Presidio to Lajitas on FM 170 (50 miles)
At first El Camino del Rio dips and winds along the Rio Grande through a maze of low, dry arroyos framed by bare lunar landscapes. Before long, the West Texas sky looms so large that it practically swallows the road. The 15 percent grade—one of the steepest in the state—up Big Hill, twelve miles west of Lajitas, provides a dizzying look back at Colorado Canyon in your rearview mirror.
Claude to Turkey on Texas Highways 207 and 86 (80 miles)
Twenty miles south of Claude, the rolling plains give way to Palo Duro Canyon, Texas’ Grand Canyon. The views from the the north rim and the paved picnic area on the south rim are gorgeous, especially at sunrise and sunset. Continuing on, you’ll pass Tule Canyon, Lake Mackenzie, and the town of Silverton before dropping off the cap into Quitaque and Caprock Canyons State Park. Then it’s rolling plains again until Turkey.
Fort Lancaster State Historical Park to Sanderson on Texas Highways 290 and 349, FM 2400, and U.S. 285 (60 miles)
The drive begins at the ruins of historic Fort Lancaster nearly forty miles west of Ozona on Interstate 10. The first third, part of the hilly Fort Lancaster loop, is an always dependable bypass to break the monotony of I-10. The rest is a lightly traveled route through wild and desolate West Texas country—the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert—and an almost endless succession of small canyons that grow progressively larger all the way to Sanderson.
Vanderpool to Leakey on Ranch Road 337 (17 miles)
Two gnarly, twisting lanes that climb, hug, and descend some of the highest hills in the Hill Country, RR 337 is a roller coaster ride requiring constant braking to negotiate the tight curves; whatever you do, don’t get distracted by the breathtaking views. The ride rolls out of the heights into the cypress bottoms surrounding the Frio, the state’s most sublime river.
Crockett to Nacogdoches on Texas Highway 21 (59 miles)
Driving the Old San Antonio Road from one well-preserved East Texas town to another feels like going back in time. The stretch around Weches cuts through the Davy Crockett National Forest, the Mission Tejas State Historical Park (where the first Spanish mission was established in the middle of an extensive network of Native American villages), and the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site.