Thanks to its humongous size, it only makes sense that Texas is one of the best destinations to hit the road in, especially for those who like to keep things varied when it comes to scenery, activities, and sights.
The Lone Star State boasts a wide variety of landscapes, ranging from expansive deserts, lush forests, golden countrysides, and even a few towering mountains scattered throughout!
If you’re wondering where to start exploring, there’s probably no better way to get close and personal with Texas than by driving a few of its roads. We’ve put together for you here our top 12 most scenic drives in the Lone Star State, all of which guarantee an experience like no other paired with glorious views.
The Most Scenic Drives in Texas
1. Willow City Loop
- Distance: 13 miles
Starting in the quaint Texas town of Fredericksburg, the Willow City Loop will have you winding your way through the best the Texas Hill Country has to offer. Although not a long drive, it’s certainly amongst the prettiest scenic drives in Texas; expect golden rolling hills, vineyards, and wine-tasting experiences galore, charming country views, frames of native trees, and marvelous geological formations.
Even though the Willow City Loop is absolutely stunning no matter the time of the year, it becomes an absolute must-do on any Texas itinerary if you happen to visit during the springtime, when Bluebonnets (the official state flower) and various other wildflowers carpet the entire landscape!
2. Bandera Pass
- Distance: miles
The Bandera Pass has served as a natural gap between the mountains for centuries already, which pretty much means it’s been used by people to get from point A to B throughout history.
Evidence left behind has shown that Native Americans, Spaniards, the Army, and even Texas Rangers have traveled this road, making it a must for those who would love to go on a trip back in time right in the middle of the Hill Country.
Make sure to stop in at the town of Bandera the “Cowboy Capital of the World”. You’ll want to check out the Frontier Times Museum and Old Spanish Trail Restaurant – think huge comfort meals!
3. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
- Distance: 30 miles
If you’re visiting Big Bend National Park as part of your Texas itinerary, make sure you throw the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive into your schedule before going in.
Even though the drive itself is only 30 miles long, it will give you the unique opportunity to experience the best this desertic area of Texas has to offer, including its wildlife, a myriad of historical remains and tons of geological wonders.
The drive will reward you with some of the best views of the Chisos Mountains and the Santa Elena Canyon (which you can hike to if you don’t mind stopping to stretch your legs out!)
- Catch our full scenic driving itinerary from Houston to Big Bend National Park, capturing several big cities and scenic state parks along the way
4. Lonesome Highway
- Distance: 59 miles
Ever wondered what a post-apocalyptic world would feel and look like? Driving the Lonesome Highway is as close as you can get to that!
No matter what section of this road you find yourself in, you’ll get to feel as though you’re the only human in the entire world as there’s virtually no civilization anywhere around. Yep, its name is a pretty literal one!
As you drive along the Lonesome Highway, splendid views of the Guadalupe Mountains will be the only thing keeping you company until you reach Signal Peak, the highest natural point in the state!
5. Bluewater Highway
- Distance: 40 miles
If coastal drives are your jam, look no further than the Bluewater Highway. As you make your way from Galveston Island to Surfside Beach, you’ll be pretty much driving parallel to the ocean, with some sections getting so close to it that they actually run right next to the sand!
Aside from the glorious ocean views of the Gulf of Mexico, particularly as you cross the 1.3-mile San Luis Pass Bridge, what makes this route such a treat is the fact that you can just park your car at just about any point and head out to enjoy the sand and sea. Make sure you bring your swimsuit and sunblock along!
6. Texas Swiss Alps
- Distance: 85 – 125 miles
Okay, it doesn’t quite look exactly like the Swiss Alps, but one can dream!
Even though you’ll feel nowhere as though you’re driving through the mountains of Switzerland, what makes the Texas Swiss Alps drive so special are the lush landscapes scattered all around, even in the peak of summer! With elevations ranging between 1,400 to 2,400 feet above sea level, and deep canyons formed by the Frio and Nueces Rivers.
Moreover, there are several spots worth making along the way, including the Medina and Sabinal rivers, an authentic dude ranch, and several hiking trails among hills and canyons. There are several routes you can take on this scenic drive which will vary the overall length of your journey.
Texas Hill Country is a must-stop on any Texas road trip itinerary!
7. Devil’s Backbone
- Distance: 51 miles
The name of this road may sound a bit grim, but don’t let it scare you away!
Devil’s Backbone is actually a pretty chilled-out loop amid limestone cliffs that will give you the chance to experience some of the best the Texas Hill Country has to offer, including a few natural gems as well as cultural attractions.
This route is also known for its wineries, breweries, and distilleries – a good day to choose to be a passenger!
For nature lovers, a few must-do stops include Blanco State Park for all things hiking and great views as well as Jacob’s Well, a submerged cave you can swim in to relax your muscles!
If you’re into culture, make sure you stop at Blanco and Wimberley, two quaint towns that provide that quintessential Hill Country allure. Moreover, make sure you don’t miss out on making a quick stop at the Devil’s Backbone Overlook, where you’ll get to enjoy striking panoramic views of the area!
8. Canyon Sweep
- Distance: 119 miles
Starting near Caprock Canyons State Park and ending at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, this incredibly beautiful drive is all about sweeping canyon vistas, geological wonders all over, playa lakes, and glorious vistas of the Texas Panhandle.
A stop worth making along the way is Caprock Canyons State Park, where you’ll get to see red rock cliffs rising from the ground, one of the longest rivers in America snaking through a canyon, and even an abandoned railway.
After Caprock Canyons, you’ll stumble across some of the most awe-inspiring views in the area, including the colorful Tule Canyon, which you’ll actually get to cross.
Not too long after, you’ll start entering Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is home to the second-largest canyon in the USA after the Grand Canyon! You’ll get the chance to stop at several lookout points throughout the drive before descending right to the canyon’s floor.
From here, you can loop your way back or make an adventure out of it and enjoy the canyon’s many activities, which include hiking, camping, and even an outdoor amphitheater where musical performances are held during the evenings!
- This is a great scenic detour you could add onto a Houston to Grand Canyon road trip via the I-40, stopping overnight at Amarillo
9. Davis Mountains Scenic Loop
- Distance: 75 miles
If a bit of a hidden gem is what you’re after, the Davis Mountains Scenic loop in southwest Texas is sure to please, especially if you’re into mountain views and lush landscapes.
Starting in Fort Davis, this incredibly scenic road will take you on an adventure through the mountains of southwest Texas, all of which appear to be floating right above the Chihuahuan Desert and create a scenery you aren’t bound to find anywhere else in the state!
Along the 75 miles that make up the road, you’ll get to pass Limpia Canyon, explore Davis Mountains State Park, marvel at the verdant views of Dead Man’s Canyon, and gaze at the alluring Madera Canyon, all with glorious mountain vistas and what feels like absolute solitude keeping you company every single mile of the way!
Another super interesting stop to make is the McDonald Observatory, which is one of the world’s leading astronomical research centers. Here, you can stop at the visitor center and take a guided tour to the top of Mount Locke, where you can look at the stars and galaxies through high-powered telescopes!
10. El Camino del Rio
- Distance: 49 miles
Extending from Lajitas to Presidio, El Camino del Rio (or “the River’s Path”) is an incredibly scenic drive that twists its way along the Rio Grande River, which is the river that divides Mexico from the United States.
This drive will not just give you the chance to drive along with the beauty of this incredibly mighty river, but along the way, you’ll also get to explore some of the best of Big Bend National Park, stroll historic towns, traverse the Chihuahuan Desert, pass several dramatic canyons, and enjoy fantastic vistas of the mountains and hardened lava flows that reveal the area’s volcanic past.
You’ll also get to detour towards Fresno Creek, where you’ll find multicolored layered buffs that look straight out of this world!
As a tip, you can combine this drive with Big Bend’s official scenic drive (Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive) in order to get to know the park a little better and create a road trip out of it. Make sure you spend some time outside the car at the park so you can explore its unique geology by hiking, horseback riding, biking, and boating!
11. Twisted Sisters
- Distance: 105 miles
It sounds like some kind of morbid fairytale, but in fact, the Twisted Sisters is the nickname given to the route Medina to Barksdale via Ranch Roads 337, 336, and 335. Over 200 incredible curves to navigate over mountains switchbacks!
Motion sickness sufferers need not apply though this amazing Texas scenic drive might be better suited to those on 2 wheels than 4! You’ll pass diverse scenery, from lush greenery to steep ravines. Make time for a stop-in at the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum.
For its riding wow factor, we simply couldn’t leave it off a list of the best scenic drives in Texas!
12. Route 66 – Texas Panhandle
- Distance: 179 miles
Nothing screams iconic US Road Trip more than taking in the sights and scenes of Route 66. The Texas portion of the famous historic interstate road covers 179 miles along the Texas Panhandle from Glenrio to Texola.
You’ll find multiple unique photo stops along the way including several ghost towns, McLean, Shamrock, and Vega – see if you can spot some of the inspiration behind “Cars”! Cadillac Ranch is sure to be a show stopper and you must stop in at Amarillo. Midpoint Café is where you’ll want to stop for a classic 50s diner experience!
We hope this list of the most scenic drives in Texas inspired you to grab your car keys and hit the open road. Thanks to the fact that the state is so vast, each and every single drive listed here is completely different from the next, which makes picking one a pretty hard task, but rest assured, they all guarantee an adventure like no other!
Further Tips & Inspiration for Road Tripping In Texas
- Remember, Texas is the second-largest state in the USA – distances can be LONG! We’ve set out here drives that are all manageable within half a day and accessible from major cities, but if you’ll be adding longer point-to-point trips in Texas, watch your fuel levels.
- Stay up to date with traffic information before you set out on a scenic drive with drivetexas.org.
- Watch for tolls near big cities – if you are renting a car in Texas, consider pre-paying for peace of mind.
- Children 1 to 7 must be secured in a child passenger safety seat.
- Never forget an important family road trip item again! Download our family road trip essentials checklist ready for your next family road trip.
© Family Road Trip