After fifty years of traveling more than three million miles of Texas backroads, Bob Phillips, the host of Texas Country Reporter, has discovered many hidden gems. Here, he shares some of his favorite picks for both new and well-versed Lone Star State travelers.
Best Scenic Drive
Travel parallel to the Rio Grande surrounded by rugged desert landscapes on the River Road (FM 170), a scenic highway that cuts through the Big Bend backcountry. Phillips recommends hopping on the road in Lajitas and ending the trip in Presidio.
Best Roadside Park
Silver Falls Park makes for a great place for road trippers to stretch their legs. This spot near Crosbyton offers shaded picnic tables, historic stone facilities, and trails near its namesake waterfall.
Best Wildlife Experience
From November to January, head outside at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge during sunset or sunrise to watch sandhill cranes in flight.
Best Place to Spend the Night
In Captain Carl’s floating cabins, located near Corpus Christi, guests can fish off their front porch and spend the night over Texas Gulf Coast waters. The Phillipses’ favorite of Captain Carl’s three housing options is the bright teal “Landcut” cabin, located forty-seven miles from Marker 37 Marina.
Best Fireplace in the Winter
On cold days and nights in the park, Phillips enjoys huddling around the common-area fireplace at Sauceda Bunkhouse in Big Bend Ranch State Park, a former hunting lodge built in the 1960s, chatting with other travelers.
Best Place to Drink Coffee in the Morning
Phillips loves to caffeinate for the day while lounging in a rocking chair on the front porch of the Gage Hotel in Marathon, a laid-back yet luxurious hotel with scenic views of Big Bend.
Lala’s Cafe sells handmade corn tortillas, made-to-order Mexican dishes, and its famous serrano hot sauce. Founder Eduarda “Lala” Banda Rodriguez was born in Mexico in 1910 and moved to Mirando City twelve years later. She opened her first cafe in a small four-room house on Mirando City’s main drag in 1953 and relocated across the street in 1964 due to a growing demand for her delicacies. The cafe earned a Texas historical marker in 2012.
Best Dining Experience
In the ghost town of Terlingua lies Starlight Theatre Restaurant & Saloon, one of Phillips’s go-to picks for dinner and a show featuring musical performers.
Best Hardware Store
Z Bar Trading Co. in Sanderson sells an eclectic range of original home decorations, hunting supplies, and just about anything else a traveler may need.
El Paso High School, built in 1916 and designed by Henry Trost, features unique Greco-Roman architecture inspired by the Portico of Octavia in Rome. The National Register of Historic Places added the school to its list in 1980.