Discover Austin Through Its Asphalt: The Top 7 Most Scenic Drives in Austin

After a few rounds of local live music, mouth-watering food, and a dose of the unique culture, are you ready to explore Austin from a new perspective? Hit the road, bask in the beauty, and feel the rhythm of the Lone Star State. Here, we’ve curated a selection of seven stunning scenic drives in Austin that unveil the hidden gems of this vibrant and varied city.

Venture Off the Beaten Path: The Heart of Austin

The Capital of Texas Highway

Start your Austin ride with the Capital of Texas Highway, circulating the city’s south-western quarter. Loop 360, its more common name, rolls out Texas’ breathtaking landscape like a dynamic film strip: – Explore the Oak Hill plateau at the southern end, where threads of creeks course through limestone-flecked beds amidst forests of oak and cedar. – The midsection around Bull Creek Valley reveals another facet of Austin’s beauty – rocky, steep slopes dressed in vibrantly verdant vegetation. Every turn guarantees a picturesque masterpiece with views including downtown Austin and, in the far west, the distant blue smear of Lake Austin. – Northward, the terrain gradually rolls down, spreading out over the gentle hills with Barton Creek passing beneath several bridges, including the famed Pennybacker Bridge. – Throughout the year, vibrant wildflowers appear to carpet the roadsides, particularly during spring when bluebonnets bloom en masse.

Mt. Bonnell Drive

Alight the Lake Austin Boulevard and traverse the calm, residential Covert Park area onto Mt. Bonnell Drive. Rising up to the highest point within city limits, Mount Bonnell manifests an unexpected oasis of tranquility and beauty secreted away amidst Austin’s hustle and bustle. – The 0.3-mile climb might be steep, but the reward is a panoramic view embracing downtown Austin, the University of Texas Tower, the Frost Bank building, Lake Austin’s glittering blue silver, and the iconic Pennybacker Bridge. – Look out for the 106 limestone steps nestled beneath a canopy of trees leading to the top – a picturesque spot for a photo with the entire city projecting a vibrant backdrop. – As the golden sun sets down, the city turns into a glittering theatre of lights – an unforgettable sight worthy of the climb.

Nature’s Panorama: The Best Scenic Drives on the Outskirts of Austin

The Devil’s Backbone

One of Texas’s most famous drives, the Devil’s Backbone, a 122-mile stretch nestled between Wimberley and Blanco, promises a Texas-style countryside show: – Hug the sinewy curves of this continually climbing and falling roadway, revealing a tableau of rugged ranchlands, the limestone cliffs of Blanco river valley, and the dramatically sweeping vistas of the Texas Hill Country. – Stop by the Devils Backbone Tavern – an iconic 1930s-era dance hall – for a gulp of history mixed with ghost tales, live music, cold beer, and a shared love for Texas arts. – Bask in the wilderness of the Blanco State Park or the Guadalupe River State Park – real treats for outdoorsy adventurers with hiking, camping, and river-based activities on offer.

Willow City Loop

A serene pathway through the heart of the Hill Country, the Willow City Loop presents stunning views and abundant wildlife: – Starting in Willow City, journey through tight curves and sudden changes in elevation revealing pockets of creeks, booming bluebonnets fields, and tranquil, often unseen, parts of the Hill Country. – Keep an eye out for the Clydesdale horses and longhorn cattle lazily grazing along the route. – Make the journey in spring and witness the fields transform into a blindingly vivid garden of wildflowers.

Adventure Awaits: Off-road Excursions around Austin

Ranch Road 1431

For thrill-seekers, the winding Ranch Road 1431, also known as the Texas Twister, is a joyride through dynamic terrain that tunnels through forests, soars over cliffs and plunges down into valleys: – Set your journey ‘twisting’ from Austin to Kingsland. Near Marble Falls, the views open to the beautiful Lake Marble Falls and its rocky shoreline. – Amid your thrill-laden drive, enjoy the serene beauty of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, abundant in varied birdlife and wildlife.

Farm to Market 2222

The short yet enchantingly exhilarating FM 2222 provides a rollercoaster ride of sharp drops, precipitous climbs, and hairpin turns: – Commence your journey from Austin, appreciating sky-touching tree canopies and limestone bluffs, followed by dramatic descends into serene valleys. – On your way, Lake Travis’ shimmering expanse unfolds itself – a perfect spot for a leisurely picnic or perhaps a cooling dip in the water.

Unearth Austin’s Hidden Gems

TX-130 Toll Road

For those who love speed, the TX-130 Toll Road offers a unique and rapid drive opportunity: – As the fastest public road globally, with speeds up to 85 miles per hour, the road itself becomes the thrill. – While the thrill entices speed enthusiasts, casual drivers can sit back and soak in the amalgamation of sights, from rural landscapes of calm fields to urban bustles from small towns dotting the road.

Texan roads, with their turns, inclines, valleys, canyons, and vistas, narrate Austin’s history, culture, and even secrets. As you venture through these scenic drives in Austin, be open to new experiences and be ready to fall in love with the Lone Star State over and over again.

Remember, the real joy of a road trip lies not just in the destination, but in the journey itself. Immerse yourself in nature, breathe in Texas, let the scenic drives in Austin tell you their stories, and create unforgettable memories. And most importantly, drive safe, follow the instructions, and be respectful of others on the road!

See you on the road!

Note: Road conditions and weather can quickly change. Make sure you check the latest conditions before setting out on your journey. Follow the speed limits, and share the road responsibly. Austin’s scenic drives are meant to be enjoyed safely.

Lauren Critzer

I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and after college, I moved to San Francisco to explore new opportunities and broaden my horizons. I fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and unique atmosphere, but eventually, I moved again, this time to Austin, Texas.

As much as I loved living in different parts of the country, having a baby boy brought me back to my hometown in Charlottesville, where I now live with my husband, our little one, and two furry friends. I enjoy going to wineries, taking my pups everywhere, and spending quality time with my family.

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