Surprised by the Adventure Down Highway 11
Some of the views along Highway 11 include the Prayer Tower in Pittsburg. It's made of Indiana limestone and featuring a chapel and 75-foot tower with four Paccard bells from France.
Photo by Linda Cortelyou
As families and individuals alike get working on their summer travel plans, one fun trek in the Upper East Side of Texas is Highway 11, connecting about 150 miles from Sherman to Linden and featuring a sprinkling of towns along the way to make the journey interesting.
Highway 11 was one of the original 26 state highways proposed in 1917. It was overlaid on top of the “Jefferson Highway.”
Sherman offers much of the big city life, hotels, and restaurants, but its Hot Summer Nights concert series attracts locals and visitors alike. Start slow here to ramp up for the long drive ahead.
Sherman is located in Grayson County, and if sightseeing stirs interest, check out the eight properties on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site.
Some might enjoy getting creative at Pickles & Pottery downtown. Visitors are provided clay or already-fired pieces such as cups, plates, and vases, and then they get to paint them -- a one-of-a-kind treasure or gift for someone special. There are a number of other arts-related shops in town as well.
Driving east along Highway 11 brings a visit to Whitewright about a half hour away. There is plenty to do there, and possibly another stop on the road trip is to visit the Chrystal Opry House, which offers great live classic country, bluegrass, and southern gospel music at Melody Ranch, in a wonderful family-friendly venue. The Whitewright Historical Museum and the Children’s Memorial Park are family-friendly destinations, too.
For the wine lovers, two wineries welcome visitors: Grayson Hills, on 38 hilly acres surrounded by native oak, pecan, and redbud trees; and Lenoir Sage Vineyards, where a stroll through the vineyards can precede a pleasing visit into the tasting room.
Don’t forget the Whitewright Nature Park either. Its walking trail passes by a pond with ducks, a large gazebo, and beautiful flower gardens.
Next, head on over to Commerce, named the “Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas” because of its location in the geographic center of an indigenous range of bois d’arc trees. Green thumb alert. The second largest bois d’arc tree in Texas — “Big Max” — recognized by the National Forests Famous and Historic Trees, calls Commerce home.
Also in the city limits, the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum provides playful and creative learning experiences for children.
Sulphur Springs shows up next along this route. Its thriving downtown area, hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and more contends for an overnight stay. When this area of Hopkins County was first settled, its abundant springs of sulphur water resulted in its name.
Hopkins County was once known as the Dairy Capital of Texas. The dairy industry used to be a major component of the local economy, and Southwest Dairy Museum welcomes visitors by paying tribute to that. The museum offers an interesting retelling of the history of the dairy industry.
Other attractions in the area include the Leo St. Clair Music Box Collection, which houses more than 150 unique music boxes, many one-of-a-kind and antique, and some owned by movie stars and soldiers.
If music boxes don’t spark an interest, try the Sinclair Collection of World War II memorabilia, including letters, photos, and other artifacts. Want more? Check out Lake Fork, Coleman Lake and Park, Imagination Mountain, Hopkins County Museum, and Heritage Park for plenty to do as a family or a solo traveler.
The small town of Pickton comes up along the Highway 11 trail and it’s worth the time to plan a visit to restaurant and pub, Fosters Place. Besides rave reviews for their food, they have excellent taste in music with talented singer-songwriters performing on a regular basis. They are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Up next is Winnsboro — voted “Best Town in the Upper East Side of Texas 2015.” Winnsboro attracts visitors all year-round, regardless of the weather. Spring offers glorious dogwoods in bloom. Summer brings world-class fishing, camping, and boating opportunities just north of town. Fall produces an explosion of color during Autumn Trails. Winter finds people in coffee shops and restaurants enjoying hot cocoa, coffee, and real face-to-face conversations with neighbors and visitors alike. Its downtown area offers year-round arts, dining, and entertainment.
Further on, Leesburg boasts the Bob Sandlin State Park just north of town where activities include picnicking, hiking, swimming, mountain biking, in-line skating, and fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie.
Pittsburg, the largest and the oldest town in Camp County, shows up next on the map. Although best known as the former home of the giant poultry producer Pilgrim’s, Pittsburg takes fishing seriously, too. Six major lakes known for bass fishing are within 18 miles of town.
What’s more, the Pittsburg Rodeo and the art and wine festival both happen this time of year. Also, the Official Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Center and Museum there consists of two award-winning museums, the Depot Museum and the Farmstead Museum. The Pittsburg Depot, obtained by the city from the Southern Pacific Railroad, now houses a fascinating array of antiques and artifacts. The Ezekiel Airship is a real crowd pleaser.
It’s worth a quick jaunt south of town to visit the award-winning Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards and Eford Orchards with delicious farm fresh produce.
Closer to Linden, Daingerfield welcomes travelers with the beautiful Daingerfield State Park, famed for its wildflower trails. Ernest Wallace, historian of the South Plains, the Comanche Indians, and the State of Texas, was born in Daingerfield. The historic downtown area has many references to its past Indian heritage, especially in its architecture, so keep an eye out for that information.
This slice of Morris County was settled by European-American planters and farmers in the 19th century. Cotton was most important then, and the area has continued to be mostly rural and agricultural.
End the epic journey by driving into Linden where Highway 11 makes its final stop. Notable people that call Linden their hometown include blues legend Aaron T-Bone Walker, and Don Henley, lead singer and drummer of the Eagles. The 2015 Don Henley album Cass County is named after this East Texas area.
If possible, plan your trip to see a show at the Music City Texas Theater in Linden. The performance venue brings talented musicians to its stage throughout the year. Past performers include Guy Clark, Cody Jinks, Stoney LaRue, Charlie Robison, Asleep at the Wheel, Richard Bowden, Robert Earl Keen, Travis Tritt, and Brandon Rhyder. Coming this summer are JD Souther, The Bellamy Brothers, and Hickory Hill.
A lot of history emerges on this route and many properties were added to the National Register of Historic Places over the years. The Cass County Courthouse itself holds the distinction of being the only existing antebellum courthouse in Texas, making it the oldest courthouse in continuous operation.