1) Gauge the history of Wichita Falls at the Museum of North Texas History and the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum, both found in the Depot Square Historic District, along with numerous eateries and antique stores. Visit the Wee-chi-tah sculpture on the Wichita River of a Comanche family fording the “waist-deep” waters, the translation of the sculpture’s name. Or, gear up at the local Cavender’s before spending your time horseback at the Griffin Cattle and Equine Center. If you’ve got your horse in tow, stay at Legacy Park Equestrian Center.
2) Head southeast to Decatur, and tour the 1883 Waggoner Mansion, or El Castille, built by the Waggoner family, who, until recently, owned the largest ranch in the country. Decatur is also home to the NRS Super Store, which sells everything Western. Nearby, the NRS Event Center offers everything from hourly trail rides, to all-inclusive ranch stays, to beginner team roping clinics and weekly barrel racing. While there, visit the NRS Saddle Shop, where gear is handcrafted by skilled craftsmen.
3) Particularly if you’re traveling with your own remuda, swing southwest to Mineral Wells and take advantage of the 20 equestrian-friendly campsites at the Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway, which boasts a 15-mile, horse-friendly trail through the middle of cattle country. After a day on the trail, head to town to soak at the Crazy Bath House, owned by the Famous Mineral Water Co., which has been bottling the healing waters since 1904.
4) From here, cut a straight line west to Albany, or swing further south to visit Ranger, named for the venerable Texas Rangers who maintained a camp in the area in the 1870s. While there, dine at La Finca, a favorite Mexican restaurant. If La Finca doesn’t shake out, Albany has its own don’t-miss diner at the Fort Griffin General Merchandise, known affectionately as “The Beehive,” where grilled steak is served to order in an Old West environment. Then, each June, don’t miss the chance to see the Fort Griffin Fandangle, the oldest outdoor musical in Texas, which brings the state’s tales of the frontier to life in the acre-sized Prairie Theater.
5) Saving the best for last, turn your travels to Archer City, home of Texas’s literary hero, Larry McMurtry. Once there, catch a show at the Royal Theater, made famous in the Oscar-winning production of McMurtry’s 1966 novel, The Last Picture Show. If you haven’t seen it on the shelves of your local bookstore, swing over to Booked Up Inc., where the same Mr. McMurtry, as the founder and owner of the shop, has hand-selected the store’s entire inventory of notable, and sometimes rare, literary works. Keep reveling in the town’s history and lore with a good night’s sleep at The Spur Hotel, reopened in 1990 as a boutique hotel, which has since been included in a “Top Ten List of Small Hotels in Texas.”