The State of Texas aka the Lone Star State of the United States is blessed with vastness and beauty, with stunning landscapes and vibrant cities dotting its vast expense. In fact, the state is so vast that it takes hours just to drive out of it, especially if you live towards the center in cities like Austin or San Antonio.
Therefore, if a road trip is on your agenda, visiting this state will do you good, as it offers a ton of experiences. Thanks to its vast size you will be able to find many scenic things to see and do just by driving within the borders of the Lone Star State. If you are intrigued, read this article in which we will highlight the 8 best scenic road trips in Texas.
Road Trips in Texas – A Quick Glance
Road Trips in Texas – An Overview
Road trips in Texas mimic the vastness of the grand state, offering extensive experiences, that range from swimming in the golden beaches of South Padre Island to hiking the rugged mountains and scaling the deserts of Big Bend National Park. Those who wish to immerse themselves in culture and traditions should definitely opt for a road trip through Texas, as the Lone Star State is steeped in cultured history, offering extensively rich experiences. Many believe Texas to be a desert state, however, rolling tumbleweeds and dry air aren’t the only things you will find in Texas.
The Lone Star State lies in an interesting geographical location and boasts about 10 different and district biomes. The beautifully diverse state offers plenty of scenery for its visitors to enjoy. In the east, Texas harbors Louisiana-like swamps and piney woods. While the west of Texas is adorned with an enchanting, mountainous desert. The Lone Star State harbours areas that will suit the palate of all kinds of travellers. From the charming knolls of Hill Country to the rolling plains of Panhandle, the experiences Texas harbours are limitless.
If you are a history buff, who is going on a road trip around Taxes, be ready to be wowed by its many historical museums, monuments, and towns. For a whole nine years, Texas was its own country, a feat no other state can claim. Therefore, the state saw its fair share of drama, political spats, and military conflict. It encompasses its rich history in 16,000 historical markers that are spread throughout its 254 counties. So, history buffs, be ready to tap on the breaks and pull over for quick stops as you venture through the vast state.
The aspect that makes road trips in Texas a worthwhile and unique experience is the distinctive community that you will come across as you journey through the Lone Star State. Central Texas is home to German immigrants and small towns such as Fredericksburg, Gruene, and New Braunfels that harbour German-style shops, and restaurants, and even hold festivals like the Wurstfest.
When you make your way to South Texas, you will be met with the second largest population of Latino people in the USA after California. This part of Texas resonates with a vibrant Tejano culture that has been calling Texas its home for centuries. However, if you are hungry for a more traditional Southern jaunt, make your way to Huston where the sweet tea flows free, the drawls grow longer, and the sweetness of the barbeque ribs even puts honey to shame.
Moreover, when in Texas, you will also have the opportunity to come across Buc-ee’s which is regarded as the best and the cleanest gas station chain. It is also the record holder for the world’s largest gas station. This gas station is every foodie’s dream, so be sure to stop by and stock up on beef jerky and beaver nuggets. While you are there pick up a chopped brisket sandwich, and keep your eyes peeled for mom-and-pop-diners that sell the most decadent and delicious home-made pies.
8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Ready to ride? Strap on your seat belts and hang on tight as we traverse through the vast lands that the Lone Star State takes pride in.
1. Lajitas to Presidio – The Most Gorgeous Drives among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Starts From – Lajitas
Ends At – Presidio
Total Distance – 50 miles
Recommended Time – One day
Lying in the far reaches of West Texas, amidst the desolate yet stunningly beautiful borderlands between the United States and Mexico, is Highway 170. This highway is arguably the most gorgeous drive in the entire United States so much so that in the year 2008, National Geographic Traveler named Highway 170 as one of the nation’s most scenic highways alongside the classic California’s Highway 1. This journey can be taken in either direction, but nothing beats the spectacular view of the canyons as one drives from the small town of Lajitas and end the journey in the comparatively bigger town of Presidio.
This is one of those road trips in Texas during which you will not come across any tourist traps or cultural stops. This entire drive is purely for enjoying the solitude and ruggedness of the desert landscape of West Texas. However, there are plenty of beautiful places where you can pull off from the road, and rest. So, be sure to pack a lot of snacks and enjoy a scenic meal in these places.
Fans of Lonesome Dove will especially enjoy this road trip as along the way they can take a detour to see the casita which served as Maria’s Ojinaga home in the Streets of Laredo miniseries. You will be able to find it in the ghost town of Contrabando within the Big Bend Ranch State Park. If you happen to drive in the other direction, i.e., from Presidio to Lajitas, travel the extra 23 miles to Terlingua. There you will find the Starlight Theater Restaurant and Saloon, where you can refill your belly and quench your thirst with the legendary margaritas that are equal parts chilly and strong.
2. Davis Mountains Scenic Loop – The Most stunning among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Journey Starts and Ends In – Fort Davis
Total Distance – 75 Miles
Recommended Time – One Day
Among the 8 best scenic road trips in Texas, Davis Mountains Scenic Loop is one of the most gorgeous ones. Classified as “sky island’, the Davis Mountains of West Texas are characterized by green slopes that strike a sharp contrast to the brown scrub bush of the Chihuahuan Desert that surrounds them. The Davis Mountains Scenic Loop, encompassing a picturesque 75-mile stretch of Texas State Highway 118, and Texas 166, is the most elevated, scenic, and least crowded highway in the state. While taking a road trip along this loop the chances of you coming across another car are about 25%.
Along the way, you can admire the loop’s scenic beauty, dotted with rolling golden grasslands, mountaintops teaming with fauna and flora, and beautiful historic ranches. You will also find several picturesque stops along the way where you can stop to rest and have a picnic. One such stop is named the Dead Man’s Canyon. Legend had it that the canyon got its fanciful name when, in the 1800s, the body of a young Horace Powe, who was shot 11 times, was found propped up next to a boulder.
The Davis Mountains Scenic Loop passes through a wild mountain land that stretches about 33,000 acres and is stewarded by the University of Texas’s famous McDonald Observatory and the Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountain Preserve. The McDonald observatory is fully functional and is visited by academics from all over the world for the dark sky reserve that environs most of the Big Bend region of West Texas. The campus also houses a museum that the visitors can tour to learn about the history and the current functions of the research facility.
As the Davis Mountains Loop begins and ends in Fort Davis, make sure to spend some time in the quaint mountain town that to this very day is void of traffic lights. To calm your grumbling stomach, make your way to the town’s favorite Blue Mountain Bar and Grill which uses local ingredients to make the most delicious and scrumptious dishes.
3. Mineral Wells to Marble Falls – Best Suited for Summer among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Starts From – Mineral Wells
Ends At – Marble Falls
Total Distance – 163 Miles
Recommended Time – One to two Days
Among the best road trips in Texas, the road trip that is best suited for the summer season is from Mineral Wells to Marble Falls thanks to their watery itinerary. Along this route, you will find many places where you will be able to swim to ward off the summer heat. This road trip begins from the quaint town of Mineral Wells in North Texas and ends in Marble Falls.
The town of Mineral Wells that was once a bustling, premium spa destination, famous for its hot springs that attracted the likes of Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Will Rogers as well as Bonnie and Clyde to its mineral-rich, alkaline water, now resonates with a deep silence. The bustling town turned into a quiet one after the Baker Hotel, one that was responsible for putting Mineral Wells on the map, shut down in 1972.
However, many believe that prosperity is yet again knocking at the door of this small town, as the Baker Hotel was bought in 2019 by a group of investors who are now working hard and taking extreme measures to restore the Grand Old Lady to its former glory. However, you can enjoy the magnificent water of Mineral Wells without staying at the Baker Hotel.
Just mosey on over to the Lake Mineral Wells State Park if the urge to splash around strikes you. The quaint town is also home to a cute downtown that is decked with plenty of shops and restaurants. Before embarking on your road trip make sure to stop by the Hole in the Wall Grill & Bier Garten to try their shrimp, grits, and ribs.
Highway 281 will take you from the quaint town of Mineral Wells to Marble Falls. The picturesque highway is full of Hill Country charms and views that will leave you gapping-mouthed, and awe-struck. Along the way, make sure to stop at Hico for its Billy the Kid Museum. Hico is engulfed by an old west conspiracy theory according to which Billy wasn’t killed by Par Garett in Fort Summer, he in fact, ran away to Hico in some of the Elvis-Presley-is-still-alive kind of plot twist. For those who don’t know, Billy the Kid was an infamous, gunslinging, cattle-rushing outlaw, who took the lives of nine people in the American West.
If you are ready to take another dip, stop by Lampasas which is home to the oldest spring-fed swimming pool in the State of Texas. Your road trip will come to an end once you reach Marble Falls, a small town set along the Colorado River, the kind where retirees flock. You can get your last swim at Marble Falls and also fill your stomach with a cozy dinner at the Blue Bonnet Cafe which is famous for its homemade-style pies.
4. Galveston to Port Aransas – Best for Beach Lovers among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Starts From – Galveston
Ends At – Port Aransas
Total Distance – 209 Miles
Recommended Time – Two to three Days
There is a popular saying that goes “The West Coast is the best coast”, but what of the Third Coast? The Lone Star State is home to 367 miles of shoreline, which makes it the sixth longest coastline in the States. Unlike the West and East coasts of the US, which harbor some of the most expensive property in the world just because of their ocean views, the beach communities in Texas are mostly composed of working-class folks.
One of the best road trips in Texas for beach enthusiasts is undoubtedly along the route from Galveston to Port Aransas. This road trip starts from the island city of Galveston which lies 50 miles from Houston. Due to its close proximity to H-Town, Galveston is one of the most popular and frequented beach towns in the Lone Star state. The beach town features many attractions like the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier and the Moody Gardens, that you can visit before embarking on your journey.
However, even though Galveston beaches are as pretty as they come, the best ones in the state of Texas lie a little bit further south. If you plan on going to these beaches you will have to take the road south along State Highway 35, which is extremely stunning. The route winds through marshlands and provides peekaboo views of the Gulf Coast as it meanders through quaint little towns like West Columbia and Rockport, the fish-crazy city.
Your beachy journey will come to an end as you reach Port Aransas which has the honor of being one of the prettiest beach towns in the Lone Star state. In this town, you will find 18 miles of white sand beaches to dip your toes in and fresh Gulf Coast seafood, to satiate your hunger. If you are on a road trip along this route during the winter season, make sure to take a detour to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where you will find the last wild flock of endangered whooping cranes. Also, to witness tiny baby sea turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean, make sure to visit the town between April and August.
5. Twisted Sisters Motorcycle Route – The Most Challenging Route among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Journey Starts and Ends In – Leakey
Total Distance – 100 Miles
Recommended Time – One to two Days
The Twisted Sisters Motorcycle Road comprises three Farm to Market roads i.e., FM 335, FM 336, and FM 337, and is known as the most challenging motorcycle loop in the state of Texas. Apart from being challenging the Twisted Sisters Motorcycle Road also happens to be the nicest drive in the Lone Star state. The Twisted Sisters, located northwest of San Antonio, beautifully cuts through the heart of Hill Country. When traveling on this route, expect to see gentle, rolling hills, limestone outcroppings, and lush live oaks.
Even though for cars the route is a pleasant one, for motorcycles the road can be dangerous. Since the year 2006, more than 10 bikers lost their lives on the Twisted Sisters, and a sign off of FM 336 warns just that. However, experienced motorcycle enthusiasts find the loop’s twists, turns, and bumpy pavements a delight to experience. The Twisted Sisters loop begins and ends in the same place, Leakey. Once you have had your fill of the thrilling Twisted Sisters, consider taking a breather by the banks of Frio River which is a gorgeous place lined with bald cypress trees that turn a gorgeous shade of umber when fall rolls around.
6. Route 66 – The Most Legendary among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Starts From – Shamrock
Ends At – Glenrio
Total Distance – 164 Miles
Recommended Time – One to two Days
Not everything is big in Texas and Route 66 is proof of just that. The state of Texas houses the shortest stretch of Route 66 which extends a little under 165 miles, cutting almost straight across the Panhandle. Route 66 embodies a rich history as it was one of the original highways in the United States Number Highway System. Established in 1926 most of the road now is either not in service or has been demolished. However, in Texas, some Route 66 has been preserved, and you can drive through it to bask in its history.
Along the way, you will come across some Route 66-themed attractions that include the iconic, art deco-style U-drop Inn as well as the public art installation of Cadillac Ranch. However, one of the most famous stops along the way, that foodies will immensely appreciate is the Big Texan Steak Ranch. The ranch serves. A 72-ounce steak for free, but on one condition, the participants have to eat the entire hunk of meat in less than an hour without any assistance in order to get it for free.
7. Gruene to Fredericksburg – A Local Favorite among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Starts From – Gruene
Ends At – Fredericksburg
Total Distance – 71 Miles
Recommended Time – One to two Days
Among the best scenic road trips in Texas, the route from Gruene to Fredericksburg is every Texan’s favorite, mostly for sentimental reasons. Those who grew up in Central Texas know that the options for convenient day trips in the region are scarce, to say the least. However, the Gruene and Fredericksburg are tried and true and the road that connects them is gorgeous, to say the least.
Gruene which is pronounced as green is a quaint little German town that lies on the banks of the Guadalupe River. Famous for its Gruene Hall, which is Texas’s oldest continuously operating dance hall, the town is a bit of a Texan legend and is worth visiting at least once. The Gruene Hall had the honor of resonating with the symphonies of musicians like Townes Van Zandt, George Strait, and Willie Nelson.
Initially, the town was established by German immigrants who were interested in cotton farming. A symbol of those days, a giant cotton gin factory remains to this very day and has now been converted into the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar which offers fine food along with a fine view of the Guadalupe.
The journey up to Fredericksburg that lies about 78 miles west of Austin, takes drives through the picturesque rolling Hill County landscapes and vineyards. Similar to Gruene, the town of Fredericksburg was also settled by German immigrants and is known for its German-style fare. When in Fredericksburg consider stopping by the Old German Bakery and Restaurant that lies on Main Street and try its schnitzel and potato pancakes. As Fredericksburg is quite famous for its peaches, you should consider visiting it in summer when all things peachy like peach ice cream and cider are available with farm stands lining to sell the aromatic and scrumptious peaches.
8. Houston to Sam Houston National Forest – The Most Famous among the 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in Texas
Starts From – Houston
Ends At – Sam Houston National Forest
Total Distance – 47 Miles
Recommended Time – An afternoon is more than enough. However, for a more immersive experience consider opting for an overnight visit
Houston is known as the metropolitan crown jewel of East Texas and is famous for its diverse and insanely delicious culinary scene. However, to get a taste of what the surrounding countryside is like, take your vehicle and venture to the Pineywoods that lie outside the city limits. The Pineywoods of East Texas consist of an area of woodland that is actually part of a bigger forest system that extends all the way into Louisiana, Arkansas as well and Oklahoma. In this area, you will come across swamps and heavily frosted areas peppered with ash, elm, oak, mesquite, and pine trees.
You will also get to see the hundreds of birds, amphibian, mammal, and reptile species including the southern short-tailed shew, rafinesque big-eared bat, and the red-cockaded woodpecker, that call the Pineywoods their home. When visiting the place, be careful of the fearsome American alligator and the venomous water moccasin snakes.
One of the most convenient and undoubtedly the best places to explore the Pineywoods from Huston is Sam Huston National Forest which lies just an hour away from the city. Opt for day hikes like Double Lake Trial or the Lone Star Hiking Trail that make it convenient to get the feel of the area in a matter of a few hours. However, for a more immersive experience consider taking up the overnight camping options in the park.
To avoid the broiling Texas summer heat, visit the spring or fall and dip your feet in the cold water to ward off the heat. Visit the Blue Lagoon which was an old limestone quarry but has now been turned into a swimming hole. Even though the Blue Lagoon mostly caters to scuba divers, casual swimmers are also very welcome.
At a 10-minute drive from the Sam Houston National Forest lies Huntsville which is home to the Texas State Penitentiary that houses the Death Row unit of the state. When in Huntsville you can visit the Texas Prison Museum that is dedicated to preserving the culture and history of the Texas prison system. Inside the museum, you will come across exhibits that cover the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, the history of how the penitentiary system grew as well as a display dedicated to those who were proven innocent after they were subjected to wrongful deaths by the state. The experience is an intense but sobering one.
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