West Texas conjures up romantic images of flat-barren lands, tumbleweeds, and cows. All of that is true and more. Add hundreds of pump jacks, mobile home communities filled with eager oil workers, and dozens of trucks to that equation, and you will get a pretty good image of modern-day Monahans.
Just 30 miles southwest of Odessa- Midland, situated directly on the north side of I-20, and I mean directly, is Monahans Sandhills State Park. Literally, it is an island of nature surrounded by industry. You can’t forget that for even a moment when you’re there. The ever-present sound of the I-20 hum won’t let you.
When you climb a dune to look out at the sunrise or sunset, you will see on the horizon a twinkling sea of stacks and towers just bursting with industry. It’s the seedy, yet beautiful, reality of this state park. We are thankful that this small space is allowed to exist without being swallowed whole by the big business around it.
Here you can explore a nearly 4,000-acre sea of sand. Watching the sun come up and go down here will make you understand why people worshipped the sun. In the valley of the great dunes, you can pretend for just a second that the outside world of pipelines and big money isn’t there. You can look up and simply see blue sky, great billowing clouds, and fine-white sand.
Monahans has but one hiking trail, and it is more of the obligatory interpretive walk ever-present at park visitor centers. It provides placards naming the common plants of the area, including the shin oak and honey mesquite. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with flora and fauna before exploring the dunes.
The shin oak forests on the dunes are twisted and stunted and undeniably interesting. Honey mesquites will stab the careless hiker with ferocity. Pay attention to its branches, and you will find an adorable collection of various nests. The habitat here is home to a slew of fascinating creatures, including kangaroo rats, javelina, Jerusalem crickets, and tons of birds.
As far as hiking goes though, you’re free to explore where ever you like. Have at it! You can even rent sand disks for the kiddos (or adults :).
There is a museum and a gift shop, of course. The large windows afford a view of the surrounding landscape. This tour of history will remind you that Native Americans used to live here (more recently Apache and Comanche). They used the area for water, game, and foraging for acorns and beans.
Because of the water beneath the sands, European settlers claimed this area in the 1880s with the Texas and Pacific Railroad. In fact, the park is along the railway. Frequently, you’ll hear the charming sound of the train horn.
This park provides facilities for riders. Eight hundred acres are available for riding.
Monahans has a large campground with 26 sites. All have water and electric hook-ups and covered picnic tables. The modern bathrooms include complimentary showering facilities.
For a map, click here.
For a bird list, click here.
- Bring plenty of water.
- Be alert for snakes.
- Step aside for equestrians. Speak in a calm voice, greeting the horses and their riders.
- Sunscreen and desert hat.
- Proper footwear.
- Practice LNT principles.
For other hiking destinations, click here.
We’re Melony and Travis LaCoss. Better known on the trail as Stretch and RamboJuice, hiker trash bloggers, photographers, and all-around dirtbags.
A few years ago, we took a giant leap away from our conventional lifestyle to backpack in the United States. After spending 5 months on the Pacific Crest Trail, we started our blog Hikerlore to share stories and provide useful information to backpackers, hikers, and outdoor travelers.
We plan to hike as much as we possibly can. During that time, we’ll write articles about our experiences and share photographs. Some of our posts will be narrative in nature, others will review backpacking gear and offer advice to hikers. Recently, we bought an old service van and converted it into a sweet travel van.
We are adventure seekers who hike national scenic trails, visit national parks, and travel around in a van blogging about outdoor travel. We have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (2,200 miles), Florida Trail (1,100 miles), and half the Pacific Crest Trail (1,400 miles). Our adventures have led us to over 50 national parks and monuments.
In 2019, we put over 20,000 miles on VANilla (our sweet travel van that we built ourselves). Above all, Hikerlore’s articles are a service intended to provide good information and inspire our readers to get outside and have fun!
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Also, we sell handicrafts and photographs that we make on the road to support ourselves. Even more, your patronage will allow us to continue to write useful articles for you about our scenic trails, national parks, and other outdoor travel experiences. Visit our shop here. So Happy trails to you!
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