Mornings dawn bright and clear in Lajitas. This is trail-riding heaven, and head wrangler Rick Levin is St. Peter. He comes to this Rio Grande village and luxury resort from a career in law enforcement, but he's no stranger to horses-his resume includes the mounted police training of Philadelphia and Houston police departments. Now, instead of chasing bad guys through city parks, he guides guests through the badlands of Lajitas.
Billed as "The Ultimate Hideout," the 25,000-acre resort ranch is located in a remote area between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park, near the Texas/Mexico border. How remote-and upscale-is Lajitas? To get there, most guests fly in on a private jet. The resort offers this service on a fleet of LearJets, from all major Texas cities.
Although the desert mountain terrain is wild and wooly, Lajitas' trail rides are first class, beginning with the horses. A cut above typical stable stock, these animals are fit, well-groomed, and well-behaved. Rides begin at the spotless, luxurious stables. As you ride away, the civilized world of Lajitas vanishes behind a rocky ledge. Trails lead to the badlands, where dust, sandstone, and cactus form the landscape.
If Levin knows the group is ready for a challenge, he'll lead riders up steep, winding trails into the desert hills. It's quite challenging, even for experienced riders. And don't forget, what goes up must come down-the downhill rides are even more thrilling than the ones going up.
Ready to see what your mount can do? Dry creek beds are great places to kick 'em up and give 'em their heads for an exhilarating gallop. Wrangler Rick waits at the end of the creek, camera in hand, and captures the action so you'll remember your wild ride in the Chihuahua desert.
But there's more. On a morning ride, you'll be treated to a hearty cowboy breakfast prepared by Chef Peter O'Brien. Dismount, and enjoy fresh-squeezed orange juice, champagne optional. Knock back campfire coffee while you watch the chef work his culinary magic over an open fire. Savor a fluffy golden biscuit baked in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Then pile on the eggs, sausage, bacon, and cowboy beans. You can also opt for a gourmet picnic lunch or a sunset basket of wine and cheese. All dining requests are made to order.
At the end of the ride, Levin morphs from wrangler to shooting instructor. Learn how to safely load and fire a pistol, rifle, and shotgun. Then enjoy a friendly competition in a target shootout with fellow riders. Wagering is optional.
Here, you set your own pace, doing as much or as little as you choose. After a long trail ride, have a margarita by the pool, get a spa treatment, then head to the Thirsty Goat Saloon for an evening of live entertainment.
Accommodations at Lajitas are as varied as the activities. Each room is designed for optimum comfort and elegance. Perhaps you'd enjoy the historic Calvary Post, built on the foundations of the military outpost once commanded by General John "Black Jack" Pershing. Or the sumptuous Officer's Quarters whose private patios overlook the resort's Championship Ambush Golf Course. Or maybe you'd prefer a one-room suite at the intimate La Cuesta Villas that overlook the resort pool, the cowboy-chic dÈcor at the Cavalry Post, or the red-velvet-laden bordello rooms at the Badlands Hotel.
The Lajitas Equestrian Center is a full-service boarding facility for resort members. It sports a 19-stall barn with an office, a tack room, a bathroom, and two washing/grooming areas. Additionally, there's a 45,000-square-foot covered riding arena, a 60-foot covered round pen, and hay/equipment barn, and a manager on-site 24 hours a day. Nonmembers can sign up for trail rides, basic horsemanship instruction, and advanced lessons.
Lajitas also holds six team-roping, sorting, and penning events every year. Participants are comprised of Lajitas members, resort guests, and people who live in the Big Bend regions.