I am a road-trip junkie. Because I have spent so many years traveling around the planet on I-have-lost-track-of-how-many-hundreds-of-flights, there is nothing I enjoy more when I am home than windshield time in my pick-up.
Since establishing our base camp on our little off-grid place in Big Bend, I am taking advantage of every opportunity to explore this amazing part of the Lone Star State. For reasons I can’t explain, I am drawn to the vast Chihuahuan Desert that spans the Trans-Pecos.
The small town of Lajitas is not far from our cabin. The name Lajitas is Spanish for “little flat rocks” and refers to the Boquillas limestone of the area. Located along FM 170 on the western edge of Big Bend National Park, Lajitas has a goat for a mayor and a world-class golf resort and spa that attracts visitors from around the world.
The stretch of highway along FM 170 between Lajitas and Presidio is known as El Camino del Rio, or the River Road. National Geographic Traveler rates this spectacular road as one of the top ten scenic routes in the Unites States. This drive should be a bucket list item for any road-trip junkie.
El Camino del Rio follows the curves and turns of the Rio Grande River through Big Bend Ranch State Park from Lajitas all the way to Presidio, a name that originates from the Spanish word for fortress. The highway plunges over mountains into steep canyons and then up again like a desert roller coaster. Drive slowly and savor the views.
There are several scenic overlooks with views that will take your breath away. The magnificent vistas will allow even an amateur photographer to take amazing shots and look like a pro. The geography is about as iconically cowboy as it gets in Texas and the place names hail back to the days when Spanish explorers came through the region.
Whether you start your journey in Lajitas or Presidio, don’t be in a hurry. Take the time to stop to take in the views and to snap a few pics. Be sure to take water and snacks. And remember that there is no cell-signal on this 51-mile stretch of road.
I hope that you will add El Camino del Rio to your adventure list. You will be glad you did. Enjoy your drive and be safe.