Deep in the “Alps” of Texas: What’s Up in Alpine, Part One

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Perched in the West Texas hills at 4,475 feet in elevation, Alpine beckons the Texas road tripper to explore and enjoy. This bustling but relaxed high desert town reveals its secrets like a ribbon of mountain road, with new discoveries around every corner. For a town of 5,000, Alpine offers a creative variety of attractions. My wife and I visited in late summer, before heading into Big Bend National Park, only a two-hour drive away. This two-part article will introduce you to some of these attractions—so come along for the ride!

If you’re new to the Trans-Pecos region, start your trip by arranging a tour of the Museum of The Big Bend on the grounds of Sul Ross University. The museum, one of several in the state, including Fair Park in Dallas, was built with money earmarked to celebrate Texas’ centennial in 1936.

Deep in the "Alps" of Texas: What's Up in Alpine, Part One

Photo: John Spaulding. A Texas Pterosaur glides above the Museum of the Big Bend exhibits.

Upon entering the building, prepare to be startled by a replica of a Texas Pterosaur, soaring over the exhibits with its 22-foot wingspan. The original fossil was unearthed in the Big Bend region by University of Texas students in 1972, and it’s displayed at the Texas State Museum in Austin. The largest known animal to have ever flown on earth, the Texas Pterosaur is one of Big Bend’s Texas brags.

Deep in the "Alps" of Texas: What's Up in Alpine, Part One
Photo: John Spaulding. Native American paintings and a Spanish carreta illustrate a portion of the Big Bend region’s colorful past.

The tour moves to subsequent native American peoples of the area and features a replica of a painted monolith, discovered at a nearby archeological site, named Tall Rock Shelter. Then come the Spanish conquistadors and the first known European explorer of the Big Bend region, Cabeza De Vaca in the 1530s, followed by growing Spanish settlements in the area.

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