With a population of roughly 400 people, the tiny desert town of Marathon, Texas may be the last place that you’d expect to find quirky art galleries and European-inspired gardens–and yet, those are just two of the fun things to do in Marathon, TX.
Far less famous than its more-iconic neighbor of Marfa, Marathon is far more than just the Gateway to Big Bend: it’s an interesting small town in its own right, and well worth visiting during a Big Bend Country road trip.
Here’s what to do in Marathon, Texas!
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The Best Things to Do in Marathon, TX
Meander through the Gage Gardens.
Beautiful fountains and ornately laid-out gardens may be the most unexpected of all the attractions in Marathon.
The manicured garden simply seems out of another world compared to the generally arid climate in the region, and they are a delight to wander through.
Shady, relaxing, and free to visit, the Gage Gardens are absolutely one of the best places to visit in Marathon.
Explore the Marathon Historical Museum.
Housed in Marathon’s first schoolhouse, the small Marathon Historical Museum is a wonderful place to learn about the history of Marathon, both before and after the town as we know it today was formed.
If you go by and find the door locked, don’t worry: you can pick up the key at the Chamber of Commerce.
Such is the nature of small-town life!
Step inside Marathon’s art galleries.
The Klepper Gallery and Evans Gallery are both staples of Marathon sightseeing, and no trip to Marfa would be complete without exploring the beautiful photography of these artists!
Go fossil-hunting in Crinoids Hills.
Just 5 miles west of Marathon, TX, you’ll find the fascinating Crinoids Hills, which are a reminder of a time long, long ago–up to 600 million years ago, to be more exact.
This area is home to some of the best fossil-hunting in Texas, including the hills’ namesake: crinoids.
Check into the Gage Hotel.
Open since 1927, the Gage Hotel is the absolute best place to stay in Marathon if you’re looking for a beautiful, historic property.
Offering multiple kinds of lodging from traditional rooms to casitas, the Gage Hotel has been welcoming visitors to Marfa for nearly 100 years.
The hotel was designed by architect Henry Trost, whose name you might see again when traveling through Big Bend Country, as he’s also responsible for the (possibly haunted) Holland Hotel in Alpine and the famous Paisano Hotel in Marfa.
… or at least grab dinner there.
Staying somewhere else but still want to step inside Marathon’s historic hotel?
Consider stopping by for dinner at the luxurious, on-site 12 Gage Restaurant (reservations recommended) or cozy White Buffalo Bar instead!
Relax at Post Park.
Post Park is one of the absolute best places to see in Marathon for enthusiastic bird watchers, especially during migration season, but all travelers will enjoy a chance to relax underneath the shade (a rarity in Big Bend Country) provided by beautiful cottonwood trees while overlooking the park’s spring-fed pond.
Where is Marathon, Texas?
Marathon, Texas is located along U.S. Highway 90 in southwest Texas–or more specifically, in Big Bend Country.
It is roughly an hour and a half (78 miles) north of the popular Chisos Basin Visitor’s Center in Big Bend National Park.
You’ll enter the park sooner, but Big Bend is enormous! Getting to Big Bend NP and getting to your desired hike or viewpoint can mean wildly different things.
Marathon is about 30 minutes (30 miles) east of Alpine, Texas, and about 55 minutes (56 miles) east of Marfa.
Terlingua Ghost Town is just under 2 hours (113 miles) south of Marathon.
Tips for Visiting Marathon, Texas
Stock up for your trip to Big Bend National Park before leaving Marathon.
Groceries, gas, and reliable cell service: if you’re heading to Big Bend National Park after enjoying the best things to do in Marathon, this is your last call for all of them.
Be sure to stock up on food (The French Grocery in Marathon has you covered), fill your tank, and download any essential maps before setting off to explore the park!
You won’t be able to find the miniature Target.
For several years, the drive from Alpine to Marathon meant stopping to admire–and probably snap photos at–the quirky miniature Target that simultaneously seemed so out of place and so at home in the West Texas desert.
Sadly, the Target was demolished in December 2020. RIP.
You can qualify for the Boston Marathon in Marathon, Texas!
Want to admire beautiful West Texas scenery on foot for, say, 26.2 miles?
If so, then Marathon is the place!
The Marathon to Marathon, or M2M Marathon, is held in the town each fall and is a Boston Qualifier race.
… or attend a local festival!
A century-old 4th of July Dance in Post Park, a Chili Cook-Off, and a holiday party are just a few fun events in Marathon that, if you’re lucky enough to have your visit overlap with them, deserve to be featured on your list of things to do in Marathon, TX!