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.
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 Houston: 8 hours 24 minutes
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, Texas. 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's other parks like Big Bend.
Distance from Houston: 4 hours 9 minutes
John Wayne's Head In Lubbock, Texas, 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 Houston: 7 hours 54 minutes
Searchin' for Topaz in Mason County Mason County is the only place in Texas that you can hunt for natural topaz. Topaz is the state gem of Texas, and is usually found within streambeds and ravines, but still only in Mason County. There are a number of ranches in the area that will set you up with everything you need to go topaz hunting, unless they're closed for deer season, and since there's no commercial mining in the area, the entire experience is really unique.
Distance from Houston: 4 hours 26 minutes
Hiking to Gorman Falls Gorman Falls is a secluded little waterfall that's located right in the heart of Colorado Bend State Park in the hill country. Colorado Bend State Park is a gorgeous area without the hike up to the falls, but if you happen to head out there, this is a hike you should definitely take. It'll be about 1.5 miles up some pretty sticky terrain, but finding the oasis in the middle of Texas is well worth it.
Distance from Houston: 4 hours 19 minutes