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.
Points of Interest
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Don’t go too far from Presidio without a quick stop at Fort Leaton. In the 1800s, the fort provided both goods for travelers and protection from outlaws. Today, it’s a part of Big Bend Ranch State Park (not the same as Big Bend National Park). The site also has a small museum, well worth a 45-minute stop. Find it at FM 170 E, Presidio, TX.
About 50 miles from Presidio is Lajitas, a golf resort town at the edge of Big Bend Ranch State Park. It boasts an airport to bring in resort guests on private jets, along with a beer-drinking goat as its mayor. Just past Lajitas is Terlingua, an artist community famous for its annual chili contest. Find it at 21701 FM 170, Lajitas, TX, (877) 525-4827.
After riding through Terlingua and reaching the end of FM 170, you can choose to head either to Alpine to the left or through Big Bend National Park into Marathon to the right. Choose the right. At $ 20 for a motorcycle, it may be the most expensive toll road you take, but it’s worth it. Big Bend offers vast desert vistas along everything from quality pavement to primitive washboard.