Peaceful surroundings and a quiet foray into the Great Plains are what you’ll find when embarking on your trip to find the beauty in Marathon Texas. Whether you’re a budding astronomer seeking to explore the next frontier, or just looking to capture stellar photographs of the desert landscape in daytime or darkest skies by night, the images you take with you from Marathon Texas will stay a part of you for eternity. Many make their way to Marathon by way of a trip to Big Bend National Park, but this post will detail the great finds the town has to offer and make your stay something to look forward to, rather than just a brief stopover.
Marathon Texas: Guide to Visiting
Albion Shepherd founded Marathon Texas in 1882. A former captain of the seas, he declared that the peaceful plains and vivid landscapes reminded him of Marathon, Greece. When the Southern Pacific Railroad extended through Iron Mountain Ranch and Galveston, Harrisonburg, Marathon Texas became a shipping and supply hub for ranchers traveling through the area. The core exports from Marathon at the time were wool and large game animals, including deer, antelope, and bear. The early 1900s brought several prospective settlers to Marathon in search of oil, but a goldmine was never unearthed.
Today, many find their way to Marathon on a trip to Big Bend National Park, just 40 miles north of the city limits. If you’re seeking hiking or adventure in exploring the wonders of Big Bend, you can find a spot to enjoy good food, kind hospitality, and some enjoyable stargazing amid the night sky.
According to the National Park Service Night Sky Team, the town of Marathon Texas has been credited with the darkest skies in the 48 contiguous states. This is based off elevation over 4000 feet, geography surrounded by mountain ranges, stark remoteness, and small population that minimize light pollution. Marathon was granted a CLASS 1 categorization on the Bortle Light Pollution Scale, meaning that it gets nearly as dark in the town as it does in outer space. Because of its location, the destination has become a landmark for astronomy and stargazing.
The signature event of the town: M2M
Care to check out “the biggest event this little town puts on”? Plan your visit around the Marathon 2 Marathon, also referred in town as the M2M. This annual event is certified as a Boston Marathon qualifying race, quite the nod for the small town of Marathon Texas. The track boasts a gradual downhill slope with unbeatable scenery and a high desert climate with dry, cool temperatures that will help you optimize your race time.
The city warmly welcomes those who participate in this special event with a pre-race, carb-rich pasta dinner, whose proceeds benefit the Marathon Independent School District. The kind hospitality and delicious food in Marathon Texas doesn’t end with the marathon, as the race culminates in a post-race BBQ lunch prepared by an award-winning BBQ pit master! Check “try Texas BBQ” off your list, with proceeds going back to the Marathon Volunteer Fire Department, who keeps the course safe for participants. The party doesn’t end, with a taco truck parked at the Marathon Hotel for dinner, drinks, dancing, and stargazing at the highly renowned skies of Marathon Texas. You’ll even be invited to a Sunday brunch to round out the weekend.
Another interesting tidbit about the race: when you crossover between Marathon and the Texas city of El Paso, you will travel through time as the time zones shift! Enduring an exhilarating run and the unique hospitality of this city will prove to be an incredible weekend for you.
Shopping on Main Street
“Visit Main Street” is a common recommendation among the hidden-gem towns of the United States, and this one is not to be missed. Check out below some suggested options on your trip to visit the top businesses in Marathon Texas.
The V6 Collection, located adjacent the Gage Hotel, features handmade artwork, home décor and goods, children’s gifts, special cards, leather-made gifts, and original prints from local artists, including Lindy Cook Severns and David Loren Bass. The themes are Spanish, Texas, colorful, bold, featuring prominent woodwork and immaculate tiles as well as local animals that you’ll find roaming around the outskirts of town.
There are a number of unique galleries featuring the crafts honed by local artisans. Evans Gallery Fine Art Photography features the works of James Evans, a longtime resident whose prominent shots, including “Big Bend” and “Crazy From the Heat”, have been featured since he began his work in 1988. Klepper Gallery is owned and operated by writer, artist, and photographer E. Dan Klepper. Add in Wes Spears’ Sonworks Gallery for Woodwork, Carol Townshend Photography, and Maisie Lee Hand-Carved Wooden Doors to check out more local works.
Places to Visit and Things to Do in Marathon Texas
It is nearly bizarre how a beautiful garden thrives in the desert landscape, but Gage Gardens contains beautiful walking paths, manicured gardens, green plants, water features, hand-painted artwork, desert succulents, flowering shrubs, ponds, fruit orchards, and more. You’ll find 27 acres worth exploring for a tranquil afternoon of walking, reflecting, and connecting to nature.
One unique landmark in Marathon Texas is the “World’s Smallest Target Store”. Somehow the iconic Target red bull’s-eye logo landed on a tiny out post on the side of the road. Visitors will encounter the “shop” already had its going-out-of-business sale, completely empty! This shop is an amusing sight worthy of a quick photograph stop.
Travel along Post Road for five miles southbound and you’ll approach Post Park, where Camp Peña Colorado once sat in the 1800s. You’ll find an enjoyable trail with very minimal traffic where you can enjoy scenic vistas from biking, hiking, or running among deer, turkeys, javelinas, jackrabbits, and more, depending on whether you visit in the early mornings for sunrise or early evenings at sunset. There’s a secluded pond for reflecting and beautiful cottonwood trees among the scenic Caballos Novaculite Mountains.
The city even hosts an annual 4th of July Dance at the Post Park annually, with BBQ, fireworks, chili cook off, dog and pony show, kids fishing competition, and more. This is a must if you are looking for things to do in Marathon Texas.
Interested in seeing live, local music in West Texas? Make your way for the annual Viva Big Bend Music Festival, with venues featuring performances across neighboring cities, including Marathon Texas’ own Gage Hotel and Eve’s Garden.
The city features an annual Quilt Show, with masterpieces on display for purchase as well as judging for a fierce competition.
Experience a true local, cultural tradition with the Fiesta de Noche Buena, a Main Street parade complete with tree lighting, caroling, hay rides, festive food and drinks, awards for competitions, and a visit from Santa Claus.
Think of all the delicious options at another top annual event in Marathon Texas: the West Fest Cabrito Cook-Off and Dance, where awards are handed out for the best preparations of cabrito (a roast goat delicacy), brisket (if you don’t care for goat!), dessert, margarita, bloody mary, and salsa.
You can imagine there’s not an abundance of dining choices in a town with a population of just 430, but there are a number of delicious dishes to try once you’re in Marathon Texas. Because the town has frequent travelers looking to refuel for a trek to the Big Bend, they keep many great restaurants in business, as well as the local clientele that keeps popular spots bustling.
12 Gage, located within the Gage Hotel, offers Texas specialties with gourmet influences: think Oyster Nachos, Hot Quail Legs, or a local 44 Farms Ribeye. Oasis Café will take you back in time to the great diner days, known for their revered breakfast dishes such as pancakes and breakfast burritos – for lunch, you’ll find popular burgers, quesadillas, and more. At Big Bend Pizza, you’ll find large pies available to share, including classic Supreme and Hawaiian pizzas. Brick Vault Brewery & Barbecue features Mexican street corn, chili mac and cheese, brisket, and more for the authentic Texas BBQ experience during your stay in Marathon.
Read More: Weekend guide to Plano Texas
Interesting information on Marathon Texas
You might recognize some of the panoramic images of Marathon Texas from Hollywood classics that entertained you on the big screen. Actor Kevin Costner starred in the movie Fandango that shot scenes in the city limits, as well as the film Paris, Texas that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984.
Visitors and tourists alike generally pronounce the city as mare-a-thon, while the locals opt for mare-a-thin.
Many Americans save up for years dreaming of a big trip to Paris, France or London, England to satisfy their yearning to “see the world”. You might be surprised to learn that you can relish in the beauty of small town charm, astronomical delights, rich history, Great Plains landscapes, and generous hospitality not too far from home, in enchanting Marathon Texas. You’ll find the sights, sounds, slower pace of life, colorful artwork, and influence of local animals on the food, art, and more to make the town a truly unique gem in America.
- Getting to Marathon Texas: the city is not the easiest to get to in terms of flying. The nearest airports are Midland International (which is 160 miles away) and El Paso international (which is about 250 miles away).
- Getting around: since the city is so small, you will need a car or ride to get into town. It would be recommended to rent a car and drive in from whichever airport you choose. If you are already in the state, you can just drive over to Marathon or road trip in from wherever you are coming.
- With a population so small, the need for Uber or Lyft in the town is not very high, so do not expect to find one.
- Where to stay: Marathon has a vast range of lodging options to choose from!
- For a luxury stay: check in at Gage Hotel for a little bit of laid back luxury and high end service.
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