Top 10 Scenic Drives in Texas

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Much of the Texas landscape remains untouched by human influence, making it a prime place to explore the beauty Mother Nature provides. The state has a wide variety of terrain and wildlife ranging from the arid desert to lush forests, and many of the scenic routes in the Lone Star state take travelers through more than one in a short span. This diversity makes exploring the byways and highways here especially exciting, and the towns and cities spattered along these paved and not-so-paved networks are equally as varied in their offerings. In conducting your own survey of this great state, consider trying one of these beloved routes:

No. 10 – Lost Maples

Lost Maples Texas
Flickr user: jeff

Starting Location: Kerrville, TX
Ending Location: Lost Maples, TX
Length: 52 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive in Google Maps

Particularly beautiful in autumn when the trees change color but passable throughout the year, the road between Kerrville and Lost Maples has plenty of sights to keep travelers interested. The route initially follows the upper Guadalupe River before crossing a narrow canyon divide that leads to Lost Maples. Travelers with time to spare may enjoy stopping at the Stonehenge II display in Hunt or the Cowboy Artists of America Museum before departing Kerrville.

No. 9 – Trail of the Dinosaurs

Trail of the Dinosaurs Texas
Flickr user: Johnida Dockens

Starting Location: Cleburne, TX
Ending Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park, TX
Length: 29 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Those following this drive may not see actual dinosaurs, but they can be assured of traveling where such mighty creatures once roamed, based on the fossil evidence discovered at sites along the way. Today, this region is characterized by rolling hills and springtime wildflowers with hiking opportunities along the Brazos River. Upon the journey’s end at Dinosaur Valley State Park, visitors can learn more about the creatures that walked this land before us and about the region as a whole.

No. 8 – Old Texas Highway 124

Old Texas Highway 124 Texas
Flickr user: Kelly Bolinger

Starting Location: Daingerfield State Park, TX
Ending Location: Caddo Lake, TX
Length: 59 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

The scenery from Old Texas Highway 124 is impressive year-round, but many people appreciate it most with the changing of the leaves in the fall. The route passes through the steel-making center of Lone Star but quickly returns to having natural beauty all around with views of Lake O’ the Pines and historic Jefferson. When the drive ends at Caddo Lake, visitors are encouraged to take in the towering cypress trees that skirt the waters.

No. 7 – Devil’s Backbone

Devil’s Backbone Texas
Flickr user: Emmanuelle Bourgue

Starting Location: Blanco, TX
Ending Location: Blanco, TX
Length: 57 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Although this scenic drive affords majestic looks at the Balcones Fault, rolling hills, and a vegetative mix of oak trees and cacti, the things that make it truly stand out are of a more quirky nature. The region is full of ghost stories about Native Americans, Spanish monk, and Confederate soldiers, and it’s worth asking locals to rehash their own colorful versions. All travelers along this route should carve out some time to visit the antique shops in Wimberley, where all manner of treasures can be found.

No. 6 – Bluewater Highway

Bluewater Highway Texas
Flickr user: Daniel Horande

Starting Location: Surfside Beach, TX
Ending Location: Galveston, TX
Length: 40 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This jaunt along the Texas coast may be short, but it isn’t short on remarkable things to see. While viewing the lovely waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the sand and dunes add to the understated majesty of this seaside region. Surfside Beach is a laid-back town, and there may be a bit of culture shock upon reaching the more tourist-dense Galveston, but every inch of this drive has its own coastal charm.

No. 5 – Canyon Sweep

Canyon Sweep Texas
Flickr user: Rockin'Rita

Starting Location: Quitaque, TX
Ending Location: Canyon, TX
Length: 126 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Travelers along this route may feel transported back in time with such an expanse of the plains in the Texas panhandle and sweeping canyon views. The land was once home to bison, yet those regal animals are no longer seen. It isn’t difficult to imagine them, however, with so few signs of humankind on the way. MacKenzie Reservoir provides a nice spot to your stretch legs or picnic before moving on the the spectacular views of the Palo Duro Canyon.

No. 4 – Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock
Flickr user: TimothyJ

Starting Location: Llano, TX
Ending Location: Fredericksburg, TX
Length: 29 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This particular route through Central Texas is one of the most beautiful in the region, whether or not the bluebonnets are blooming. Home to countless types of minerals, it passes through areas that are virtual Meccas to rock hounds, but everyone can appreciate the scenic vistas from the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Admiral Nimitz State Historical Park. Fredericksburg, which lies at the end of the drive, is full of Old World German charm and merits further exploration than just a drive through.

No. 2 – Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive Texas
Flickr user: Mark Stevens

Starting Location: Santa Elena, TX
Ending Location: Junction of TX-118 and TX-170
Length: 42 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive through Big Bend National Park, although almost exclusively desert terrain, provides views of an astonishingly diverse array of landscapes and wildlife. In fact, the park is home to more types of birds, bats, and cacti than any other national park in the United States, so adventurous travelers should take every opportunity to explore. For breathtaking scenes and landscape photography, some of the best spots include the Sotol Vista, Mule Ears, and Santa Elena Overlooks.

No. 2 – Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country Texas
Flickr user: Jerry and Pat Donaho

Starting Location: Austin, TX
Ending Location: New Braunfels, TX
Length: 216 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

A leisurely drive through the Texas Hill Country is beautiful at any time of year, but it is at its best in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. The route passes through rolling hills while affording views of the Edwards Plateau in the distance. Travelers are encouraged to stop at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park, which is home to Texas longhorn cattle and the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, where park interpreters dress in period attire while performing tasks plucked from yesteryear.

No. 1 – El Camino del Rio

El Camino del Rio Texas
Flickr user: Alex Steffler

Starting Location: Lajitas, TX
Ending Location: Presidio, TX
Length: 50 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Also known as “The River Road” for its views of the Rio Grande, El Rio del Camino is a tantalizing route providing an unadulterated look at the United States but a glimpse at Mexico’s far-reaching lands as well. The road winds through high altitude with the iconic river, providing plenty of photo opportunities of the desert scenery and canyons passed along the way. For brave souls willing to spend the night at the route’s end in Presidio, a jaunt to the Marfa Lights Viewing Station is a must to look at the mysterious lights attributed to UFO activity or secret military operations.


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