Texas Travel

The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to Texas Highways

By Peter Simek 11.24.21

November kicks off the holiday season, and for many Texans, that means the start of the driving season. Many of us drive long distances this time of year to visit family, pick up loved ones, or simply take advantage of vacation days by venturing across the state.

No matter the destination, a Texas road trip isn’t complete without at least a few stops along the way. Here are some of Texas’ most scenic highways, entertaining roadside attractions, and sought-after stops to stretch your legs at on your journey.

Texas road trip

Most Scenic Highways

Texas’ interstate system makes it easy to zip back and forth between the far-flung corners of the state, but with nearly 200,000 miles of farm-to-market, ranch-to-market, state, U.S., and interstate highways in Texas, there’s no reason to limit your route to the big roads. And for many, delaying the ETA in exchange for pretty scenery is a trade worth making. Here are some of our favorite highways in Texas.

Lonesome Highway: The Lonesome Highway may not be on the way to anywhere in particular — hence its name — but road wanderers who take a drive down these sections of U.S Highway 285 and U.S. Highway 180 will be rewarded with some of the most majestic scenery in the state. On the drive into the Guadalupe Mountains in far West Texas, the earth appears to leap up out of the desert flats. The road then winds its way into the mountains and along cliff faces. It’s one of those drives you’ll never forget.

Farm-to-Market 170: If you find yourself out in Big Bend country, the long detour down to FM 170 is well worth the drive. The highway leads from the ghost town of Terlingua past Lajitas and winds its way along the Rio Grande toward Presidio. The haunting mountains, canyons, and valleys of Big Bend Ranch State Park loom off the north side of the road. To the south, beyond the river, you can see into Mexico across the Chihuahuan Desert and the gorgeous Sierra del Carmen Mountains.

Swiss Alps of Texas: The road from Bandera to Concan, with a second leg up U.S. Highway 83 to Leakey, earned its nickname as “the Swiss Alps of Texas” thanks to its lush green hills rolling across the Texas Hill Country. This route passes through Garner State Park (the perfect picnic pit stop), and it’s a wonderful way to wind through the center of the state on your way to anywhere.

Devil’s Backbone: This short 15-mile stretch along Ranch-to-Market 12 cuts through some of the Hill Country’s most remarkable landscapes. You’ll be treated to rolling hills, canyons, evergreen forests, and limestone bluffs. To stretch the road trip, continue along Ranch-to-Market 32 toward Blanco.

Texas road trip Attractions

Best Roadside Attractions

The reason people say everything is bigger in Texas is because, well, it’s true. With larger-than-life character and plenty of space, many of Texas’ fun and quirky roadside attractions trade in the gargantuan and goofy. If your Texas road trip takes you near some of these spots, you can’t help but stop and check them out.

Cadillac Ranch: Rising like a steel-and-chrome 20th-century henge out of the flatness of the Panhandle west of Amarillo, Cadillac Ranch is one of the most famous sites along Route 66. Originally created in the 1970s by the art collective Ant Farm, the monument has been remade over and over by the thousands of visitors who add layers of spray paint and graffiti to the classic cars.

Dalmatian Fire Hydrant: Originally created as a promotional item for the re-release of the classic Disney film “101 Dalmatians,” the 24-foot-tall, 4,500-pound, Dalmatian-spotted hydrant stands outside the Fire Museum of Texas in Beaumont. It’s the world’s largest working fire hydrant.

Prada Marfa: Love it or hate it, Prada Marfa is an art-world icon that is still somehow perfectly Texan. An exact replica of an upscale retail shop plopped in the middle of nowhere in West Texas (well, approximately 36 miles northwest of Marfa), the installation art piece by Elmgreen & Dragset has become a beloved spot for photo ops, attracting celebrities, art and fashion lovers, and the generally curious.

Stonehenge II: Cadillac Ranch may be Texas’ Stonehenge, but Texas has a recreation of the actual ancient monument, too. You can find Stonehenge II — which is made of limestone and is only about 14% shorter than the real thing — on the University of Texas Permian Basin’s Odessa campus.

World’s Largest Cowboy Boots: Outside of the North Star Mall in San Antonio are what many refer to as the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots. Fun fact: They’re actually not. But that hasn’t stopped the 34-foot-tall boots from becoming a popular attraction for more than 40 years.

Texas road trip eats

Best Roadside Eats

If you find yourself traveling down one of these major Texas roads, be sure to stop in for a quick bite.

Interstate-10: The Crawfish Hole. The borderlands between Louisiana and Southeast Texas are filled with great Cajun food. The Crawfish Hole in Winnie along I-10 will satisfy your craving for crawfish, barbecue crab, and fried shrimp baskets.

Interstate-20: Dairy Palace. If you’re headed into East Texas along I-20, make a pit stop in Canton to try the famous burgers and delicious hand-dipped ice cream at the Dairy Palace.

Interstate-35: Czech Stop. Anyone who has traveled between Dallas and Waco on I-35 knows to build in some extra time to take the exit in West and stock up on some kolaches.

Route 66: The Big Texan Steak Ranch. True to its name, The Big Texan Steak Ranch serves up some of Texas’ biggest steaks out there. Attempting to devour the 72-ounce steak is on the list of every dedicated Route 66 traveler.

Everywhere: Buc-ee’s. It’s big. It’s beloved. It’s convenient. It’s Buc-ee’s.

For some entertainment along your Texas road trip, enjoy one of these 10 Texas-centric podcasts.

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