Alpine Texas, the Eden of the West
The City of Alpine
Alpine is nestled in a valley surrounded by the foothills of the Davis and Glass Mountains and the grand vistas of the high Chihuahuan Desert. The high elevation (4,475 ft) and low humidity make for some of the best weather in the state, with consistently cool summer evenings and generally mild winters punctuated by brief cold spells that bring a stunning blanket of snow to the desert mountains a few times every year.
Alpine’s small, walkable downtown gives a taste of small-town charm with local shops, restaurants, and galleries in the historic storefronts.
One of the smallest towns designated by the state as a Texas Music Friendly Community, Alpine has a vibrant local music scene with multiple early-evening performances every week at several welcoming venues.
Big Bend Region
Centrally located in the Big Bend region, Alpine provides a perfect staging point for day trips exploring the stunning mountain landscapes stretching in every direction. Marfa, Fort Davis, McDonald Observatory, Big Bend National Park, and several can’t-miss State Parks are just a few of the stops along the way.
Annual events include the two-day Artwalk music and arts festival, the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Spirits of the West Wine and Beef Festival, the Big Bend Bluegrass Festival, and the four-day Viva Big Bend music festival, which brings 60+ performances to 12+ stages in 5+ communities in the region.
The railroad arrived in the Big Bend region in the early 1880s, and the town was established under the name Alpine in 1888.
The historic Holland Hotel, founded in 1912 as a cattleman’s railroad hotel, provides elegant accommodations today in its “new” building, which was designed by the renowned El Paso architects Trost & Trost and opened in 1928.
On the opposite side of the tracks, the more modest Hotel Ritchey began serving the rail and ranch laborers in the late 1880s. The oldest still-standing wooden commercial structure in Alpine, The Ritchey has been restored and now hosts a bar with a warm, welcoming vibe, frequent live music and occasional food specials.
A historic walking and windshield tour of downtown Alpine is one of the most popular handouts available at the Alpine Visitor Center.
Paired with the Historic Walking Tour is a matching map leading visitors through Alpine’s ever-growing collection of 40+ diverse downtown murals.
A single pair of large-scale murals celebrating local history and ranching heritage faced each other in the center of downtown for many years until 2013, when the organizers of Alpine’s annual Artwalk festival began an ambitious program with muralist Stylle Read, adding four additional murals by 2019.
As the nonprofit’s mural program built momentum, a group of downtown property owners decided to participate as well, beginning an explosion of small to medium-scale murals by a range of local and visiting artists, most centering on an alley between 5th and 6th Streets where there are now more than 20 artworks, with more planned and in progress.
Hancock Hill rises behind the Sul Ross State University campus, where a network of short-to-medium length hiking trails provide lovely views of Alpine and its surrounding mountain landscape as well as a taste of quirky and affectionate “homemade history”.
In 1981, three Sul Ross students decided they needed a quiet spot to study. Together they carried a large metal office desk up to a secluded spot on Hancock Hill.
One day, one of them left his notebook in the desk drawer and later found that someone else had written in it. He replied, and a tradition was born. Ten years later, a sizable collection of notebooks filled at the Desk was brought to the Archives of the Big Bend in the university library, which was added to as further notebooks were filled.
41 years after it arrived, The Desk is still on Hancock Hill and thousands of people each year take the hike up to visit The Desk and leave their own thoughts in the notebook.
Museum of the Big Bend
The Museum of the Big Bend is a first-class institution, in an entirely different league from your average small-town historical museum. A part of Sul Ross State University, the museum is housed in its original building on the SRSU campus, a stone Works Progress Administration structure dating from 1937 and immaculately renovated in the early 2000s.
The exhibit quality is in keeping with its peers in much larger cities, and the content makes the Museum a must-see resource for first-time visitors to the region. “Big Bend Legacy,” the permanent exhibit, tells the story of the region’s prehistory and history thoughtfully and from multiple perspectives.
In the Summer of 2023, a striking new building addition by noted international design firm, Page/ doubled the square footage of the Museum, adding greatly enhanced art display galleries for the Museum’s permanent collection and a rarely-viewed series of paintings by El Paso’s Tom Lea, as well as regularly scheduled visiting exhibits.