The top things to do in Marathon, TX, include eating well and sleeping better!
Marathon, Texas, is a (very) small town with big bites and great places to lay your head. The town is located in the Big Bend Region of West Texas and is a 30 to 40-minute drive to the national park. There is not much here but a few shops, galleries, and places to eat and sleep, but it’s the gateway to Big Bend National Park for tourists and, therefore, a popular place to visit. But while heading to Big Bend, the Rio Grande River, or any other area, you may want to know the top things to do in Marathon, TX, to say you’ve been there.
Marathon is the closest town to the north entrance of Big Bend, making it a great day trip. To get there, take a flight to either Midland or El Paso, rent a car, and drive the rest of the way. However, a road trip is a good option too. And if you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon a place that is playing live music.
Things To Do In Marathon, TX
The history of Marathon lies within the small charming town, serving as the quintessential backdrop for the historic Gage Hotel. Many gift shops on Main Street and local eateries are all within walking distance. It’s the perfect place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts to get a glimpse of what the Big Bend National Park will be. Knowing how small this town is, much of what to do there is not walking distance …at all.
If you’re a hunter on your way to Mexico for a Hunting expedition, Marathon is an excellent choice to stay the night before crossing the border. That’s exactly what my husband did this past year. He and his buddies stayed at the Marathon Motel and at a weird Airbnb (husband called it) and ate well at the White Buffalo Cantina, waiting to meet their guide the next day. The Gage Hotel is a little pricy, but they like eating there – which never disappoints. He said he would stay at the Gage Hotel if he goes back, but reservations need to be made well in advance.
Best Time To Visit Marathon, TX
The best time to visit Marathon, TX, is from March through November when it’s hot, but it depends on why you’re going there. Big Ben National Park is always open, with visitors there year-round.
1. Stroll Main Street
With several shops with floor-to-ceiling decor and gifts, Evans Gallery – Big Ben photographer, and antiques, all provided by locally owned residents, you’ll likely get an ear full about where you’re from, your name, and whether you’ve been to Marathon before. Small-town people are so friendly …and can be really talkative.
2. Gawk At The Gage Hotel
You can’t go to or through Marathon without a tour of the beautifully restored western lobby of the Gage Hotel. Whether you’re staying there or not, you can go inside and look around this historic site.
3. Picnic At Post Park
Outdoor activities include visiting Post Park, where you can picnic, watch for birds, do some fishing, and learn about the foundations of Camp Pena Colorado – a hidden gem in the area. Rent a bike at the Gage Hotel to bike the scenic road to the park. You may be the only one on the road. If you’re in the area at these times, check out the annual 4th of July dance, the summer Chili Cook-Off, and the West Fest Cabrito Cook-Off in September.
The park features several educational and historical markers, interpretive nature plaques, picnic tables & grills, some covered tables, and restrooms.
4. Visit Gage Gardens And Bring Your Dog
Gage Gardens, a 27-acre garden in downtown Marathon, offers peaceful walks, bird watching, benches, a rose garden, a mini putting green, a dedicated dog park, and more for the whole family. Open daily to the public from 8 am to 5 pm. Free admission.
5. Black Gap Wildlife Management Area
Hunters and Anglers will like the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area that allows hunting and fishing at certain times – as long as you have a permit.
6. Maravillas Creek Ranch
Located outside of Marathon, Maravillas Creek Ranch, a hunting ranch, has abundant water sources and food for mule deer, making the population plentiful. This property is also home to many species of birds and larger mammals, such as elk, javelina, mountain lion, and black bear. The brushy vegetation provides excellent habitat for these game and non-game animals.
7. Big Bend National Park
I am not sure the reason why people visit Marathon other than going to the national park or Mexico. But if you’re heading to Big Bend National Park, you chose well. Full disclosure – I have not been to the national park …yet!
Take a scenic drive in the park and soak up the wild Chisos Mountains along the Santa Elena Canyon, where there are 1500-foot cliffs about the Rio Grnadwe. And if you feel like it, take a short walk through a desert oasis at Sam Nail Ranch and see a working windmill. I don’t think anyone will ever tire of the view.
Restaurants In Marathon, TX
The first four restaurants below are all part of the Gage Hotel, but there are a few more places to dine in this small town in West Texas. Before heading to the national park or crossing the border, you have great food options.
Brick Vault Brewery & Barbecue
The restaurant is open seasonally, and it’s said that the barbecue is some of the best in the area …and the beer ain’t bad either – brewed freshly right in the restaurant.
White Buffalo Cantina
Entrees include beef tenderloin filet, prime rib, seared redfish, quail, chicken breast, local mushroom & roasted cauliflower, and the Iron Mountain chicken fried steak (above).
12 Gage Restaurant
Gage Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, where you’ll feast on gourmet West Texas cuisine. The restaurant uses high-quality ingredients, locally sourced wild game served with vegetables and herbs from the Gage Garden—seasonal menu. Reservations are highly recommended.
V6 Coffee Bar
V6 Coffee Bar is an espresso bar + a gift shop showcasing artisan goods and Klepper Gallery fine art and original photography by E. Dan Klepper. The coffee bar also serves breakfast and lunch.
French Co Grocer
A general store with picnic supplies, beer, a great wine selection, lunch items, and camping gear that serves burgers on Friday nights.
Big Bend Pizza
For the best pizza in the country, head to Big Bend Pizza. It’s a great stop before heading to the national park or coming off a hiking trail there. Either way, go hungry! Open Wed-Sat 4 – 8 pm.
Places To Stay In Marathon, TX
While most visitors heading to Big Bend know about the Gage Hotel in Marathon, there are plenty more places to stay in town. Most offer free Wi-Fi.
You have options here – Stay in the Captain Albion Shepard House, casitas, or guest rooms at the historic Gage Hotel. Gage Gardens is lovely to meander. And don’t forget to book a spa treatment at the Gage Wellness Spa and plunge into the hydrotherapy spa pool and steam room. The spa was completely renovated in the Summer of 2021. Make sure to make reservations well in advance.
Eve’s Garden Bed And Breakfast
Eve’s Garden is an organic BnB serving complimentary breakfast of homemade organic gourmet breakfasts with each room rental.
Marathon Motel & RV Park & Skypark
Stargazing has never been better at the Marathon Motel & RV Park. Its wide-open skies make it the perfect place to catch the starry sky. Ask about their star parties with telescopes. Maybe you’ll happen upon a star party on the patio. Even if you’re not staying here, star parties are for everyone.
La Loma del Chivo
Check out the La Loma del Chivo – a two-bedroom cottage or the Stardust Corral 1920s Adobe Home – both are on VRBO.
Historic McGonagill House
Look for this one and other cottages with dessert views on Airbnb.
Other Places To Visit Near In Marathon, Texas:
- The ghost town of Terlingua
- Front Street Books (in downtown Alpine), where you can pick up books about Big Ben.
- Prada Marfa
Next time you’re headed to Big Bend, visit Marathon, Texas.