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Scenic Drives

Photographers take us down a few of their favorite byways.

By Earl Nottingham and Chase Fountain

If you straightened out Texas’ 80,000 miles of highway and set them end-to-end, they would lap the Earth more than three times. But the real fun of Texas roads is the endless variety. The winding drives of East Texas are lush with roadside forests, while on the other side of the state, stretches of West Texas highway cast shimmering mirages in the heat. Wildflowers festoon roadsides through the Hill Country, and the allure of endless ocean is the backdrop for beach drives. Wherever your Texas road trip takes you, you’ll be sure to find the diverse and beautiful scenery you crave, and probably some surprises as well — you never know what lies around the bend in the road. Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine photographers Earl Nottingham and Chase Fountain take us down a  few of their favorite byways this month.

Tyler State Park

Park Road 16 in Tyler State Park loops around the 985-acre park, showcasing the picturesque, peaceful 64-acre Tyler State Park Lake at its center. Towering 100-foot pines shade the scenic drive, where you can spot wildlife and watch paddlers and anglers.

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Palo Duro Canyon State Park

The drive into one of Texas’ most iconic state parks gives you the feeling of being transported back into time, historically and geologically. Park Road 5 rapidly descends from flat and rolling High Plains grasslands down to the canyon floor, surrounded by multicolored layers of sandstone, carved over the eons by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.

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Padre Island National Seashore

This 60-mile beach road runs along the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. After mile marker 5, the road is accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. See a variety of wildlife, including Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, coyotes and many bird species, and the resting place of three Spanish ships that sank here in 1554.

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Burnet County

A true Texas country road, FM 340 takes you south from Burnet on a winding drive through expansive farmlands. There are several low-water crossings and two bridges. After 10 miles, take a left onto FM 341, which crosses Hamilton Creek and goes over several hills with breathtaking vistas of the Hill Country, including a glimpse of the Highland Lakes.

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Caddo Lake State Park to Daingerfield State Park

After leaving the mysterious bayous of Caddo Lake, this drive takes you through the historic town of Jefferson and leads past scenic Lake O’ the Pines before reaching Daingerfield State Park. Framed by towering East Texas woods, narrow Park Road 17 winds and undulates through the park before coming to an end at Lake Daingerfield. In autumn, the trees turn brilliant yellows, oranges and reds.

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Hunt

Starting at Hunt and traveling west, FM 1340 snakes through the heart of the Hill Country, crisscrossing the peaceful, cypress-lined North Fork of the Guad­alupe River several times. Start the drive with a visit to the historic Hunt Store.

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Marfa to Chianti Hot Springs

Pinto Canyon Road (FM 2810) is about 50 miles long, and the last 20-mile section is unpaved, steep and rough. But it’s well worth the effort for the feeling of leaving civilization far behind. See majestic Chinati Peak and the occasional javelina. Use of a high-clearance vehicle is advised.

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