Texas Byways : Historic, Scenic and Wildlife Trails

Texas byways follow game trails, Indian trade routes, the footsteps of Spanish priests and soldiers, and overland trails used by Texas settlers. There are trails that trace the development of the Texas culture and trails that lead to the remnants of our past. Texas regional trails, wildlife trails and historic highways are waiting for you to discover.

Texas, despite what people think, has mountains, swamps, canyons, gulleys, and woodlands. I’ve traveled throughout the United States, and there are some truly beautiful drives and scenery in every region.

If you want to get out of the house and connect with nature but don’t want to hike (or be near people), check out these stunning Texas scenic byways and drives.

Camino Real de los Tejas

The Camino Real de los Tejas was designated as a National Historic Trail in 2004. Many historical routes in Texas were named camino real (King’s Highway). These reales followed prehistoric Indian trade routes from Mexico to the Mississippi and became the path for Spanish exploration and colonization in Texas.

The official website of the Camino Real de los Tejas is newly published and has information on East Texas and Louisiana sites on the road. This site will expand as the communities along the trail lend their historical knowledge and factual interpretation to the Camino Real de los Tejas.

We drove to Arkansas in March 2006 and followed the Camino Real del los Tejas from San Marcos to Nacogdoches, Texas.
Our trip through history–on a trail laid down by Indian traders, traversed by Spanish friars, dotted with historical plaques, lined by cemeteries and crisscrossed by rivers and streams–was amazing.

Texas Heritage Trails

The rich legacy left by our forefathers will enfold as you travel the Texas Heritage Trails.  These large regional trails such as the Lakes Trail, the Independence Trail, the Brazos Trail and the Forest Trail represent the unique geographical areas in Texas.

History buffs will thrill while journeying the Forts Trail and to the many sites listed in Texas in the Civil War, among other specialty guides you may order free from the Texas Historical SocietyFor an overview of historical travel in Texas, please download Remember Texas (PDF).

Texas Forts Trail

Texas is dotted with Texas Republic era forts, private bastions erected by pioneer families, and several presidios from the Spanish colonial period. These fortifications defended Texas against incursions by the French, the Spanish, the Mexicans and the Indians.

Request a map of the Texas Forts Trail here.

After Texas joined the United States, the U.S. attempted to establish a line of forts from the Red River to El Paso. To journey from the mouth of the Rio Grande River, where Confederate blockade runners dodged the Union navy, to Fort Davis, home of the famous black Buffalo Soldiers, to the original location of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in Texas, you would have to crisscross miles and miles of Texas.

Luckily, Texas has the Texas Forts Trail. The Texas Forts Trail journeys to eight frontier forts built from 1848 to 1900 in west central Texas.

Download the PDF map of the Texas Forts Trail here.

Not all forts and presidios are on the official Texas Forts Trail. If you were to visit every fortification and every historic marker from the many wars in Texas, you would have to spend several years on the journey. Here is a list of other interesting fortifications in Texas.

Texas Forest Trail

The Texas Forest Trail winds through four national and five state forests, past myriad rivers and lakes, back into Caddoan Indian culture, past Dogwoods and Azaleas, on the Texas State Railroad and through the Texas oil boom.

Rich landscapes dotted by small towns, punctuated by historical structures, and crisscrossed by Indian trade routes make the Texas Forest Trail one of the most scenic drives in the Southwest United States. Starting in late February to March, the area comes alive with early spring colors.

If you cannot journey to Texas at this time, browse through Texas Handbook Online or view the sample itinerary at the See America website for a feel of the Piney Woods.

Texas Wildlife Trails

The Great Coastal Birding Trail has been developed to help birders find all of the wonderful avian resources along the Texas coast. There are now three maps of the Texas Coast featuring hundreds of distinct birding sites, the species found at each site, and the best time of the year to visit.  Below are links to use to order the birding trail maps.

Guadalupe Peak Texas Highpoint Trail

Guadalupe Peak Texas Highpoint Trail is an 8.4 mile out and back trail close to Salt Flat, Texas that offers the opportunity to see wildlife and is classed as difficult. The trail is open all year and offers a variety of activities.

Riverplace Nature Trail

Riverplace Nature Trail is a 5.5 mile out and back trail near West Lake Hills, Texas that features a waterfall. The trail is open all year and is popular for hiking, walking, running, and bird watching. This trail is also open to dogs, but they must be kept on a leash.

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