Skip to Content

What Are the Marfa Mystery Lights in West Texas?

The Marfa lights of west Texas have baffled locals for generations. The brilliant spectacle is unpredictable and draws swaths of observers worldwide.

But what causes this baffling phenomenon? 

We’re putting on our tin-foil hats and diving into one of Texas’ greatest mysteries.

Let’s explore!

A person standing in the woods surrounded by mysterious lights. Are these the Marfa Mystery Lights?
What is the mystery behind Marfa’s puzzling lights?

About the Marfa Mystery Lights

On the remote desert plains of western Texas, locals and tourists gather to observe an inexplicable phenomenon in the open sky. People have witnessed strange lights dancing along the horizon for over a century with no apparent source. 

They come and go at random. Some say the illuminations appear roughly 30 times yearly, while others claim they’re much more common. Reports vary from hovering orbs floating along the horizon to zaps of light shooting through the sky.

And they attract quite an audience. People camp on a decommissioned air base where observation areas overlook the eastern sky, hoping to glimpse the mysterious phenomenon. There’s an official viewing spot just east of town that’s also a rest stop, meaning you can access it 24 hours a day.

While some attribute them to cars or atmospheric anomalies, others claim alien activity is the source of the Marfa lights. To date, there’s no scientific consensus to explain their existence.

Where Are the Marfa Mystery Lights?

The tiny town of Marfa, Texas, is at the heart of Big Bend Country. Here, the arid desert gives way to the striking Chisos Mountains. Toward the region’s southern end, the Rio Grande River carved massive canyons into the land over centuries, leaving behind staggering plateaus.

Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park are about an hour and a half drive. Hikers, anglers, and whitewater rafters flock to the area for year-round recreation. 

Campers can enjoy unparalleled stargazing after sundown. In fact, the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve ensures the region remains a haven for stargazers and researchers alike. Just north of Marfa, the McDonald Observatory boasts one of the largest telescopes in the world. 

You’ll love exploring these 5 Cool Places in Texas.

When Is the Marfa Lights Festival?

Each September, the Marfa Lights Festival takes over the town. Visitors gather around the historic Presidio County courthouse to enjoy music, food, and shopping. 

Regional musicians headline the festival. Local ballet companies and theater troupes dazzle audiences with their original productions. A parade through the town features notable locals and Native Nations. 

While the festival began as a way to bring entertainment to the remote town, it’s developed into something much bigger. Locals often schedule family reunions around the festival, a significant draw for folks who’ve moved away. 

The 2023 Marfa Lights Festival marks 35 years of celebration and will occur during the first weekend in September.

Best Hikes Near the Marfa Lights

If you’re not an alien enthusiast, you’ll still find plenty to do in the Marfa area. Despite the desert heat, there are plenty of great hiking opportunities. Here are two of the most popular.

Chihuahuan Desert Outside Loop

For a hike that’s both challenging and rewarding, the Chihuahuan Desert Outside Loop fits the bill. The 2.5-mile path is steep and rocky but offers stunning views of the hilly desert and rhyolite quarry.

There’s plenty of wildlife on this trail. Some reviewers saw herds of horned Barbary sheep, as well as native butterflies, lizards, and frogs.

You can pick up an interpretive guide booklet at the Powell Visitors Center to learn about the area’s ecology on your journey.

North Ridge and Hospital Canyon Loop

The North Ridge and Hospital Canyon Loop trails are part of the Fort Davis National Historic Site. In the 1800s, Fort Davis served as an important frontier military post, so there’s plenty of history to take in at the site.

At just over two miles, it usually takes about an hour to complete the hike. Most consider it to be moderately strenuous. Elevation varies greatly on the route, so you’ll want to dress in layers and bring plenty of water. 

Take your special someone on one of these 7 Romantic Getaways in Texas.

Starry night in Marfa
Enjoy stunning views and scenic hikes while in Marfa.

Best Camping Near the Marfa Lights

You won’t want to miss Marfa’s unique camping sites. If you want to get a feel for the town’s culture, there’s no better way to immerse yourself. 

Marfa Lights Viewing Center

Of course, a trip to Big Bend Country wouldn’t be complete without an evening observing the eastern sky for the infamous lights. While it’s not an actual campground, the Marfa Lights Viewing Area is where folks boondock and congregate to search for the spectacle.

It’s nine miles east of town along Highway 90 and includes a relatively new visitor’s center with fixed binoculars and clean bathrooms. 

El Cosmico

El Cosmico might be the funkiest place to stay near Marfa. This campground features tee-pees, yurts, safari tents, and other unique accommodations. There’s even a mirrored tiny home called the Cosmic Kasita, fully outfitted with heat, air conditioning, and a full kitchen.

Campers have access to outdoor showers, hammocks, and free coffee. You can also boondock in their parking lot or bring your own tent. It’s a short walk into town, so you’re not far from the restaurants and arts scene.

Dive into the details: Mysteries of the Marfa Lights Revealed.

Is a Marfa Mystery Lights Road Trip Worth It?

A chance to witness the enigmatic Marfa lights is reason enough for a road trip to this desert town. But there’s much more to the area than UFO spotting. 

Big Bend Country’s natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor adventure are significant perks. The high desert and towering mountains offer a varied landscape, so you won’t get bored. And even if you don’t catch the mysterious lights, you’ll be greeted with an unforgettable night sky!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: