate hideout.” Make sure you are not in a hurry to eat because service can be slow especially during holiday weeks. Reserve activities like canoe trips, jeep excursions or spa services well in advance so you are guaranteed space. This is especially true for families and large groups. Definitely drive the scenic route 170 West to Presidio for scenic mountain and desert vistas and lunch in Mexico. If you plan on visiting Ojihida, Mexico across from Presidio, don’t go on a Sunday or during siesta time, as all shops and eateries will be closed! If you have time, take the “Closed Canyon” hike off of Route 170, which goes to the Rio Grande through a slot canyon. Do not leave the Chihuahuan Desert without a visit to Big Bend National Park. It is an 800,000 acre uncrowded playground.

By Roberta C. Stone, Correspondent

As a history buff, I relish learning new things about the places I visit. That’s why I enjoyed the little herb sachets left on my pillow at night, accompanied by a card explaining the history and usage. For instance, did you know that rosemary is a Mediterranean herb that dates back to 500 BC and that it has properties that may inhibit carcinogens? Did you know that it is a staple on a salt restricted diet?

The resort’s Ocotillo Restaurant has a garden of it out back and uses the fresh herb in many of its dishes. It’s these small accoutrements that set Lajitas apart. I didn’t know what to expect from Texas, a Yankee like myself born and bred in the North. I was surprised at what I found, which some call serendipity.

Uncrowded, unhurried, unpretentious – that’s the Texas I found. If you want to be a cowboy or a cowgirl for a little while, this is your place. Come to West Texas, it is butte–tiful and as Texans will tell you – “Its another country”.


LOCATION:Lajitas, Texas
ROOMS: 103