Last Updated on: 28th January 2022, 03:24 am
Yes, Texas is a very big state. Some believe that it is full of straight highways, cattle and tumbleweeds, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! There are some amazing panoramic views in several parts of the Lone Star State, and there are so many gorgeous scenic drives in Texas to explore!
Contrary to popular belief, Texas is full of mountains, gulleys, swamps, canyons, and forests. I’ve travelled to several places around the United States, and there are some truly beautiful drives and scenery in all parts of the country.
However, I will always love the Texas scenic drives the best. Check out some of these routes to get away and enjoy some alone time out on the road!
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The Best Texas Scenic Drives
If you’re itching to get out of the house and explore nature, but you’re not looking for a hike (or being near people), check out these beautiful Texas scenic byways and drives.
Willow City Loop (Fredericksburg)
Willow City Loop is a 13 mile loop just outside of Fredericksburg. The Texas Bluebonnet is the state flower and between the months of March to May is the best time to view them in all of their beauty.
The Willow City Loop, dubbed “The Texas Iconic Scenic Drive” is easy on the eyes with it’s rolling hills, deep canyons and meadows spackled with beautiful greens, yellows and blues. However, during the Bluebonnet season is the best time to drive this route.
Canyon Sweep (Texas Panhandle)
Canyon Sweep is a 3 hour, 119 mile drive through some of the most beautiful, historic and marvelous areas. This route starts in Quitaque (KITTY-kway) and heads northwest towards Canyon. Then head west on 86.
Along 86 there are several lakes that are popular wildlife stops. (grab the camera!) Eventually, the route passes through the Panhandle town of Silverton and makes a right turn on to TX-207.
Ten miles up the road is the beautiful Tule Canyon which was carved by Tule Creek (the route will cross).The route travels past a few ranches and eventually ends at the Palo Duro Canyon
Highway 90/385 (Marathon, Texas)
Also known as the “Gateway to Big Bend National Park” this is a beautiful route located in historic Marathon, Texas. Marathon is a small, old town just north of Big Bend at the intersection of US 385 and US 90.
US 385 is a north-south route that starts in Big Bend and ends in South Dakota.While US 90 runs east-west. This route is truly beautiful due to the mountain range and the curvature of the road that glides with the scenery.
Side trip idea: while in Marathon stop by the refurbished Gage Hotel!
Do you need a little quiet consolation in your life? Then drive this scenic Texas route. Head west on Highway 285 until it intersects with Highway 180 and continue on until spotting the gorgeous view of the Guadalupe Mountains. This drive is perfect for a little self-reflection and meditation.
Texas Lighthouse Trail Scenic Drive (Palo Duro Canyon)
This drive is located near Canyon, Texas, and it leads to a 5.7 mile back trail in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This trail features beautiful wildflowers and a gorgeous skyline.
Many have described this location as “breathtaking but hot” as the temperatures in Texas can reach the 100s during the summer. The Palo Duro National State Park is surrounded by beautiful mountains and a sense of belonging.
Bandera Pass (Texas Hill Country)
Located Northwest of San Antonio, and south of the Bandera-Kerr county line. Bandera Pass is a narrow route separating the Medina and Guadalupe valleys.
This twentieth-century highway follows the route that was successively travelled for centuries by Native Americans, Spaniards, the United States Army, Texas Rangers, and cattle drivers.
Now, the once gravel road is paved and allows anyone to view some of the breathtaking scenery of the HIll Country.
Devil’s Backbone (Wimberly)
Described as “short but a beautiful stretch of road” this route has views of the rolling Hill Country. Devil’s Backbone is a famous route and passes by many landmark attractions of the Hill Country.
The loop incorporates a range of Texas Farm Roads including 12, 165, 2325, and 32 as well as U.S. Highway 281. The meandering route runs between Wimberley and Blanco as it curves through the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
Route 66 (Amarillo)
The historic Route 66 ran east-west across the Texas Panhandle. Most of Route 66 has been replaced by Interstate 40. However, the history, scenery and culture remains.
There’s several ghost towns to drive through such as McLean, Shamrock and Vega. However, go have a rest in Amarillo and “get your kicks on Route 66.”
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
This 30 mile route takes about an hour to drive. It is located near Big Bend National Park. This drive showcases the wildlife, a variety of small hikes, and the historical geology this location is famous for.
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive travels alongside the western sides of the Chisos Mountains. Then it ascends up to an outstanding view at Sotol Vista. Then descends down to mirror the Rio Grande at Castolon Historic District and winds back up at the Santa Elena Canyon trailhead.
Texas Hill Country
Yes, there are several great scenic drives in the Hill Country! This route covers farm roads 187 and 337, Highway 16, 27, 39 and 46, and US Highway 290.
FM 187 and FM 337 – This part of Hill Country is noted for its spectacular fall foliage with groves of bigtooth maple trees that protects the mountains from wind and heat. FM 337 includes the Lost Maples State Natural Area.
On highways 16, 27, 39 and 46 is the Hill Country is noted for the twisting turns and wildlife scary that Texas Hill Country is all about. Including Kerrville, Medina (the” apple capital of Texas”) and Bandera.
US Hwy 290 – This section of Hill Country is near Fredericksburg here is the home of The Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park.
Davis Mountains Scenic Loop (Southwest Texas)
This is a great drive to see the mountains of southwest Texas. These mountains were formed millions of years ago from volcanic activity. From a distance the Davis Mountains appear to be floating above the Chihuahuan Desert.
This 75 mile drive is full of beautiful green slopes dotted with pine trees. Driving this route is simply breathtaking in all its geological splendor.
Texas Swiss Alps Scenic Drive
There is a reason these hills are called the “Siss Alps of Texas”. The view is simply stunning. The hills have elevations ranging between 1,400 to 2,400 feet above sea level and deep canyons gauged by the Frio and Nueces Rivers.
This route is approximately 80 to 130 miles long depending on which route is taken and which stops are made. Start on Highway 470 in Bandera and drive towards Concan. The road will turn into Highway 83. Next, merge on to Highway 337 at Leakey and continue towards Medina.
El Camino Real Highway
This Spanish trail is Also known as the “Royal Road” and the “Kings Highway”. Knowledge of the Camino Real is incomplete. The understanding of the trail’s origins grow and change as new information is gathered and old information is reevaluated.
Nonetheless, this does not take away from the beautiful scenery of this road. Today, the royal road is recognized as I20 or US 59. Take a drive down East Texas’ oldest highway. The King’s Highway stretches from Milam to San Antonio.
Highway 16 (Fredericksburg)
There are several tiny towns on this route but the scenery from the town of Llano to Fredericksburg is simply breathtaking. This is a 38 mile long trail that features wildflowers and a beautiful hiking trail called Enchanted Rock.
This drive is perfect for rock lovers and lovers of the Texas Bluebonnet. The Bluebonnets are in full bloom between the months of March to May. There are also some amazing canyon views in this stretch of land as well.
El Camino del Rio (FM 170)
El Camino del Rio “The River Road” (FM 170) is a route that travels from Lajitas to Presidio. This route showcases the Rio Grande as the road curves and dips with the land.
The largest state park in Texas is well over 300,000 acres and extends along the Rio Grande River and FM 170. It also contains one of the steepest inclines in the state at 17%.
However, before you go, make sure to fill up your tank. There aren’t any gas stations between Lajitas and Presidio.
Highland Lakes Drive (Hill Country)
The Highland Lakes Drive (Also known as the Highland Lakes Bluebonnet Trail) weaves through several hotspots in the Hill Country. There is an abundance of Bluebonnets in this area. Take in the beautiful sight and the wonderful aroma of fresh wildflowers.
This route travels through six Hill Country towns and takes a couple of hours to complete. First take Highway 16 north from Kerrville to Llano then turn right on Highway 29 heading towards Burnet. Turn right again and head south on Highway 281 to Johnson City. Then head west on US Highway 290 back to Fredericksburg.
Big Bend & Rio Grande Drive
From desert terrain to the Chisos Mountains this is truly one beautiful route to drive. Big Bend National Park is notorious for great hiking trails, scenic views, desert cactus and mountain trees. The Rio Grande Drive is right on the Texas-Mexico border. It is a nice 30 minute drive from Panther Junction with several opportunities to stop and hike. This section of the Rio Grande is beautiful.
4 thoughts on “17 Stunning Texas Scenic Drives to Escape the Crowds”
Saving this for the next time we head to Texas!
Hi Zoleeta, thank you for this article. Which roughly east-west highways across Texas or Oklahoma are considered the most scenic, especially for those trying to avoid the more dry arid areas, if possible? Thanks for listening.
I’m not sure about Texas but I-40 in Oklahoma has some good back roads you can see in between major road way stops. You can also take Route 66 from Tulsa all the way through the Texas panhandle.