Marfa to Big Bend Road Trip | A Desert Adventure

Marfa to Big Bend Road Trip | A Desert Adventure

We finally decided to check out the artsy southwestern desert town of Marfa, and while we were at it, road tripped to Big Bend National Park. It’s a bit of a detour from everywhere, but we’d say it’s definitely worth it.



Every year we’ve been on the road (three now), we spend a couple months in the dead of winter climbing and soaking up the desert sun in El Paso, Texas. Yes, there is actually more than (delicious) burritos, strip malls, and a great view of Juarez in El Paso. Where we camp is actually just outside the city to the east, near a state park called Hueco Tanks. And every winter, climbers from around the world flock to the mountain of boulders here that were seemingly shaped to be climbed on. But that’s for another blog post. This article is about a different part of the west Texas desert.


So, like I was saying, every year we come down here and spend about two months living basically within a one square mile patch of desert, with the exception of the weekly trip into town to refill on fresh tortillas and other borderland delicacies. There’s not much else around these parts, so there’s not much reason to stray far from the camp and climbing. However, there is one place that we’ve always talked about visiting each year we’ve been down here – Marfa, Texas. This year, we finally broke the mold. We piled into the Tahoe with our road pals Jess and Andy Wickstrom (also Airstream dwellers), their ridiculously adorable Pit-bull, Pickle, and our fluffy lil buddy, Aiko, hitched up our trailer, and took a little road trip within a road to check out Marfa. And while we were at it, we decided to venture even further on down to Big Bend National Park, too.



Marfa to Big Bend Road Trip Part 1: Marfa

Marfa, if you’ve never heard of it, is a tiny town in rural southwest Texas with roots tracing back to the late 1800s, when it served as a water stop for the railroad. And you need water out here. It’s a desolate and unforgiving landscape. The nearest Walmart is over 90 miles away, to put it in perspective. But we didn’t drive four hours into the middle of nowhere to see a town that only has one intersection. The thing that makes Marfa famous, of all things, is its art.


In the early 70s, New York artist, Donald Judd, moved to Marfa. Over three decades, he continued to produce works of art, largely the minimalist sculptural pieces that he is known for, with a focus on more permanent installations. His thought was that out here in the desert, miles away from anything, these works could remain in one place for longer than the typical several-week cycle of gallery exhibitions back in the city. There was no shortage of space for it all, that’s for sure. And so over time, as artists traveled to Marfa to view his works and collaborate on installations, many found a similar appreciation for the serenity of the desert and began setting up their own studios and galleries.


For more desert adventures, check out this white sands national monument adventure session


Our first sign that we were getting close to Marfa was the Prada store on the side of one of the most desolate highways we’ve ever driven. The store is actually about 30 miles outside of Marfa, because apparently Marfa wasn’t remote enough. This isn’t an actual functioning Prada store, but an installation by two Germany-based artist. Something about consumerism and high fashion and nobody around to care about it so does it really even matter? Either way, it makes for a fun photo op.


After about four hours of driving through flat far west Texas nothingness, we were in Marfa. With this influx of art to a traditionally rural farming town, what you end up with is this anomaly where country farmers meet offbeat art types, coexisting in this tiny desert town. There are high-end restaurants and galleries that you’d find in downtown NYC, and then a hundred yards down the street is a feed lot. Pretty wild.



Marfa to Big Bend Pit Stop: El Cosmico in Marfa

One of hippest spots in town is the campground, El Cosmico. Embracing a strong bohemian/southwestern vibe, they offer accommodations in a variety of colorful vintage trailers, towering teepees, and airy canvas tents. Or, like us, you can park your rig in the glamorous dirt parking lot.



On the road to Big Bend from Marfa

Two more of our road/climber friends from Hueco, Johnny and Hannah, came down to join us in Marfa on day two, bringing the pack to six large plus two dogs. After another day doing artsy stuff in Marfa and getting served cold fried chicken from pretentious restaurants (actually just one – Capri, or Crapri if you will. Don’t go there.), it was time to carry on down to Big Bend. Big Bend has gotta be close to as remote an area as you can find anywhere in this country. Crossing the border here looks like a really not fun thing to try and do. Not that I thought otherwise before, but this is a seriously harsh and vast landscape. If you can cross the Rio Grande, avoid border patrol, and survive crossing miles and miles of the most vicious desert we’ve ever seen, I’d say you deserve to stay.


We rolled into the park late at night, on the way experiencing one of the most stressful two hours of driving ever. We must have seen over 100 deer milling about beside the road, and more than a few were caught in our headlights. It was slow going down deer alley. Eventually we made it, but signs said all campgrounds were full. So we did what we do best and parked in a random pullout and slept there. The stars were insane and it was quite the scene to wake up to in the morning.



The next day we set out to explore Big Bend. We were camped out in the far southeast section of the park, which is super desert-y and dry and brown and deadly hot. But as you travel westwards, the elevation rises, temperatures fall, and more vegetation starts to appear. The highest point is in the heart of the park in the Chisos Mountains, where Emory Peak rises 7,835 feet above sea level. You can drive into Chisos Basin, where you’re surrounded by a ring of four mountain peaks. We walked out to a viewpoint where you can look through “The Window,” which is a notch in the mountains that looks out onto the desert floor thousands of feet below. Johnny also bought a pint of ice cream.



After cooling off in the pleasant temps of the Chisos’ high elevation, we piled back in the car and dropped down to the desert floor again, heading towards Santa Elena Canyon. A little over an hour later and we were standing next to the Rio Grande looking into one of the most impressive sites we’ve ever seen on our travels. If you ever visit Big Bend, this is the number one must see. Massive limestone cliffs flank the Rio Grande, forming the Santa Elena Canyon. It looks like something out of Indiana Jones, where if you hopped in a raft and paddled back you might find untold treasures. We didn’t quite do that, but we did hike back into the canyon, took a bunch of photos, scrambled on boulders, and enjoyed the much needed break from the sun.



Terlingua: a desert ghost town outside Big Bend National Park

That night, we returned to camp and went for a soak under the stars in an amazing natural hot spring built alongside the Rio Grande River. With spring water coming in at 105 degrees, it was a great soooaaaaaaak. We didn’t take any pictures, but we did take bets on who would swim across the Rio into Mexico.


The next morning we began our trek back home through the scenic route, which would take us through the bohemian/western ghost town of Terlingua, and then up through Big Bend Ranch State Park, which is basically an extension of Big Bend to the west. It’s a strange and interesting scene in Terlingua, which appears to be home to people who don’t like seeing other people very often. At the bbq food truck we went to (highly recommended), the owner told us multiple stories murders and bar fights and basically everything you’d expect from a proper wild west ghost town. Apparently in 2014, a local bar owner and his river guide friend were drinking these tall blue drinks called “Mind Erasers,” and things went south. The river guide ended up smashing the bar owner’s head in, and then got away with the murder. I guess the regular rules of law don’t apply out here in Terlingua.



On the drive from Big Bend National Park back to Marfa, definitely take Texas FM-170 through Big Bend State Park

The last leg of our journey through Big Bend Ranch State Park was perhaps the most beautiful. Texas FM-170 weaves and rolls and climbs and falls along the twisty Rio Grande River. There were too many scenic vistas to count and we found ourselves pulling over to snap photos a lot, dragging out the roughly 50 miles the road travels along the river. It’s said that this is one of the most scenic drives in the country, and we’d have to agree with that.


See more of The Foxes Travel Photography



Living on the road full time, it’s actually easy to fall into a routine of just sticking to the areas you’ve been before. But we’ve been making more of an effort to explore beyond our usual hangs this year, and it’s been totally worth it. Feel free to comment with questions on the area or our road trip itinerary. It’s a good one!




 The Foxes are Brandon and Gabi Fox, an adventurous husband and wife wedding and elopement photography team living full-time in their DIY renovated 1972 Airstream. They are loosely based in the Pacific Northwest, but travel for work and play throughout the western states. Their work is best described as candid photography that captures couples as they are, where they are, blending images of love and natural beauty in the great outdoors.


The Foxes are Brandon and Gabi Fox, an adventurous husband and wife elopement photography team living and traveling in their DIY renovated 1972 Airstream. They are loosely based in the Pacific Northwest, but travel for work and play throughout the western states and beyond. Their elopement photography is award winning and is described as candid photography that captures couples as they are, where they are, blending images of love and natural beauty in the great outdoors. 



These Terms and Conditions are a legally binding agreement is between you (“Client”) The Foxes Photography, LLC (“Photographer”) (collectively the “Parties”, or in the singular “Party”), for the purpose of Client purchasing a custom photography album from Photographer. This Agreement shall become effective upon the date you complete the checkout process.


  1. Fees & Retainer

Client shall commit to a custom album package by signing and returning this Agreement along with the initial payment for album service. Photographer will not begin its custom album services until the Agreement is signed and the album design fee is received. No final album will be printed until the full payment is made. In the event Client fails to remit payment as specified, Photographer shall have the right to immediately terminate this Agreement with no further obligation and retain any monies already paid as liquidated damages. Full payment must be completed by Client within 60 days of this Agreement’s date.

The fees in this Agreement are based on Photographer’s current album pricing at the time of booking. The price list is adjusted periodically, and any changes to custom albums will be charged at the prices in effect at the time.

  1. Album Design Procedure

The following outline indicates the general procedure of a custom album design. Client understands and agrees to this procedure.

  1. Photographer will use photos and album specifications to create their first custom album design.
  2. Photographer will send Client first draft of album design.
  3. Client will approve or send in revisions to album design.
  4. Photographer will make edits to album design. Only two rounds of edits are allowed.
  5. Client will approve final album design.
  6. Photographer will send in album for printing.
  7. Album is printed and shipped.
  8. Client receives final printed album.
  1. Album Spreads

Albums will include 35 spreads and no less. The definition of a “page” is one side of a spread in an album (for example, a 70-page album contains 35 spreads). If Client requests more than 35 spreads, additional spreads are $50.00 each. 

  1. Revision Rounds

The first draft will include photos selected by the photographer and will be sent to Client for approval. Client may request modifications to be made. Photographer shall complete modifications and send the second draft of album design to Client. Client may then accept the design or request one more round of modifications. Photographer will complete this second modification request and send the final draft of album to Client. After these two rounds of revisions to the album design, no further revisions are allowed. Any additional revisions are invoiced at a rate of $75.00 per round. All additional revision rounds must be paid before the revision is made by the Photographer. Photographer requires up to 10 days to complete a revision request. Client has 50 days to send Photographer any and all revision requests. Any revisions requested by Client more than 50 days after this Agreement’s date will not be accepted by Photographer.

  1. Final Approval

Photographer will not place an album order with the album Manufacturer until Client approves the design draft, and the balance is paid on any upgrades or additional spreads. Client agrees to check the final album design very carefully before giving final approval. Once final approval is given, Photographer is not responsible for typos, image defects, duplicate images, or other errors that may have been missed. 

  1. Parent/Duplicate Albums

Parent/duplicate albums cannot be altered from the original designs. All parent/duplicate albums shall be ordered at the time of final approval of the original album design and will be invoiced and must be paid prior to Photographer sending in album for printing. No parent/duplicate albums are available after the original album ordering phase is complete.

  1. Album Delivery

Client understands and agrees that Photographer’s album manufacturer (“Manufacturer”) generally takes 6-8 weeks to print and manufacture the album. While every possible precaution is taken and Manufacturer has been selected by Photographer for its superb quality, Photographer assumes no liability for the loss or damage of album while in possession of Manufacturer. 

  1. Ordering Date

Client shall agree to final album design within 60 days of this Agreement’s date. Any delay by Client in approving final album design will result in termination of this Agreement and no further obligation by Photographer.

  1. Retouching and Edits

Photographer will use the final edited images delivered to Client to make the album design. Photographer will not re-edit or retouch any images.

  1. Returns

Client understands and agrees that once final approval of album design has been given to Photographer, no returns or refunds are allowed whatsoever. In the event Client receives the printed album and sees any manufacturer defects or dislikes the album quality, Photographer will work with Manufacturer to the best of their ability to remedy the situation. Client is responsible for any additional fees associated with returning or reprinting the album.

  1. Album Archiving

Photographer shall keep a copy of final approved album design for 90 days but does not permanently archive the final album design. Client understands that after 90 days the album design will not be available to order additional copies and a new agreement must be signed to start the process over.

  1. Photographer Copyright

The final album design by The Foxes Photography, LLC is their property, will remain their property, and are protected by United States Copyright Laws (USC Title 17). Client hereby waives any claims for ownership, income, editorial control, and use of the images and album design. Violations of this federal law will be subject to its civil and criminal penalties.

  1. Reproduction

Client and Client’s agents agree to acquire the album design and product directly from Photographer through their professional album company. Client and Client’s agents agree not to scan, copy or reproduce the album design in any manner without written permission, including using the custom album design to create other albums. Photographer may seek damages for any illegal reproduction. Client and Client’s agents further agree not to supply the album to any third-parties.

  1. Communication

Photographer’s office hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm PST Monday through Friday. Photographer’s primary source of communication is through their email [email protected]. Photographer will respond to Client’s emails within those office hours.

  1. Indemnification

Client shall indemnify, release, discharge and hold harmless Photographer, its heirs, legal representatives, assigns, employees, contractors, or any persons or corporations acting under permission or authority of the Photographer from and against any and all losses, damages, liabilities, and expenses and costs, including reasonable legal expenses and attorneys’ fees, to which Photographer may become subject as a result of any claim, demand, action or other legal proceeding by any third-party to the extent such losses arise directly or indirectly out of activities performed by Photographer pursuant to this Agreement, except to the extent such losses result from the gross negligence, willful misconduct, or intentional acts of Photographer.

  1. Maximum Damages

The sole remedy for any actions or claims by Client shall be limited to a refund, the maximum amount not to exceed the total monies paid by Client under this Agreement.

  1. Limitation of Liability

If, during the production and/or before the album(s) are delivered to Client, the media has been lost, stolen, or is unusable because of defect, damage, equipment/platform malfunction, processing, or other technical error caused by Photographer or by forces outside the control of Photographer, Client agrees to relieve and hold Photographer harmless and will not impose any additional liability.

In no event shall Photographer be liable under this Agreement to Client or any other third-party for consequential, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, punitive, or enhanced damages, arising out of, relating to, or in connection with any breach of this Agreement, regardless of (a) whether such damages were foreseeable, (b) whether or not Client was advised of such damages, and (c) the legal or equitable theory (contract, tort, or otherwise) upon which the claim is based.

  1. Force Majeure 

No Party shall be liable or responsible to the other Party, nor be deemed to have defaulted under or breached this Agreement, for any failure or delay in fulfilling or performing any term of this Agreement (except for any obligations to make payments to the other Party hereunder), when and to the extent such failure or delay is caused by or results from acts beyond the impacted party’s (“Impacted Party”) control that are unforeseen and unpredictable at the time of contracting, including, but not limited to, the following force majeure 

events (“Force Majeure Events”): (a) acts of God; (b) a natural disaster (fires, explosions, earthquakes, hurricane, flooding, storms, explosions, infestations), epidemic, or pandemic; (c) war, invasion, hostilities (whether war is declared or not), terrorist threats or acts, riot or other civil unrest; (d) government order or law; (e) actions, embargoes or blockades in effect on or after the date of this Agreement; (f) action by any governmental authority; (g) national or regional emergency; (h) strikes, labor stoppages or slowdowns or other industrial disturbances; and (i) shortage of adequate power or transportation facilities. The Impacted Party shall give Notice (as defined in Section 27) within 10 days of the Force Majeure Event to the other Party, stating the period of time the occurrence is expected to continue. The Impacted Party shall use diligent efforts to end the failure or delay and ensure the effects of such Force Majeure Event are minimized. The Impacted Party shall resume the performance of its obligations as soon as reasonably practicable after the removal of the cause. In the event that the Impacted Party’s failure or delay remains uncured for a period of 15 days following Notice given by it, the other Party may thereafter terminate this Agreement upon Notice. The Retainer and all other payments made by Client up to the date of Notice of a Force Majeure Event are non-refundable.

  1. Cancellation of Album Services by Photographer

In the event Photographer determines, in its sole discretion, that it cannot or will not perform its obligations under this Agreement due to circumstances including, but not limited to, injury, illness, death of family member, pregnancy, military orders, religious obligations, other personal emergencies, or total breakdown of communication with Client, it will:

  1. Immediately give notice to Client;
  2. Issue a refund or credit based on a reasonably accurate percentage of custom album services rendered; and
  3. Excuse Client of any further performance and/or payment obligations under this Agreement.
  1. Sales Tax

Should any sale and/or use tax be imposed on any part of this Agreement, such tax shall be collected from Client and remitted by Photographer. All sales tax will be included on invoices.

  1. Entire Agreement

This is a binding Agreement that incorporates the entire understanding of the Parties, supersedes any other written or oral agreements between the Parties, and any modifications must be in writing, signed by all Parties, and physically attached to the original agreement.

22. Venue and Jurisdiction

This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Washington including all matters of construction, validity, performance, and enforcement and without giving effect to the principles of conflict of laws. The Parties agree that any dispute or lawsuit arising out of, or concerning, this Agreement that is not first resolved by arbitration shall be resolved exclusively in a court of competent jurisdiction located in Whatcom County, Washington. The Parties assume responsibility for their own collection costs and legal fees incurred should enforcement of this Agreement become necessary.

  1. Arbitration

Any and all disputes or disagreements rising between the Parties out of this Agreement upon which an amicable understanding cannot be reached, shall be decided by arbitration in accordance with the procedural rules of the American Arbitration Association. The Parties agree to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator(s). The arbitration proceeding shall take place in Whatcom County, Washington, unless another location is mutually agreed to by the Parties. The cost and expenses of the arbitrators shall be shared equally by the Parties. Each Party shall be responsible for its own costs and expenses in presenting the dispute for arbitration.

  1. Severability & No Waiver

In the event that any part of this Agreement is found to be invalid or unenforceable, the remainder of this Agreement shall remain valid and enforceable. Any failure by one or both Parties to enforce a provision of this Agreement shall not constitute a waiver of any other portion or provision of this Agreement.

  1. Transfer

This Agreement cannot be transferred or assigned to any third-party by either the Photographer or Client without written consent of all Parties. 

  1. Headings

Headings and titles are provided in this Agreement for convenience only and will not be construed as part of this Agreement.

  1. Notice

Parties shall provide effective notice (“Notice”) to each other via email at the date and time which the Notice is sent: Photographer’s Email: [email protected]

  1. Counterparts; Facsimile Signatures 

The Parties agree that a facsimile copy (electronic copy) of this Agreement, which contains the Parties’ signatures, may be used as the original.


By checking the box on this order form and upon completion of purchase, you confirm that you have read, understood, and agree to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.