The Five Best (& Five Worst) Stretches of Texas Highway

Categories: Texas

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Scenic routes, and others
Texas has some beautiful stretches of highway, and it has some where you just want to pluck out your eyeballs.

Truth be told -- if you take out the urban panoramas of strip malls and national franchises -- there's probably more of the former than the latter.

Let's look at the five best first. Obviously, we could load up the list with Hill Country roads -- 71, 281, even the loop around Austin are all lovely. But for the sake of variety, we are leaving them out, with the stern warning that if you must, if at all possible, drive on 281 between Canyon Lake and Marble Falls at least once.

So, with that disclaimer...

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5. State Highway 118 near Big Bend
Wide open spaces -- you can get them in lots of places in Texas, but having some mountains relieves the monotony. State Highway 118, the gateway to Big Bend National Park, offers great vistas and some of that offbeat funkiness only isolated West Texas can provide.


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4. U.S. Highway 59 in East Texas
We tend to give East Texas and its Piney Woods ways a bit of grief, but that's only because the area seems to have more than its share of dumb criminals. Must be the meth. But driving on 59 can be terrific -- rolling blacktop, little to no traffic, and every so often some time-capsule town pops up. We wouldn't recommend driving it at night if you weren't very, very sure of your engine, though.


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3. Highways 180/62 east of El Paso
Guadalupe Peak is the tallest point in Texas (and really, it's not all that tall, at about 8,700 feet). When you're driving back to El Paso from your Carlsbad Caverns trip, you wind around it and El Capitan, getting great angles. You will also probably get a ticket when you fail to realize you have got up to 90 mph on the endless downhill slope, and a hidden radar gun has nailed you.


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16 comments
csoakley
csoakley

I'd like to offer an alternative to your #5 route. When you are on 118, right before you hit Big Bend turn right on FM170. The section between Lajitas and Presidio run right next to the Rio Grande and is a true Texas treasure. It truly is one of the best pieces of road in the state if not the nation. 

Go West, young man (or woman), and go explore this great state. Stop by Ft. Davis and the McDonald Observatory while you're out there. And Marfa. And Alpine. And Balmorhea State Park. 

Just go people!!!

Jared
Jared

I can't testify to havong driven anywhere near Big Spring, but I can testify to being a map geek... can't remember any stretch of I-30 near there.

I'm sure I-TWENTY in Big Spring, however, is lovely.

Totally agree with I-45, however. And you didn't even mention what that stretch is like during holiday traveling season. UGH.

And may I also add 84 between Lubbock and Sweetwater to the list of worst. Wide open, and well... that's it. I have never been on a more boring, endless road in the middle of nowhere. Roughly the last quarter of the trip between Houston and Lubbock, which I've driven many times being a Tech alum, but it feels like half.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I'm also lobbing my "worst" vote for Highway 6 between Houston and Waco (which also passes through College Station). Many a Baylor (and A&M) student has been killed on that shitty stretch of pavement. It's needed widening for many years, as it's only two tiny lanes in places, and is no way to get a shitload of college students back and forth so many times each year.

T.E. Bell
T.E. Bell

After returning to Houston a couple of years ago, I had to make the drive, as a passenger, on the I-45 corridor between Houston and Dallas. Even after 15 years, I dreaded it. And it lived up to my memories. Just endless and endlessly flat, treeless stretches that go on forever. It seems as if,  halfway there, it enters another dimension in which the trip starts over from the beginning. I can't count how many times I've flown from Hobby to Love and  back just to avoid that stultifying drive.And the mini version of it, as you point out, is US59 between Houston and Victoria. Only 120 miles, but feels like 500. And speaking of 500, try driving it all the way from Houston to Laredo. Not only is it unendurably long, but at the end of the trip you have arrived at the festering, hemorrhoidal butthole of Texas.

J. Moss
J. Moss

I would add 114 from Lubbock to Fort Worth. A 4-hour drive that covers a wide variety of land, from cotton farms to canyon lands to hill country. Takes you past some small towns will cool courthouses and others that time forgot. Plus, there's nothing like the feeling of leaving Lubbock.

big red
big red

I-10 from downtown Houston to Beaumont is my vote for the worst. Very boring, incredible unexpected odors from various chemical plants, and did I mention boring. Try doing that drive late at night, as it is incredibly dark once you leave eastern Harris County. Oh yeah, and construction that has been continually ongoing since the 60's.

jjjames
jjjames

I always thought 225 at night, with the refinieries glowing looked pretty cool...

KING
KING

"5. I-45 between Houston and Dallas"

If it happens to be a trip from Houston TO Dallas, then I think it's safe to bump this up to number one. 

William Philpot
William Philpot

I've always hated 10 between Houston and SA. Long and flat with absolutely nothing to look at. Sure, you can stop for good BBQ in between, but that hardly makes up for at least 150 minutes of fighting off sleep. I had to drive this road a LOT for work last year, and each trip was harder than the next.

HC
HC

I-35 between Buda and San Marcos are the worst.  Boring, and there's more trash and roadkill along this stretch of road than along any particular road in Aldine.  If you want your car to be torn up by trash, this is the place to be.

Lvillage56
Lvillage56

US 287 between Ft. Worth and Wichita Falls....

Matthew Crawley
Matthew Crawley

I have to drive the College Station to Waco section one night a week right now.  All but the ~6 miles between Hearne and Calvert have been rebuilt and are now 4 lanes. It looks like they are the final stages of finishing that section. Unfortunately, the section south of Hearne is still undivided.

Chase Stewart
Chase Stewart

Mac Davis said that best and I hate that drive on 114.  And the drive on I-27 between Lubbock and Amarillo, longest 118 miles of your life!

Robin
Robin

Agreed.  As a little girl, I thought it must pettier than Disneyworld and imagined Tinkerbell lived in such a place.  Of course, I was a poor, white trash little girl, so I'd never seen Disneyland at that point.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I actually enjoy that drive at night. It's like being in Metropolis.

Robin
Robin

Disneyland, Disneyworld... You know what I mean!

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