Journey through these stunning scenic drives of East Texas.
Who doesn’t love scenic views while taking a leisurely drive? Embark on these breathtaking journeys through the stunning scenic drives in East Texas. From Dallas, head east to escape to the open road of rolling terrain, scattered pinecones, picturesque lakes, and charming small towns.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful escape from the city, East Texas has something spectacular for everyone. Venture through the towering pine forests of the Piney Woods Scenic Byway and discover the enchanting beauty of nature in the fall, or cruise along the iconic Bluebonnet Trail and immerse yourself in a sea of vibrant wildflowers.
The Lone Star State is full of hidden gems. This one is in the Piney Woods Region of East Texas!
Planning Your Scenic Drives In East Texas
As you navigate the winding roads in East Texas, be prepared for awe-inspiring vistas, quaint roadside stops, and friendly wildlife crossing the roads. And while you’re driving along, consider stopping in towns to indulge in mouthwatering Southern cuisine at charming diners and cafes. Just my thought!
Always take a paper map, as you may incur low or no cell service. That happened to me once. I had to stop at a store and ask someone if I could borrow their phone. My phone service wouldn’t work.
So pack your bags, grab some snacks, hit the road to explore these different routes on your own time, and let the captivating beauty of East Texas lead you through the back roads.
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 1
Piney Woods Autumn Trail – Athens To Palestine, TX
From Dallas, start in Athens, TX, on Highway 19 to Palestine, TX, located in the Texas Forest Trail Region for an outstanding fall foliage trail. If you want to take the entire scenic route, plan for a 145-mile scenic drive and keep going through Palestine to the small towns of Poynor, LaRue, and New York on Hwy 175 back to Athens.
Time Frame: November
Things To Do In Athens, TX
Though Athens is in the Prairies & Lakes Region of Texas (not Piney Woods), with the beautiful East Texas Arboretum that’s just gorgeous in fall, it should be, if you ask me. If you’re in the area, consider a side trip to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center or Lake Athens – both popular destinations with locals and visitors.
Also, if you like wine, there is a lovely winery called Tara Vineyard & Winery down the road on Hwy 175 toward Cedar Creek Lake that offers excellent views and wine tastings. Also, there is a fireplace inside that you can sit by.
Things To Do In Palestine, TX
Davey Dogwood Park is not to be missed. You can hike through the woods and even enjoy a creek or two with small waterfalls. During the Dogwood Celebration, the park will have handmade fairy gardens all around it – made from scraps by locals. April/May is a great time to go to the park.
Another area of East Texas in Palestine is the Palestine Community Forest. I came across this in my research, and it, to me, sounds like a great place to wonder. It’s 700 acres of heavily wooded with loads of towering pines and two miles of trails by a lake with fish.
Directions: It’s located across from the Palestine Civic Center. Turn south on S. Armory for a short drive, and the forest entrance is on the right.
If time allows, visit Lake Palestine for some swimming.
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 2
Highway 84 (Palestine to Rusk)
Time Frame: March/April
You may want to check on this train ride (because it’s pretty spectacular) at Texas State Railroad. My mom and I took it a couple of years ago. We were a week early to see all the dogwood blooms fully sprout, but the train ride was beautiful. The train stopped at the Rusk Depot for an outdoor lunch, and she loved it (she was 83 then).
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 3
Piney Woods Scenic Byway
Start your drive at Mission Tejas State Park, then go east on Texas State Highway 21 to Nacogdoches. It’s a beautiful drive any time of year, especially in the fall.
Time Frame: March through October
While at the park, indulge in hiking the 8.5-mile trails through the tall pine trees, fish, and camp. Don’t miss the log cabin depicting Spanish settlers from the early 1800s.
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 4
Caddo Lake State Park
For the largest cypress tree forest in the world, head to Caddo Lake State Park for your scenic drive through the park and on the lake if that interests you. The cypress trees with Spanish moss draping from tree to tree will be a sight to see. Drive along FM 2791 near the park for scenic views of wetland, cypress trees, and plenty of wildlife.
Time Frame: Spring and Fall
From late spring through summer, the lotus flowers will bloom, and it’s absolutely gorgeous on Lake Caddo.
In autumn, the lake provides endless forests of cypress trees and vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow hue.
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 5
Texas has four national forests, and all four of them are in East Texas. Driving through each of these East Texas areas is a scenic drive in itself.
Sabine National Forest
Drive along Highway 87 through the Sabine National Forest to experience the beauty of thick forests and the Angelina River.
Angelina National Forest
Take SH 63 to Forest Road, located in Jasper, TX. While you’re there, experience some of the outdoor activities this national forest offers – camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, 4-wheeling, and canoeing.
Davy Crockett National Forest
Located in one of the oldest towns in Texas – Crockett, expect to see many streams, wildlife, and recreation areas for picnics and play in the park. If you’re traveling to all four national forests, this one would be my pick for stopping for the day – after all, Davy Crockett and his friends camped around here somewhere on their way to the Alamo!
Sam Houston National Forest
Take the back roads to this national forest, and you’ll start to see why many flock to Sam Houston National Forest for camping, hiking, and viewing this tree-lined forest. I was returning home from Conroe, and my GPS took me to the back roads towards the forest. I was in awe and didn’t even enter the park—it was amazing!
Find a forest at the US Forest Service.
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 6
Daingerfield State Park
Time Frame: Fall
I’ve read several times that Daingerfield State Park is the prettiest state park in fall in this part of Texas.
If camping, paddleboarding, fishing, and scenic views inspire you, this state park will be the one to excite the whole family, especially in the fall. Remember, no fishing license is required in Texas State Parks, so bring your pole!
The Best Scenic Drives In East Texas – Route 7
Texas Bluebonnet Trail – Ennis, TX
Time Frame: Early Spring
Okay, for your spring scenic drives, you’ll want to put the town of Ennis high on your list. This town has fields and fields of bluebonnets to, in, and around. Get all your Bluebonnet family photos in this town, plus there is a Buc-ees in town. Their Bluebonnet Festival is always in April and promises a great family time. I finally made it out there a couple of years ago, and I’m glad I did – the flowers were stunning. Do be careful, though, because most fields of bluebonnets are on private property, but the homeowners do allow you to stop and take photos.
Embrace the beauty of East Texas through its scenic drives.
Since you’re heading to East Texas and it’s the fall season (when this article was posted), you may be interested in our best places in East Texas for fall camping or the 12 best RV campgrounds in East Texas.