A scenic west Texas road trip took us well off the beaten path. Although we had an itinerary, it was loose enough that we could change plans – and that’s exactly what we did when we had a closer look at the map.
Instead of rushing to Terlingua, a ghost mining town made famous by discoveries of quick silver (mercury), we meandered down Route 67 to Presidio, a much larger town than the map would suggest, on the US-Mexico border and from there enjoyed a very scenic Texas road trip traveling through to Big Bend National Park.
A West Texas road trip offers a surprisingly scenic drive
One of the most scenic drives in North America, at least according to National Geographic, is the 50 mile stretch on Highway 170. It starts in Presidio – exactly how I imagined a US – Mexico border town to be – hot, dry, dusty and lacking in civic pride.
But it gets better fast once you leave Presidio. I think its scenic but not as good as National Geographic makes it out to be.
The road itself is Highway 170, or the River Road. It follows the international border, squeezed between the Rio Grande and the hills and mountains of Big Bend Ranch State Park. It’s winding with plenty of those drops that leave your stomach behind – if you’re going fast enough. Lots of motorcyclists and Porsches were seen, probably because it’s such a fun road to drive.
Note: There are no services between Presidio and Lajitas.
Big Bend Ranch State Park – a great place for a hike
Much of the drive is through Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest state park in Texas, covering over 300,000 acres.
If the weather is cool then there are a few big hikes to do including the very strenuous 19-mile Rancher Loop that takes you through the heart of the park. It was very hot when we were there (~100°F) so we opted for the short hike up and back on the Closed Canyon Trail.
The hike takes you down a narrow canyon which in places is no wider than your arms when outstretched. Even in the heat of the day there is some shade so don’t let a hot day keep you from doing this. We stopped when there were big, slippery boulders to climb and figured it was best to turn around.
A western style film set along the highway
The photo you see below is of a western style movie set. It was constructed in 1985 for the filming of the movie Uphill All the Way, starring Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Burl Ives. Since then nine more movies have been filmed here including Rio Diablo, Dead Man’s Walk and Streets of Laredo.
Enjoy this drive. There is haze – a combination of heat, dust and pollution from power plants in Mexico, but it’s still an interesting and very lovely drive. People who love the desert will love this drive.