10 Most Scenic Drives in Texas
There is never a shortage of stunning scenery in Texas. From the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the...
There is never a shortage of stunning scenery in Texas. From the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the Panhandle and from west to east, the Lone Star State has it all. There are hills to roam, wildlife to marvel at, great forests to adore, beaches to frolic in, and deserts to hike in and explore. It is not surprising why Texas is the ideal place to go for a long and scenic drive. But with so many stunning places to cruise by, choosing the best one can be quite tricky. Nevertheless, we’ve gathered 10 of the most scenic drives that the state of Texas can offer. So, grab your day hike bag, stuff your car’s food compartment, and get ready to experience a different kind of scenic drive.
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El Camino del Rio
It may only be fifty miles long, but the El Camino del Rio happens to be one of the Lone Star State’s most popular scenic drives. The adventure gives motorists and travelers a very unique glimpse of the mighty Rio Grande. The river snakes its way from the mountains of south-central Colorado before merging with the equally-stunning Gulf of Mexico in the south.
The 50-mile journey kicks off at the unincorporated community of Lajitas near the famous Big Bend National Park. It takes you through canyons and desert scenery that are very enticing for some fantastic photos. Frame the shot well and you’ll have something worthy of hundreds of Instagram likes and shares.
The scenic drive offers a very different view of this part of the United States. It also provides a glimpse of the far-reaching lands of neighboring Mexico. And if you happen to have an adventurous spirit, then exploring the city of Presidio is a must. This is especially true for those who believe in UFOs or the existence of a super-secret military base. The Marfa Lights Viewing Station offers a great vantage point for getting mesmerized by mysterious lights in the nighttime sky.
Texas Hill Country
Forming the crossroads of south, west, and central Texas, the Texas Hill Country is well-known for its rugged granitic or limestone hills. Many of these geologic features reach for the Texas sky some 400 to 500 feet from the ground. They serve as the sentinels to the Lone Star State’s beautiful valleys and plains.
While you can take a gentle cruise through this part of the state at any time, it is best to do so during the spring. Wildflowers that blanket the plains are in full bloom, providing a great opportunity for framing hundreds of shots. There are rolling hills and stunning foliage that can make your drive worthwhile.
Start your journey in Austin and drive some 316 miles towards New Braunfels. Get mesmerized by the beautiful Edwards Plateau. Take a break at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park. This is a must-see stopover for those who may want a better look at the Texas longhorn cattle. There are also white-tailed deer and buffalos in the park. And if you’re curious about how people in the area lived in the early 20th century, better check out the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm.
The Twisted Sisters
There’s a good reason why they call the Ranch to Market Road 335, 336, and 337 as The Twisted Sisters. This 111-mile route is famous for its hairpin switchbacks that can test the skills of even the most experienced drivers. But what makes the ride so appealing is the stunning natural environment, especially if you’re already on the higher sections of the route.
In April 2006, Texas Monthly Magazine listed the Ranch to Market Road 337 as the state’s number 18 on its list of the things everyone loves about Texas. As such, it would be a shame not to include Ranch Road 337 in this list of the most scenic drives in Texas.
Ranch Road 337 is a favorite among motorcyclists because of its twists and turns through beautiful hills. The drive is stunning all year round. However, the arrival of autumn can turn the lush green hills into a more magical sea of dark-brown and golden-brown foliage. It’s like driving through the red sandstone formations of Sedona in Arizona.
Driving along this scenic route in the central region of Texas is like passing through the walkways of a well-manicured garden. On both sides of the road are bluebonnets that give this 39-mile scenic drive a certain charm that no other routes can offer. The thing about the Enchanted Rock scenic drive is that, with or without these blooms, the route is still beautiful.
What many non-Texans don’t know is that region of the Lone Star State is a haven for rock hounds. The place is like a sea of minerals of various types. While you may not chance upon a geologist collecting rock and mineral samples when you pass down the route, there are still notable places you can marvel at.
From Llano, you’ll feast your senses on the mystical Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. There’s also the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Park. And by the time you reach Fredericksburg, get ready to bask in the glory of German charm in the Old World.
Trail of the Dinosaurs
If you don’t like a lengthy road trip, the Trail of the Dinosaurs is a great choice. It’s only 29 miles long from Cleburne to the Dinosaur Valley State Park. Don’t expect to see Brontosaurs and Brachiosaurs along the trail, though. You will also not see active sites where paleontologists are unearthing fossilized remains of these majestic creatures. What you will experience, however, is the feel of the land where these giants once roamed.
Today, the trail features rolling hills that resemble the back of a super-sized Brachiosaurus. The plains come blanketed in colorful wild blooms, giving you a sensation of hiking on a carpet of wildflowers. If you happen to be a fan of nature photography, then this is the perfect place for taking some great pics.
The scenic drive almost always requires a stop at the Dinosaur Valley State Park. Of course, you can always continue on with your drive. But if you’re interested in learning more about the dinosaurs of the land, then a visit at the park is a great way to culminate your journey.
Pineywoods Autumn Trail
There’s a very good reason why they call this the Pineywoods Autumn Trail. This 145-mile scenic drive gives you a more magical feel on the road. Hundred-year-old deciduous trees that line both sides of the route shed their lush green hues in exchange for something more golden. Many of these trees are bursting with yellow, orange, and red foliage. Some can also present with more rusty shades.
The route takes you from Athens in the north to Palestine down south. Along the way, Lake Athens can provide perfect opportunities for clearing the mind while enjoying the view. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is also along the way, in case you’re up for some lessons in aquatic natural history. Or, if you’re craving for some great wine, you can sample a glass or two at the Tara Vineyard & Winery. There’s also the Texas Arboretum along the way.
While driving through Pineywoods is best during autumn, you can still enjoy the scenic stops that this route has to offer. It does make for a great road trip, especially for individuals who prefer driving on a forest canopy-covered path.
Old Texas Highway 134
Like Pineywoods, the best time of the year to have a scenic drive on the Old Texas Highway 134 is during autumn. You can always drive along this route anytime of the year. However, autumn can bring magical transformations in the horizon. The plants along the way ripen into warm russet, sepia, and gold tones. It’s a different scene altogether, compared to viewing it at other times.
The Old Texas Highway 134 may be a short drive, but it sure can give motorists and nature-lovers a different experience. The 59-mile route starts at the Daingerfield State Park where you can go fishing, boating, or swimming before you kick-off your journey. The scenic drive passes through the Lone Star’s steel-making center before taking you back to the splendor of its natural environment.
Want something worth your while? Take a detour towards Lake O’ the Pines and try your luck getting hold of a giant catfish. While it’s a legend, so is the breathtaking scenery. Your scenic drive in this part of Texas ends with a liberating experience of the cool Caddo Lake. The cypress trees that tower above the lake can definitely make a remarkable backdrop to a fine journey.
Taking a drive on this 40-mile long stretch of coastal route is like cruising on the edge of the Mediterranean. While the Gulf of Mexico can never compare to its European counterpart, it does have its own charms.
Going on a scenic drive along the Bluewater Highway can open your eyes to just how beautiful the Gulf is. The sand isn’t always white, yet it does come with its own character. Dunes dot the sandy landscape as proof of the might of the winds that blow from down south. It’s a marvelous place that is sadly often understated.
The drive takes you from the laid-back Surfside Beach. It’s a small coastal community where you can have all the beach to yourself. It runs northeast towards Follets Island through the San Luis Pass. From there, you’ll cross the bridge towards Galveston Island where most beach bums go. The route itself may not be as spectacular like the inland scenic drives of the Lone Star State. However, every inch of the route boasts of its own seaside beauty.
People don’t call this scenic drive the “Devil’s Backbone” for nothing. This area of Texas is replete with ghost stories and other quirky notes that can send a chill down the spine. It’s not for those who tend to have very vivid dreams of the day’s interactions. Locals can provide motorists and travelers with colorful versions of the same story. Whether it’s the spirits of Native Americans, Confederate soldiers, or Spanish monks, this region can be quite quirky.
Now, if ghoulish entities and events are not your thing, you can always marvel at the almost-Wild West feel of the place. The 57-mile scenic drive affords nature-seekers and road trippers a magnificent view of the Balcones Fault. The escarpment formed by this geologic feature speaks of the highly-active nature of this part of the country. There are cacti standing proud amidst gigantic oak trees in their imposing presence.
Stop for a break at Wimberley and feast your eyes on different treasures you won’t find anywhere else. There are antique shops that come with very peculiar decorations. You’ll never miss these odd yet fascinating shops on your way.
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
It may only be 43 miles long but the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive happens to be the go-to for avid landscape photographers. It is more or less a desert terrain, providing motorists and adventurers a dizzying array of wildlife. Different species of bats and birds call this area their home. Different varieties of cacti also inhabit this strip of land between Santa Elena and TX-118-170 Junction.
The landscape, while mostly desert, offers many opportunities for shutterbugs to take beautiful images. Santa Elena Overlooks, Mule Ears, and Sotol Vista are great places to frame a shot for your landscape photography collection. The Santa Elena Canyon is something that adventurers should never miss. The cliffs of this geologic formation rise some 1,500 feet from the floor of the Rio Grande.
Watch your speed as wildlife can dart across your path in an instant.
Being the second largest state in the US puts Texas at a clear advantage as a favorite destination for adventurous motorists. These 10 scenic drives in the Lone Star State highlight the raw and untamed beauty of this part of the America.
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