Rough Roads

These drives are sure to get your attention.

Chispa Road from Lobo Pass to Candelaria (50 miles)
The most romantic, remote, and forbidding dirt road not only in West Texas but in Texas, period. It runs from Lobo Pass (a turnoff near U.S. 90 between Valentine and Van Horn) to Candelaria (at the terminus of FM 170) through harsh desert and dry washes. Watch out for the forks in the road with precious little signage—and a disproportionate number of smugglers and lawmen.

Park Road 22 from Padre Island National Seashore to the Port Mansfield Cut (60 miles)
The state's most unusual driving experience: It's the longest stretch of undeveloped beach you can drive in the U.S., a trove of trash and treasure to dodge and admire. The constantly shifting driving surface can include some jarring drops, but it's definitely worth it, especially if you are lucky enough to spot a Kemp's ridley turtle.

Texas Highway 4 from Brownsville to Boca Chica (24 miles)
The Sabal Palm Audubon Center Sanctuary, the last stand of native river palms in the Rio Grande Valley, marks the beginning of a journey through the barren coastal flats of the southernmost spit of Texas soil. At Boca Chica Beach, drive on the sand ten miles north and you'll be directly across the channel from South Padre Island, whose high-rises materialize on the horizon like a mirage. Drive ten miles south and you'll be at the mouth of the once-mighty Rio Grande—a short wade from Mexico.

Texas Highway 87 from Port Arthur toward High Island (18 miles)
There's a nowhere-but-Texas feel to this route, which weaves through a maze of oil refinery structures and heads down to Sabine Pass near land's end on the upper coast, then west along the edge of McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge to Sea Rim State Park and beyond. This 47-mile road was intended to link Port Arthur with High Island, but storms, tidal surges, and hurricanes have proven too much for even engineers, so the highway has been "temporarily closed" at the 18-mile mark for years.

Pinto Canyon Road from Marfa to Chinati Hot Springs (50 miles)
It's pure two-lane blacktop and highland grasses for the first 32 miles before the road enters Pinto Canyon and turns to dirt. Then you wind through the heart of the Chinati Mountains down a long slope toward the Rio Grande before reaching Chinati Hot Springs, the Southwest's funkiest resort.

Tags: THE CULTURE

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