Want to see some of the roughest, most scenic terrain in the state? Head to far West Texas and start in the remote desert village of Terlingua, in theory a ghost town but in reality home to a couple hundred desert rats living in the shadow of the jagged Chisos and Sierra Del Carmen mountains. Drive west on FM 170 through an astounding wilderness of shallow canyons, ancient riverbeds, and craggy limestone hills. After you pass Lajitas Golf Resort, you’ll arrive in Big Bend Ranch State Park and begin driving along the mythic Rio Grande. The River Road follows its path, curving toward Mexico and back again. Soon you hit a steep climb, the aptly named Big Hill, that ascends four hundred feet. There’s room to park at the top, where you can scamper out on the rocks for a fantastic view of the Sierra Madre in Mexico, the Chisos back to the east, and the river itself, coming and going in front of you for miles just as it has always done. By now, you have left civilization far behind and will most likely have the road all to yourself. Back in the car, the land soon begins to flatten out, and you begin cruising through the scrubby flatlands and approaching Presidio, which was established as a fort in 1683 and featured in the John Wayne movie Rio Bravo. Once you’ve completed this drive, you will have seen what Texas has to offer: its beauty, its history, and its timeless wonder.
More great drives, three other staffers weigh in:
Senior editor Katy Vine: The lighthouse drive, along the coast from Port Arthur to Port Aransas, mainly on Texas highways 87 and 35.
Editor in chief Brian D. Sweany: The quintessential Hill Country drive, from Medina to Leakey on FM 337.
Director of Editorial Operations Stacy Hollister: The sentimental drive, from Austin to Dallas on Interstate 35, because it always takes me home.
This piece is just one bit of wisdom offered in our April 2015 cover story, “Welcome to Texas!” a friendly user’s guide for our state’s most recent transplants. To read more advice, go here.