Scenic roads crisscross the Big Bend region, giving travelers many opportunities to watch changing weather. While the views are spectacular, it’s important to remain vigilant and make safety a priority.
For one, don’t try to negotiate a flooded low-water crossing. Wait it out. Your tires, like balloons, are filled with air. They’ll float! If the skies are looking particularly green, you might want to pull under the nearest shelter. Hail may be imminent. If you must pull onto the shoulder, don’t forget to switch on your hazard lights. If lightning is striking nearby, stay inside your car. Your tires will ground you. Your hiking boots won’t.
Here are several roadways ideal for viewing Big Bend weather. Find area information at www.visitbigbend.com.
US 385 between Fort Stockton and Marathon. Ten miles north of Marathon, there’s a paved pullout that provides unobstructed views of grasslands on one side, and the east-facing ridge of the Glass Mountains on the other side influences seasonal weather events from thunderstorms to snow. You’ll also be located within the southernmost recognized prairie dog town in the continental United States.
US 67 between Fort Davis and Marfa. This mile-high desert territory creates especially towering cumulus clouds. Watch out for hail. It’s frequent enough that local hydroponic greenhouse operators dread the rising rain clouds.
US 90 between Alpine and Marfa. This desert grassland/cholla country produces dozens of dust devils on warm, sunny afternoons. Pull into the Marfa Mystery Lights viewing area and watch ‘em rip.
Casa Piedra Road between Presidio and Big Bend Ranch State Park. This caliche road begins just east of Presidio along FM 170 and travels north before splitting, directing most traffic to the interior of Big Bend Ranch State Park. The first few miles offer some of the most expansive views of the mountain ranges westward from Mexico to Marfa. Some of the most dramatic weather in the region arrives here first, striking the ocotillo flats with an astounding force.
FM 170 between Terlingua and Lajitas. Surprising views south of the roadway encompass the Chisos Mountains, miles of low Chihuahuan desert, and the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon along the giant Mesa de Anguila.
US 118 between Alpine and Study Butte. Descending rain clouds often surround the crown of Santiago Peak like puffs from a volcano, alluding to the peak’s geologic origins.
—E. Dan Klepper