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What ecosystem doesn’t Texas have? The Rio Grande forms the southern border with Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley (known as the Valley), where palm trees, citrus and vegetables are grown in tropical heat. The Gulf of Mexico’s coastal climate and sugar-sand beaches typify the semi-arid southeast; verdant hills and meandering rivers make up central Hill Country. There are pine forests and swamps in the northeast, and wide, flat desert valleys alternate with mountain ranges (Guadalupe Peak, at 8749ft, is the highest) in the way-far west.

It’s said that the state has four seasons: heat, drought, hurricane and flood. July to September Texas can be hotter ’n nine kinds a hell: temperatures are least in the ’90s statewide. West Texas and Big Bend – 102°F average (39°C) – are best avoided, unless you stay in the mountains, where it’s 10 degrees cooler. Winter is mild in the south – Corpus Christi rarely gets below 40°F (4°C; though there was that freak Christmas Eve snowstorm back in 2004). Ice and snow are more common in the Panhandle Plains, the Dallas–Fort Worth area and up in the Guadalupe Mountains. By far the best time to visit statewide is spring (late February to April), when the humidity is low and wildflowers are in bloom.