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On the Road: San Antonio to Big Bend National Park

Program No. 20562RJ
Immerse yourself in the best of Texas as you visit remote state and national parks, explore Fort Davis Historic Site and stargaze at the McDonald Observatory.

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DATES & starting prices
Oct 15 - Oct 22, 2023
Starting at
Oct 22 - Oct 29, 2023
Starting at
Nov 5 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
DATES & starting prices
Oct 15 - Oct 22, 2023
Starting at
Oct 22 - Oct 29, 2023
Starting at
Nov 5 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at

At a Glance

Explore Texas nature and culture from San Antonio’s Riverwalk to the mountains of Big Bend National Park. Cross the Chihuahuan Desert as a naturalist interprets all you see and scale the Chisos Mountains to explore Big Bend’s rugged landscapes. Visit Terlingua ghost town, Fort Davis National Historic Site and much more.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Hiking up to one mile over varied terrain. Standing up to one hour. climbing two flights of stairs; getting on/off coach. No porterage. Elevations up to 7,000 feet.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Explore the darkest skies in the country in a star party with an expert at the McDonald Observatory.
  • Travel back in time with a visit to Fort Davis National Historic Site.
  • See a wide variety of plants and wildlife as you journey through deserts and mountains of Big Bend National Park.

General Notes

Consider enrolling in "San Antonio: Heart of the City, Heart of the Hill Country" (#22272) before or after this program to extend your exploration of Texas!
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Linda Jo Murray
Linda Murray grew up in San Antonio, camping in the Hill Country and fishing at the Coast. A lover of history, the outdoors, and storytelling, she has led groups as a Certified Professional Tour Guide, a Master Naturalist, and as a docent at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and Villa Finale, the San Antonio River Authority, and the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation. She is trained as a Master Gardener and loves to garden, read, and travel.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Linda Murray
Linda Jo Murray View biography
Linda Murray grew up in San Antonio, camping in the Hill Country and fishing at the Coast. A lover of history, the outdoors, and storytelling, she has led groups as a Certified Professional Tour Guide, a Master Naturalist, and as a docent at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and Villa Finale, the San Antonio River Authority, and the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation. She is trained as a Master Gardener and loves to garden, read, and travel.
Profile Image of KT Cockerell
KT Cockerell View biography
Being a native Texan, KT loves to share the colorful Texas history with the many visitors who find themselves in our fabulous State. She enjoys the adventure of discovery while leading groups and in her own personal travels as well. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe and locally. KT has been involved with the travel industry for over 20 years. KT and her husband Alan enjoy living in the small rural town of Seguin, where they have raised their 4 daughters.
Profile Image of Jane Martin
Jane Martin View biography
Jane Martin grew up in San Antonio and holds a bachelor’s in art history and a master’s in architecture. Being a Certified Professional Guide is the culmination of twenty years teaching History of Architecture at San Antonio College and over thirty years as a volunteer docent at the McNay Art Museum. She is an associate member of the American Institute of Architects. Jane’s lifelong passion for architectural history has led her to become a seasoned explorer, traveling extensively throughout the world, including studies in Italy.
Profile Image of Ginger Burkholder
Ginger Burkholder View biography
Ginger Burkholder's roots in Texas are deep, extending generations before 1836 to qualify her as a “Daughter of the Republic of Texas.” She is the eldest of ten, mother of three and “Nani” to eight grandchildren. She has a B.A. in biology and environmental studies from St. Edward’s University. She retired after 20 years with USAA as a financial services professional. Ginger loves sharing the rich culture and history of San Antonio and South Texas.
Profile Image of Bruce Martin
Bruce Martin View biography
Bruce Martin is a native Texan who has lived in San Antonio for more than 30 years. A master naturalist, he leads informative and entertaining explorations throughout San Antonio’s downtown, historic districts, and natural areas as well as the nearby Texas Hill Country. A keen observer of the built environment, he shares his appreciation for San Antonio’s architectural details and public artwork. Bruce tries not to take himself too seriously. He and his wife Barbara live in a 1937 white stucco house.
Profile Image of Larry Francell
Larry Francell View biography
Larry Francell currently serves as a County Commissioner in Jeff Davis County. He is a student of history, and enjoys sharing his interest in military history with visitors to the Fort Davis National Historic Area. For 10 years, he served as the Director of the Museum of the Big Bend, located on the campus of Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas. During his tenure, the museum expanded into a new building and won several prestigious awards.
Profile Image of Liz Rogers
Liz Rogers View biography
Liz Rogers grew up on a sheep and goat ranch in Uvalde County. After graduating from Texas A&M and South Texas College of Law, she moved to El Paso, where she lived over 20 years. In 2001, she relocated to Alpine, where she continued her work with the Federal Public Defender's office. She opened her own law practice in 2015.
Profile Image of Rufus Stephens
Rufus Stephens View biography
Rufus Stephens is a Certified Wildlife Biologist, an educator, and co-author with Jan Wrede of the recently published book “Attracting Birds in the Texas Hill Country: A Guide to Land Stewardship” by TAMU Press. He has worked as a wildlife biologist for 34 years, 23 years with TPWD. He is one of the founders of the Texas Master Naturalist program and, in recognition of this accomplishment, was a co-recipient of the Wildlife Management Institute’s award for Innovation.
Profile Image of Craig Hensley
Craig Hensley View biography
Craig Hensley is a lifelong naturalist and educator, having shared his passion for nature in Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, and with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He is an avid birder, a native plant gardener, and nature photographer. Craig has led more than 50 trips to view Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife in the Platte River valley of Nebraska, and other birding excursions to Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Kansas, as well as an annual border-to-border birding trip across Nebraska.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Immigrant Trail
by Jason De León
Jason De León uses the four fields of anthropology to chronicle the journeys of people attempting to cross the border between the US and Mexico. This book takes a hard look at the human consequences of the US immigration policy.
Cactuses of Big Bend National Park
by Douglas B. Evans
This book is just what the non-botanist needs to identify and enjoy the "cactuses" of Big Bend NP. It is concise, accurate, and beautifully illustrated with photos taken within the park in natural habitats,...not in artificial greenhouse settings as with other cactus books.
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
by S. C. Gwynne
S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
Chess with Carrizo
by J. W. Stephens
I wanted to write a book about a married couple that did not involve an extra marital affair or divorce or even a "meet cute" scenario. A married couple that felt real to me and hopefully, to you, the readers. A marriage is built on humor,trust and love and is a partnership no matter what the circumstances happen to be. When the circumstances turn unfortunate, what happens to the marriage? Which moral choices do you make and which do you regret? And I wanted to tell a story about west Texas and the Big Bend area along the border with Mexico. The Chihuahua Desert is one of the last true wilderness areas in the US and almost unspoiled even today which allows for amazing hiking, horseback riding and storytelling.
Texas, My Texas: Musings of the Rambling Boy
by Lonn Taylor
In a collection of essays about Texas gathered from his West Texas newspaper column, Lonn Taylor traverses the very best of Texas geography, Texas history, and Texas personalities. In a state so famous for its pride, Taylor manages to write a very honest, witty, and wise book about Texas past and Texas present.
Big, Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas
by Harrigan, Stephen
Written by a great story teller, this readable, monumental work is exactly what the title implies: a comprehensive history of Texas complete with wonderful historic photographs and a focus on the stories of individual people. Not for the fainthearted, the time invested in reading this is well-spent. Actually, the book is so readable that devouring it is a pleasure. It has been described as “a must read for Texas aficionados.”
From a Limestone Ledge: Some Essays and Other Ruminations about Country Life in Texas
by John Graves
Some of the most sensible, genial prose west of the Mississippi. A kind of sequel to Hard Scrabble-recounting more about his twenty years of quiet combat with the forces of nature.
Rock Art of the Lower Pecos
by Carolyn E. Boyd
This author takes research on rock art and makes it concise and understandable for all of us who are interested in rock art in the Americas. But more than that, she takes us to the next level and gives us a basis for understanding WHY the images were produced in the first place and what function they served for the culture. This is must reading for anyone who wants to understand these images and who wants to go to the next level in understanding rock art world wide.
Big Bend Tales
by Mike Cox
Travel deeper into the Texas outback with writer-historian Mike Cox as he recounts the lesser-known stories from Alpine, Fort Davis and Marfa. Revisit the grandeur of Alpine's Holland Hotel, peer through the telescope at the McDonald Observatory and dip your toes in the water hole at Ernst Tinaja--if you dare. Travel back to a time when the Comanche Trail stretched one thousand miles from Kansas to Mexico, making the Big Bend difficult to defend and impossible to resist trying.
Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy's masterwork, Blood Meridian, chronicles the brutal world of the Texas-Mexico borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. Its wounded hero, the teenage Kid, must confront the extraordinary violence of the Glanton gang, a murderous cadre on an official mission to scalp Indians and sell those scalps. Loosely based on fact, the novel represents a genius vision of the historical West, one so fiercely realized that since its initial publication in 1985 the canon of American literature has welcomed Blood Meridian to its shelf.
Driving Southwest Texas: On the Road in Big Bend Country
by Byron Browne
Byron Browne's book is a great ride through the harsh yet beautiful landscape of the Big Bend and Davis Mountain areas of Texas. No other part of the state is as rugged, or remote, as this land nestled in the bend of the Rio Grande. Browne is thorough on his subject, knowledgeable about the rich history of the area, and thoughtful about those he encounters on his journey.
Little Big Bend: Common, Uncommon, and Rare Plants of Big Bend National Park
by Roy Morey
Plant life in Big Bend National Park is incredibly diverse. The wide range of habitats within the park—desert, foothills, mountains and moist woodlands, river canyons and floodplain—as well as the Big Bend’s three major blooming seasons of spring, summer, and fall—guarantee a stunning show of botanical variety throughout the year.
New Cowboy Poetry: A Contemporary Gathering
by Hal Cannon
Whether you consider yourself a real cowpoke or a western romantic, you are going to enjoy this batch of new cowboy poems. Reading them aloud, it's easy to get caught up in the spirit of the West.
Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry
A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers.
Photographing Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Great Images
by Kathy Adams Clark
With its combination of desert and mountain landscapes, the dramatic canyons of the Rio Grande, ancient pictographs, and remnants of pioneer ranch life, Big Bend National Park presents a wealth of subjects to the photographic eye. Professional nature photographer and frequent Big Bend traveler Kathy Adams Clark offers this handy and beautiful guide to maximizing the photographic experience of this visually stunning landscape.
The Big Bend: A History of the Last Texas Frontier
by Ron Tyler
Ron Tyler's seminal work on the Big Bend of Texas is required reading for anyone who plans a trip to the "Texas Outback". This enchanting out-of-the-way part of Texas has invited explorers and adventurers for years and Tyler's historical treatment brings all the mystery and drama of the region to the surface for the modern traveler. The maps and historical photographs blend with the text to give the reader a "sense of place" that separates the Big Bend area from other southwestern landscapes.
Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth
by Burrough, Brian, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford
Reviled by some and applauded by others, this controversial popular history focuses on factors related to the history of the Alamo. A saucy, journalistic-style read, it provides a perspective on how Texans think, information about the current redesign of Alamo Plaza, and a great bibliography for further study.

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.