What are the Best Scenic Drives in Texas?


Texas is known for being big – you can drive for more than 12 hours and 800 miles without leaving the state. Plus, the vast expanses of the Lone Star State come with varied terrain, which includes open plains, fantastic mountains, rolling green hills, and stretches of coast. With so many open roads, you’re sure to find some of the most scenic drives in the United States, from quiet highways to dusty backroads, from mountain peaks to canyon floors.

If you want to see Texas in its beauty, just drive along the scenic routes in the state. With so much ground to cover, seeing it by car is one of the best ways to travel to Texas. Here are some of the scenic ways to take for a beautiful Texas road trip:

River Road

Rio Grande river as seen from the Big Bend in River Road

If you want to see the epitome of a scenic Texas drive, try the River Road – it’s where you can explore the Texas-Mexico border, following the winding path of the Rio Grande. It traces through striking West Texas landscapes from the ghost town of Terlingua to Presidio.

This scenic drive offers two options: the picturesque FM 170 stretch between Lajitas and Presidio, passing through Big Bend Ranch State Park, or the more rugged route within Big Bend National Park, running from Rio Grande Village to Mariscal Mine and Castolon.

If you choose the latter, be prepared with a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle, as off-road driving is not allowed. Along the way, you can reserve a primitive roadside campsite to extend your journey into a longer adventure. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike the 6.5-mile Mariscal Rim Trail, which leads you to one of the park’s narrowest and steepest canyons.

The River Road is a feast for the eyes, with vibrant bursts of green contrasting the arid colors of South Texas. As you travel along FM 170, you’ll encounter attractions like the Fresno Overlook, historic sites, and even the intriguing Terlingua ghost town. While there are no facilities between the towns, there are picnic areas and scenic viewpoints where you can enjoy the day. Make sure to fill up your car with fuel and pack plenty of water and snacks for the journey.

Bluewater Highway

The Bluewater Highway is a must-visit for lovers of coastal drives. This scenic route spans 40 miles from Surfside Beach to the tip of Galveston Island, offering stunning seaside views that rival southern California. As you embark on this drive, be sure to cross the picturesque San Luis Pass Bridge, a 1.3-mile structure that adds to the charm of the journey.

Along the way, you’ll encounter fantastic attractions such as San Luis Beach, Galveston Island State Park, the Galveston Seawall, and the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier. The pier is a hit with both kids and adults, featuring thrilling rides, games, and captivating 3D movies.

For an extra special experience, plan your drive along the Bluewater Highway to coincide with the breathtaking sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an unforgettable sight that will leave you in awe. Whether you choose to make it a quick trip or take your time to explore and relax on the sandy shores, the Bluewater Highway promises a rejuvenating and enjoyable adventure.

Willow City Loop

a field of bluebonnets in Texas

The Willow City Loop perfectly captures the essence of the Texas Hill Country. This 13-mile drive showcases rolling waves of Texas Bluebonnets, creating picturesque scenes that epitomize the dreamy image visitors have of the Lone Star State.

The Willow City Loop is renowned for its scenic beauty and is particularly famous for wildflower viewing. Located near Fredericksburg, this 13-mile drive offers stunning landscapes throughout the year. For the best experience, plan your drive during the wildflower season, typically from March to May. During springtime, you’ll be treated to a vibrant display of bluebonnets (the state flower), Indian paintbrushes, Mexican poppies, and other colorful wildflowers.

To reach this iconic loop, head north from Fredericksburg on Highway 16 and turn right at Farm Road 1323 in Eckert. Drive for about three miles until you reach the small community of Willow City, where you’ll make a left onto the Willow City Loop. Enjoy the adventure as you navigate the loop until you reach Highway 16 again.

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Sunset at Big Bend National Park on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Located within the vast expanse of Big Bend National Park, the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is named after the park’s first superintendent, Ross Maxwell. This 31-mile drive showcases the park’s remarkable geologic features, offering a unique and awe-inspiring experience. The drive itself takes about an hour and a half, including the return journey.

As you drive along this road, you’ll be surrounded by the majestic Chisos Mountains and Burro Mesa, encountering unique geological features along the way. Take advantage of the various overlooks, such as Mule Ears Viewpoint, where you can enjoy breathtaking vistas of Mule Ears Peaks. The drive culminates at Santa Elena Canyon, a magnificent 1,500-foot limestone chasm that separates Texas from Mexico.

But the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive isn’t just about the views. You’ll also find points of historical interest, like the remnants of the former Sam Nail Ranch, adding another layer of intrigue to your journey. You can also see the Castolon Historic District, a former cavalry camp listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To embark on this scenic drive, follow Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive until you reach Santa Elena Canyon. The round trip covers a distance of 31 miles and takes approximately 45 minutes each way without stops. At the end of the route, you have the option to continue hiking on the Santa Elena trail or return the way you came.

Davis Mountains Scenic Loop

The Davis Mountains Scenic Loop takes you on a beautiful drive through the mountains of West Texas. This 75-mile route offers breathtaking views and a chance to experience the highest highway in the state. Experience a remarkable elevation change of 2,000 feet, reaching a peak of 6,700 feet.

The loop showcases stunning views of Madera Canyon, Mt. Livermore, Sawtooth Mountain, Miter Peak, the Puertacita Mountains, and the Sierra Viejo Mountains that run along the Rio Grande River. It’s a memorable journey that allows you to appreciate the beauty of the Davis Mountains up close. Along the way, you can make stops at scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and historic sites. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the renowned McDonald Observatory, a leading center for astronomical research and public education.

To embark on the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop, start and end your drive in Fort Davis, and enjoy the 75-mile route that offers diverse landscapes and remarkable elevation changes. Along the way, take advantage of picnic spots, lookout points, and the opportunity to join star parties at the McDonald Observatory, where you can observe the night sky through powerful telescopes.

Lonesome Highway

a lonesome highway in Texas

If you want to escape the crowds and enjoy the solitude of the open road, drive on the Lonesome Highway and expect a unique driving experience. This 59-mile stretch in remote Northwest Texas allows you to soak in the wide-open plains, breathtaking Texas sunsets, and the majestic Guadalupe Mountains National Park on the horizon. Take your time to appreciate the Salt Flats, El Capitan, Guadalupe Peak, and the Salt Basin Overlook.

Don’t forget to fuel up and pack some snacks and water, as amenities are scarce along the way. If you start in El Paso, head east on US Highway 180/62, and once you reach the city limits, you’re set. So put on some good music, roll down the windows, and let the Lonesome Highway be your escape and allow your soul to find peace amidst the picturesque landscapes.

Canyon Sweep

the Palo Duro Canyon

Did you know that Texas is home to the second-largest canyon in the country? Palo Duro Canyon, located in the Texas Panhandle, is a must-visit destination, and you can admire it from the Canyon Sweep. You’ll be amazed by the impressive cliffs and stunning red rock formations. Known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” this canyon spans 126 miles in length and reaches up to 20 miles wide at certain points. Along the way, you’ll also encounter Caprock Canyons State Park, showcasing the beauty of the region.

There are multiple routes you can take for the Canyon Sweep. One option is to drive from Quitaque to Claude, passing through the city of Canyon to reach Palo Duro Canyon. Another picturesque stretch is TX-207 between Claude and Silverton. If you’re short on time, Highway 27 provides a more direct route. Whichever path you choose, you’ll be treated to vast plains stretching as far as the eye can see.

The highlight of the Canyon Sweep is Palo Duro Canyon State Park; where Before reaching Palo Duro, make sure to make stops at the Ghost Horse Gallery in Silverton for local art and delectable pecan pies, as well as the Mackenzie Reservoir, offering opportunities for hiking and picnicking.  If you are looking for more adventure to discover more unique places in Texas, you may read our article, Have You Explored These Lesser-Known Texan Towns Yet?

Texas Swiss Alps Scenic Drive

Texas Swiss Alps Scenic Drive takes you on a picturesque journey through the captivating Texas Hill Country. While it may not resemble the Swiss Alps, the drive offers breathtaking views and landscapes that define the region. Covering approximately 85 miles, this route allows you to explore charming towns like Bandera (the cowboy capital of Texas), Medina, and Vanderpool.

Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop and experience the delights of the area, such as apple picking in Medina, tubing on the rivers, enjoying a dude ranch experience, and immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Lost Maples State Natural Area.

To do the scenic drive, start in Bandera on Highway 470 and drive west to Concan. When you reach Highway 83, go north to Leakey. Then, make your way back on 337 to Medina. You can take it the other way around or make it shorter by cutting at Vanderpool. Whatever route you choose, this place is full of jaw-dropping vistas nonetheless.

Devil’s Backbone

Devil’s Backbone may sound scary but don’t worry; it’s actually a scenic and relaxing drive through the beautiful Texas Hill Country. This 50-mile loop connects the charming towns of Blanco and Wimberley, offering plenty of attractions along the way. Take a moment to visit Blanco State Park and the stunning Jacob’s Well, where you can cool off in the crystal-clear blue waters.

Starting in Blanco, you can head out on either Farm Road 32 or Farm Road 165, roughly following a limestone ridge dotted with amazing panoramas of rolling hills and rocky outcrops. As you cruise through the lush landscapes of the Hill Country, you’ll be treated to picturesque views of limestone hills, rolling hillsides, and vibrant wildflowers.

Make sure to stop at the Devil’s Backbone Overlook for a picnic and soak in the breathtaking scenery. If you’re up for a unique experience, drop by the Devil’s Backbone Tavern, an old honky-tonk rumored to be haunted. Some even say the entire area is haunted, but that’s for you to decide.

Highway 207

Palo Duro Canyon Highway 207

Highway 207, also known as the Palo Duro Canyon route, offers breathtaking views that surpass those found within the state park itself, according to locals. This peaceful 48-mile stretch of road takes you on a scenic journey from Silverton to Claude, deep into the stunning red landscapes of the Texas panhandle.

As you drive along Highway 207, prepare to be mesmerized by the dramatic scenery of the rocky red cliffs and desert landscapes. Don’t miss the impressive Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and the picturesque Tule Creek along the way.

In Claude, you can add some adventure to your trip by mountain biking or going offroading at the rugged Merus Adventure Park. Once you reach Silverton, you’ll have easy access to both Turkey and Caprock Canyons, which offer even more rugged vistas, extensive trails, and the chance to encounter herds of wild roaming bison. These attractions are definitely worth exploring and will add to the overall experience of your trip. 

Whether you choose to drive the entire stretch in one go or take breaks to stretch your legs and admire the park, Highway 207 promises unforgettable views and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region.

Route 66

Cadillac Ranch in Route 66

Route 66, also known as the “Main Street of America,” is a legendary road that played a significant role in American history and westward expansion. While the Texas portion of Route 66 may not offer the most picturesque views, it is filled with fascinating attractions and a unique charm that captures the essence of this iconic highway.

Although Interstate 40 has replaced much of Route 66, there are still original stretches that allow you to experience the nostalgia and beauty of the old road. Along this 113-mile route through the Texas panhandle, you’ll encounter quirky sites and ghost towns, as well as intriguing stops like Cadillac Ranch. This public art installation features ten vintage cars buried nose-down in the ground, providing an excellent opportunity for you to leave your mark with some graffiti.

Twister Sisters

The Twisted Sisters is a legendary route that’s perfect for adventure-seeking motorcyclists who crave a thrilling and challenging ride. With its rugged terrain and 200 incredible curves spread over 105 miles, this road feels more like navigating mountain switchbacks than rural Texas.

If you’re hopping on your bike or driving on four wheels, make sure to check your blind spots because the Twisted Sisters is a favorite among motorcyclists. The merging of three different ranch roads offers diverse scenery, from steep hills and deep canyons to lush green foliage and scraggly brush. Keep your focus on the road as many turns lack guardrails.

To embark on this exhilarating journey, start in Medina, located about 120 miles west of Austin. Take Ranch Road 337 to Leakey, then head north on Ranch Road 336. Make a left onto Texas 41 and continue until you reach Ranch Road 335, which you’ll follow south to Barksdale.


Embarking on a road trip through the scenic drives of Texas is an adventure that promises breathtaking vistas, hidden gems, and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re a nature lover seeking tranquility, a history enthusiast uncovering stories of the past, or simply a traveler in search of new horizons – Texas has something to offer for everyone.

When you need to unwind, buckle up and let the wind carry you along the highways and byways of Texas. Your adventure awaits, and the journey itself is the destination!

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