Classic Roads: Texas FM 170

Text: John Robinette • Photography: John Robinette

There are plenty of excellent roads in Texas. The Three Sisters in Hill Country, ocean-view routes by the coast, and rides along the Arkansas and Louisiana borders are all great. But the one that should always be in the same conversation is the farm-to-market road FM 170 from Presidio to Terlingua, known to locals as the River Road.

Presidio looks like you would think a Texas border town looks. It’s small, low, and dusty, with a yellow tint to everything, and you can find great Mexican food just about everywhere. However, Presidio’s claim to fame is that it is one of the oldest towns in America and has been a settlement for over 10,000 years, with the first recorded wagon train crossing into Texas in 1582.

Fill up your tank and head east on FM 170 to the small town of Redford. There is a snack shop on the side of the road in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town, but it doesn’t have regular hours, so don’t rely on it. Instead, treat it as a bonus if you’re lucky enough to find it open. Once you pass through Redford, the splendor of the River Road reveals itself.


FM 170 is called the River Road because it roughly follows the Rio Grande, the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It twists and turns up and down mountains, through valleys, and across the unforgiving scrubland of south Texas. At times, it passes so closely to the border you feel you could drop your kickstand and hop across. It’s almost impossible not to see beauty at every turn.