Everything is bigger in Texas and the highways seem to run forever. The state has a geographical area much larger than many countries and there are tons of great drives to explore. The coasts are fantastic, desert highways wind through scenic canyons and a few great roads reveal the best landscapes in the country. You can see everything from vast plains to great mountains and oceans. Many short day drives are easy to find while others are more adventurous, requiring multiple days to complete the entire route.
Drive the Coastal Roads
The Texas coast is scattered with quaint beach towns and long views of the Gulf. Timing a sunset drive is the perfect way to spend a quiet evening. The Bluewater highway starts in Galveston and ends at Surfside Beach. You can drive this one in either direction with stops to enjoy the waterfront. It’s an easy 40 mile drive and the quiet town of Surfside Beach is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy the ocean vibes.
Moving closer to Rockport, driving the Port Aransas area from Padre and Mustang Islands to the Lydia Ann lighthouse, Aransas Pass, Rockport and north to Fulton. The drive is amazing and loaded with wildlife viewing, fishing hotspots and historic markers like the lighthouse. It follows along Aransas Bay where you might spot dolphins and a host of migratory and resident birds. Coastal Breeze residents are lucky to have one of the most scenic drives along the coast right out the backdoor.
The Lonesome Highway
The stunning Guadalupe Mountains are a sight everyone visiting Texas should see. Take Highway 285 to a left turn on Highway 180 to really get away. It’s called the Lonesome Highway for a reason and the countryside here is remote and quiet. The mountains seem to spring up suddenly from the earth and the towering rocks are flat out amazing. Plan a few days for this highway if possible and make time to hike and really explore this amazing area.
The Canyon Highway
If you enjoy rugged desert landscapes and the magic found in beautiful, red rock canyonlands, take this wonderful drive. You can easily customize the route as desired but the panhandle highway 207 running from Quitaque to Canyon is loaded with views. Palo Duro Canyon (FM 284) is the main draw here and MacKenzie Reservoir is another nice stopping point. Palo Duro Canyon is more than just a place to drive by without stopping. Spend some time in the park and hike around the canyon. Resident naturalists are a great resource here as well. It’s a large canyon that is teeming with desert wildlife, arroyos that flash flood and interesting geology.
The Rio Grande Route
The Rio Grande River is loaded with history and the landscape surrounding the river is beautiful. FM 170 is a great drive to see the Rio Grande in all its glory. The river here runs along Big Bend National Park and it’s a great drive to pair with a visit to the park. Hiking, great drives, amazing campsites and a stunning landscape are all here for exploration. This area is a national treasure and well worth the drive to visit and enjoy. Consider adding Texas highway 118 to veer off the river and see the desert interior. The biodiversity in the desert is fantastic with bats, cacti, birds and mammals living in a rugged, mountainous wilderness.
Swiss Alps of Texas
This route is perfect for hikers, anglers and anyone seeking some nice mountain views. An 85-mile loop runs a scenic course through the mountains with easy stops in charming communities. Several river valleys like the Frio and Nueces offer fishing while hiking trails make it easy to get outside on the mountainsides. An easy version of this route begins in Bandina and circles through Medina and Vanderpoolbefore returning to Bandina. Vanderpool is a great stopping point with the Lost Maples State Natural Area. Hiking and exploring this area is fantastic. The town also hosts the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum.
Willow City Loop
This short loop is a great way to kill an hour while seeing some of the best views in the Hill Country. The loop is only 13 miles but pack a camera to capture the beautiful combination of creeks, yucca, cliffs and grassy meadows. The drive begins in WIllow City which is most frequently accessed from Fredericksburg. If you’re in the area and want a nice scenic getaway without hours of driving, this loop fits the bill.