Best Hidden Places in Texas for Road-Trippin'

Categories: Lists

Photo by dherrera_96 via flickr
By Angelica Leicht, courtesy of the Houston Press.

Oh, there's so much to see in Texas. From the white sands of the coastal shores to the deep canyons on down, our state has so much to offer.

And while everyone knows about some of our more national attractions -- Big Bend, South Padre Island and so on -- this is an enormous state, covering 268,820 square miles of land. With girth like that, there are bound to be a number of hidden gems in Texas that are just itching to be explored.

So if you're still busy planning out a summer vacation, perhaps you should eschew the typical and head for the hills -- of the Hill Country, perhaps -- or one of the many other places on this list, to find yourself a real adventure, Texas-style.

Here are the best hidden places to road-trip in Texas. Saddle up, y'all, but leave the spurs at home.

Photo courtesy of the Marfa Texas Chamber of Commerce

Marvel at Marfa's Mystery Lights
For a town as tiny as Marfa, Texas, it sure is a place full of rad stuff to do. If you road-trip it somewhere near this town -- which you may, considering it's located between Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains -- perhaps you should make plans to stay a night or two in order to check out the mystery lights.

The mystery lights, Marfa's claim to fame, appear in the sky between Marfa and Paisano Pass on clear nights, and are visible when facing southwest toward the Chinati Mountains. The lights have been twinkling since at least 1883, when the first record of them appears, and have been puzzling viewers ever since.

At times they appear colored, and at others quite mobile, with some appearing to fuse and split with the others, and they disappear and reappear at will. No one's quite sure where they came from, but there they've been for over a hundred years.

Distance from Dallas: 7 hours 32 minutes

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Diggin' Up Bones at Dinosaur Valley State Park
Well, please don't actually try to dig up bones at Dinosaur Valley State Park. You might get in a lot of trouble for pulling something like that. But do check out this massive state park in Glen Rose. It's located right on the Paluxy River, and yes, it has dinosaur footprints and all sorts of other cool dinosaur-themed stuff, but it's way more than just that.

There are eastward-dipping limestones, sandstones and mudstones that were deposited about 113 million years ago when this park, which is also a National Natural Landmark, was the shoreline of an ancient sea. The park and the natural setting of the area are gorgeous and well worth a visit, even though it's less well known than Texas' other parks like Big Bend.

Distance from Dallas: 1 hour 28 minutes


John Wayne's Head
In Lubbock, there is a 13-ton boulder carved into the likeness of John Wayne's head. That's pretty much it, but does there need to be much more? It's John Wayne's head, on a boulder, in Lubbock. Could a landmark get any more Texan than that?

Distance from Dallas: 5 hours 1 minute

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Been to all of these spots, except for Topaz hunting in Mason County. My suggestion, don't go to Gorman Falls in the middle of the summer. it was less of a water fall and more of a dripping faucet and that hike.....i thought i was going to die. Colorado Bend State Park was cool. Primitive camping, lots of critters roaming about and we enjoyed swimming in the river.


We took a road trip to Marfa a few years ago. Instead of the long drive from Dallas, we chose to take a quick flight to Odessa and then we only had a 2.5 hour drive. There are so many interesting things to do there, but be aware most places in this small town are only open on the weekend!


Fyi: There aren't any dinosaur bones at Dinosaur Valley State Park. 


Marfa lights have already been debunked. The Internet is your friend! Don't be afraid to research.

scottindallas topcommenter

@jdannydotcom The Marfa lights are real, but they're not very interesting.  For them to put that as the top attraction is asinine.  Marfa is ok, but the lights are no big deal, at all


You forgot Waco,Texas the graveyard of ambition.


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Nice list, but you left out East Texas entirely.  Drive highway 69 from Greenville to Tyler in the spring.  Check out the cabins and camping outside Tyler and Hawkins.  There are rolling hills, towering pine trees, Lake Tyler and Lake Palestine.  Also ride the train from Palestine to Rusk behind an actual steam engine.  We took our son when he was four, during his Thomas the Tank Engine phase.  He loved it.


@ColonelAngus An excellent suggestion about the Texas State Railroad. It is best in the springtime, before it gets too hot, when the dogwoods are in bloom. Be sure to get seats in one of the open air cars and pack a picnic lunch. Leftover fried chicken is always a great choice! 


@Anon. @ColonelAngus  Great point, we went in the springtime.  Also, make sure to travel from Palestine to Rusk, and not the other direction, if you want to ride the train pulled by the steam locomotive.  The other direction uses a diesel-electric engine.  At the time we went several years back this was not disclosed, but we lucked into the steamer.  It was a great day.

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