If you’ve never driven through Texas—especially west on Interstate 10 from Austin to Marfa—you’re definitely missing out. Among the state’s many glories are more than a dozen national parks, monuments, recreation areas, memorials, preserves, and historic sites. We asked longtime National Parks Service employee Russ Whitlock, state coordinator for Texas National Parks, to walk us through some of the Lone Star State’s greatest (natural) hits.
Because it’s so expansive, Texas is not only the high plains and mesas you might envision. It truly contains multitudes: The eastern part of the state is all piney woods, which give way to the Hill Country and its live oaks, before finally becoming the sweeping steppes and grasslands Texas is best known for.
Appreciate the Biodiversity
Start in the east, in Beaumont’s national preserve Big Thicket, home to “well over 100,000 acres of protected land,” he says. “It’s one of the most biodiverse areas in the nation, even in the world.” Because of its size, Big Thicket is a patchwork of creeks, bayous, forests, and at least 40 full miles of trails. It’s “Appalachia meets Southern meets Western meets Central meets plants meets wildlife,” he laughs.