Texans who are lucky enough to live among the vistas of this great big state share a common morning ritual: We get up, we grab our coffee, and we walk to the window to take in our own special view of the desert mountains or the Hill Country or the Gulf Coast waves. The routine is an affirmation of sorts, confirming a kindred sensibility that the world is still a beautiful place to live. But even if your view is nothing more than the neighbor’s scruffy lawn, consider yourself fortunate. Our highways offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the vistas of the Texas landscape, whether you live in the midst of one or not.
Texas is a land so varied that a two-hour drive can take you from boggy river bottoms to rolling prairies, desert scrub to ponderosa pines, and live-oak bluffs to beach retreats. We all have our favorite vistas—the sight of Palo Duro Canyon from Texas 217, the vision of the Rio Grande valley along Big Bend’s FM 170, views of the Balcones Fault from the Hill Country’s RM 32 (known as the “Devil’s Backbone”), and even the glitter of the Houston skyline from toll roads and freeways.
But our wide-open spaces offer more than just pretty views. They provide waypoints to the watermarks in our lives. Driving Texas 16 en route to Vanderpool revives my childhood memories of nearby Mill Creek. Traveling US 62 alongside the Guadalupe Mountains elicits the night I poked my six-year-old head through the camper cab and watched lightning strike El Capitan in an electrical storm.
Vistas can offer comfort as much as revelation, grounding us in the same breath that they expand our world, revising the familiar with something surprising and new at the turn of every season. It’s not just the way trees gather in mist along the ridges, or hills fade like shadows against the setting sun; it’s also the emotions these vistas reprise, often rendering a lifetime of memories into a single, simple silhouette across the horizon.
To celebrate our wide-open spaces, we’ve put together a spread of your favorites, vetted by you, the readers, in response to our query—“What are Texas’ best vistas?” Take a look, then hit the road and enjoy them once again for yourself. I imagine that they won’t look exactly like they did the last time you saw them. But I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll still be just as beautiful.