All the towns in the Big Bend region possess a sort of funky, off-the-grid energy, but Alpine is the only one that mixes this independent spirit with a sizable and thriving city – which is why it’s known as the “Hub of the Big Bend.”
Set off on a journey to the top of Hancock Hill. You’ll leave from a path just behind Sul Ross campus and head up to an outdoor classroom that gives new meaning to the term “Higher Education.” Sometime in the 1980’s a group of students dragged a desk to the top of a mountain creating a classroom with a view. Since that time, Hancock Hill has attracted a cult following and numerous visitors who have made the trek up to sign the old books and get educated on things that don’t fit within the confines of a normal classroom.
If you want to go really far back in history, head west of town to drive through the Paisano Pass Volcano, a prehistoric volcano that erupted over 30 million years ago leaving tons of rock formations to enjoy. A few miles outside of a town, you’ll see a roadside park that contains an informational panel all about it.
The spirit of this region can hardly be captured within the walls of a museum, but the Museum of the Big Bend does a mighty fine job covering the breadth and depth of the history of the “Big Bend.” Inside you’ll see everything from dinosaur bones to wild west revolvers. Don’t miss the wing bones of “Quetzalcoatl” which was the largest flying reptile ever and it inhabited this region of Texas. The museum is on the campus of Sul Ross State University, which is also worth exploring.
Don’t miss Kokernot Field which is a little over a mile away and was built in the 1940’s by a wealthy rancher and modeled after Wrigley Field in Chicago. Today it’s the home field for the Sul Ross Lobos baseball team and minor league Alpine Cowboys.
If you’re looking for the full western experience, then stop into the Big Bend Saddlery and get a taste of what real Texas cowboys need to do their job. At this shop, you can get all kinds of custom-made hand-crafted saddles and leather works.
There are no restaurants more famous in this part of Texas than Reata Steakhouse. Named after the ranch in the 1956 classic movie “Giant,” this place turns out some of the finest red meat on earth from inside an old adobe home. Adding to its lore is the fact that its other location is in downtown Fort Worth, but this is the original and should be on every steak-lovers list.
If you’re looking for something completely as unique as Alpine, itself, head to Cow Dog, a local food truck parked outside of a coffee shop/laundromat called PLAINE (get it – “alpine” mixed up). This food truck takes the all-American hot dog to every part of the world by topping it with things like lime cilantro mayo to red curry. I had one with apricot chutney and sharp cheddar, and it was amazing!