Texas is the second largest state in the U.S. and it is a fantastic place to visit. Whether you are visiting from outside the state or taking a weekend trip to explore outside your local area, there are so many exciting places to visit – too many to choose from!
One of the best ways to see as much as possible in the time you have is to plan a road trip. It’s a fun way to visit multiple places and fill your time with a variety of activities.
If you want to plan a Texas road trip but you don’t know where to start then you are in the right place(see also: 10 Amazing Places You Can’t Miss During Your Road Trip From San Diego To Phoenix Drive). We have put together this list of the top 12 road trips in Texas that you will definitely want to tick off your bucket list.
1. Scenic Hill Country Road Trip
Hill Country is one of the most scenic areas of Texas, with stunning views and plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. There are so many things to see and do – here are our top recommendations.
The small town of Dripping Springs is known as the gateway to Texas Hill Country and is definitely worth a visit. It is only a 25 minute drive from Austin and has been inhabited since 1853. It is home to the Hamilton Pool Reserve, a picturesque geological masterpiece with a 50 foot waterfall.
You will need to book online before you visit and dogs are not allowed. While you are in Dripping Springs you can also visit Texas Hill Country Olive Company, Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery, Bell Springs Winery & Brewery, and several other distilleries, breweries and wineries in the local area.
If wineries are your thing, then check out the Texas Wine Trail to see how many you can check off your list during your road trip.
Don’t forget to make a stop in Fredericksburg. It may be a small town but there is a lot to see and do. It is known for its boutique stores, museums, German food, live music and nightlife.
There are also plenty of ranches, farms and vineyards that you can visit while you are there. Nothing says Texas like a day of peach picking followed by an evening of dancing.
The village of Wimberley is a great place to visit if you are looking for a taste of the Texas (see also: The 28 Best Places To Visit In Texas (Including Some Great Vacation Spots))quiet life. It has a great range of restaurants and you can go outdoor swimming at Jacob’s Well. If you want a more exhilarating experience then head to Landa Falls in New Braunfels where you can go river-tubing.
You will need at least a week to really make the most of Texas Hill Country. There is so much to see and do that you could easily spend even longer exploring this beautiful area.
2. Big Bend National Park Hiking Road Trip
If you love hiking then you definitely need to visit Big Bend National Park. It has over 150 miles of hiking trails across desert and Mountains. The views are stunning, with geological features, rivers, hot springs, and plenty of wildlife to spot.
Keep an eye out for bobcats, black bears, turtles, snakes, lizards and over 450 different species of birds.
Big Bend National Park is quite far away from urban areas and major cities, so it is a destination in its own right rather than a stop along the way. If you are short on time then you can do the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in just one day.
It is 30 miles of road that takes you past the Sam Nail Ranch, Blue Creek Ranch Overlook, Sotol Vista (see also: The Best Things To Do In Chula Vista)Overlook, Mule Ears Viewpoint. Tuff Canyon and other points of interest in the park.
If you want to hike along the floor of the canyon then you can begin at the trailhead of Santa Elena Canyon. You could also drive along a section of the Comanche trail that connects Mexico to the United states.
To the West of the park you can enjoy views of the Rio Grande. There are various archaeological sites across the park that have been carefully preserved to show the 10,000 year history of human inhabitation in the area.
You can get a special permit before your trip which allows you to backpack overnight in the park. This is perfect if you want to do some stargazing. The lack of light pollution in the area makes the Big Bend park a perfect spot for appreciating the beauty of the night sky.
3. Austin To San Antonio Loop Road Trip
Austin and San Antonio are about 80 miles apart, which takes around 2 hours if the traffic is good. The route is quite scenic, with rolling hills and plenty of things to stop off and do along the way.
You could visit Dripping Springs to swim in the Hamilton Pool that we mentioned earlier, or go river tubing in New Braunfels. You could visit the city of San Marcos which is known for its excellent shopping, or sample some delicious Texas BBQ food in the charming city of Lockhart.
The Spring Lake Natural Area is also a great place to visit, with 251 acres of meadowland and woodland to explore across various trails.
Austin, the capital city of Texas, has a reputation for a buzzing nightlife with lots of live music. Make sure you check out East 6 th Street where you will find plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.
There are also some amazing food trucks dotted around the city. If you want to see a bit of wildlife in the city then head to South Congress Bridge to see the bats swooping.
San Antonio may not be the capital city of Texas but it is the oldest city in the state. One of the best attractions is the RiverWalk , where you will be able to shop, eat, and take in local art and culture. You should also make time to visit The Alamo, which is a site of major historical importance.
If you want to be able to explore both cities and stop off at a few places in between then you will need at least 5 days for this trip.
4. Houston & The Gulf Coast Road Trip
Houston is well known for being the home of the Apollo Mission Control Center. You should definitely make time to visit the Space Center and check out the fascinating exhibits.
Houston is the most populous city in Texas with a unique atmosphere. You can visit museums, go shopping, see a show at the outdoor theater, or enjoy a meal out at one of the many restaurants.
The next stop on the road trip is Galveston, a coastal city with old-school Southern charm. You can spend a day relaxing on the beach, or head to the Schlitterbahn Water Park.
With boat rides, museums, a pleasure pier, watersports, horse riding, go-karts, rollercoasters and an aquarium you will find it easy to fill your time.
If you’re looking for something a little quieter then go to Aransa National Wildlife refuge, home to bats, bears, turtles, manatees and many more interesting species. Rockport beach is also a calmer spot to visit than Galveston, and is very pedestrian friendly.
Corpus Christi is another great stop on the Gulf Coast. It has beaches, boat tours, botanical gardens, museums, an aquarium and a waterpark.
You could also check out Port Isabel to see the second smallest state park in Texas and a historical lighthouse, or go to Padre Island which is the longest barrier island in the world.
5. Mineral Wells To Marble Falls Road Trip
The route from Mineral Wells to Marble falls runs parallel to the route from Dallas to Austin, but is less traveled. It is only a two hour drive along Highway 281, but you will want to give yourself time to stop off along the way.
Swing by Hico, a small town with less than 1500 residents but plenty of Hill Country charm. You can also check out Hancock Springs Park with a sculpture garden to explore, mineral springs that you can swim in (one of them being the oldest swimming pool in the state of Texas), nearby wineries, and plenty of restaurants in the town of Lampasas nearby.
Mineral Wells is known for its healing mineral waters, so be sure to check out the bath house. You can take a picnic by the lake, or take part in some fun water sports. There are also lots of great spots for hiking, hunting, biking, rock climbing and many more outdoor activities.
You could walk around the botanical gardens, or take a trip to the fossil park. If you want an indoor attraction then go to the museum, or visit the abandoned Baker Hotel which is rumored to be haunted.
Marble Falls is a pedestrian friendly town with plenty to see and do.
You can explore the natural springs and limestone caverns, have a go at watersports or take on some of the local hiking trails and rock climbing, have an off-roading adventure in the Hill country followed by an evening of star gazing at the observatory, or visit the local wineries and breweries.
6. Route 66 & Amarillo Road Trip
Texas has quite a short section of Route 66 – you can drive along it in just 3 hours. But you can make more of it by stopping off and enjoying the sites.
The biggest stop on the list is Amarillo, where you can catch a baseball game in Hodgetown stadium, a state of the art venue.
You can take on a steak challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch or enjoy a hamburger at Coyote Bluff cafe, or head to the Starlight Ranch for some mini golf and live music.
If you want a bit of history, visit the Oliver Saddle Shop, a well known 100 year old institution. You can also go to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
Just outside of Amarillo you can explore Palo Duro Canyon National Park where you go horse-riding, hiking, biking, or just take in the breathtaking views. You can also visit Cadillac Ranch and use spray paint to add some of your own art to the installations of cadillacs.
If you’re a fan of Buddy Holly then you make time to visit Lubbock, his birth place. Check out the Buddy Holly Center to learn more about his life and see his statue.
7. Fort Worth & Dallas Road Trip
You can also visit the zoo, the botanical gardens, and go to Sundance square for shopping and restaurants. If you want to feel exhilarated then go to the Texas Motor Speedway.
From Forth Worth, it’s only about 35 minutes to Dallas. One of the best ways to explore Dallas is doing the Dallas Loop which takes you around some of the lesser known sites of the city and the surrounding area including Cedar Mountain Nature Reserve, Garland, Carrollton, and Grand Prairie, with plenty of nature and historical architecture.
You can also do the usual tourist things in Dallas like the Reunion Geo-Deck tower, the George W Bush Presidential Center, The Dallas Museum Of Art, The African American Museum, and the House Of Blues.
You can explore Dallas and Fort Worth in one weekend if you plan your time carefully, but if you want to have a look around some of the surrounding areas then it’s best to set about 5 days aside for the road trip.
8. El Paso Hiking Road Trip
An Old El Paso Hiking Trip is the perfect way (see also: Plan Your Perfect Caribbean Trip To The Exumas The Right Way)to experience Cowboy Country Texas. El Paso has stunning scenery of low hills and deserts right up to the Mexico border. The area has plenty of hiking trails in the national parks.
There is a 281 mile loop that you can drive over a weekend, but you can also make the trip last longer if you have more time. Guadalupe National Park is a great place to explore if you want to spot local wildlife and take in the views.
El Paso gets an average of over 300 days of sunshine a year, which is why it is nicknamed the sunshine city. It has a rich history, with Spanish inhabitants as early as the 1600s. Check out the Mission Trail if you want to see the historic buildings.
Scenic Drive Overlook takes you over Franklin Mountains, giving you panoramic views of El Pason in Texas and Juarez in Mexico. You can also visit Keystone Heritage Park to see the botanical gardens, the wetlands, and the archaeological site that dates back 4500 years.
If you are interested in archaeology, you need to make time to visit the El Paso Museum Of Archaeology.
9 – Piney Woods & East Texas Road Trip
East Texas is a haven of forest and tranquil lakes. It is perfect for a weekend getaway if you want some peace and quiet and to get back to nature.
Daingerfield National State Park is a good option, especially if you live fishing, kayaking, camping, or just relaxing by the lake and taking in the views.
The Piney Woods region has plenty of wineries to visit, with its own wine trail to rival that of Hill County. You can also visit the pre-civil war town of Jefferson where you can take a historic walking tour to explore the sites.
From there it’s a short drive to Caddo Lake State Park where you can paddle under cypress trees, fish over 70 species of fish, or take a guided tour with a park ranger. You can even stay on the park grounds in one of the historic cabins.
Another great spot is the Davy Crockett National Forest which is over 160,000 acres in size. You should also swing by the town of Palestine or Longview to sample some East Texas BBQ food.
If you have a few weeks spare, you can combine this road trip with the Houstin and Gulf Coast Road Trip, heading down to Houston after exploring Piney Woods.
10. Dance Hall & BBQ Road Trip
Is there anything more Southern than indulging in BBQ food and dancing the night away? This isn’t a particularly scenic road trip, but it sure is fun!
Some of the best BBQ food in Austin is served at Franklin BBQ, but be prepared to wait in line! After you’ve ‘filled your boots’ you can get your dancing shoes on at Broken Spoke, where legends like Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton have performed.
If you want some of the Best BBQ food in Texas then you need to go to Lockhart, the BBQ capital of Texas (yes, it’s official). There are a lot of choices, from Black’s BBQ that has been around since 1932, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.
From there you can head to Gruene Hall in New Braunfels for an evening of dancing in the oldest dance hall in Texas, open since 1878.
11. Waco To Longview Road Trip
You can drive from Waco to Longview along Highway 31 which is incredibly scenic with plenty of interesting places to stop off along the way.
In the city of Waco there are so many things that you can do – museums, art centers, a distillery, a zoo and a bear habitat. If you’re looking for exhilaration, head to Hawaiian Falls Waterpark, or for a slice of nature check out Lake Waco Wetlands.
Just 20 minutes outside of Waco is BSR Cable Park, an incredible water park with epic slides and rides.
Next up is a stop off at Corsicana, home of the Collin Street Bakery which has been famous for its fruit cakes since 1896. You can shop, eat, visit museums and vineyards, and much more.
You could also check out the city of Tyler which is well known for its municipal rose garden. It also has a stunning state park and plenty of places to watch live music. This is a lovely area for hiking, especially if you prefer trails that aren’t too challenging.
When you reach Longview, there are so many things to do. Jump around at the trampoline park, solve puzzles at the escape room, try your hand at ax-throwing, visit one of the zoos, safari parks or animal centers, choose a museum or an art center, or take a walk around one of the picturesque parks.
12. Georgetown To San Antonio Road Trip
This route isn’t the most scenic on the list, but there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy this fun road trip.
Starting in Georgetown, you can soak up plenty of culture. Visit the art galleries, wineries, breweries, the museum, and take in a show at the Palace Theatre.
Once you have explored the delights that Georgetown has to offer, head over to Blue Hole Lagoon, a scenic park with beautiful swimming spots that is suitable for the whole family.
Another 31 miles down the road is Barton Springs Pool which is fed by natural spring water that stays cool all year round- perfect for a refreshing dip after a warm drive.
Next up, you can check out San Marcos Springs and the San Marcos River. Rio Vista Park is also in that area which is a great spot for paddle-boarding and tubing.
The next spot on the trip is Comal Springs, the largest freshwater springs in Texas, located at New Braunfels. Finally, you can end your trip at the historical swimming hole of San Pedro Springs.
Finally, you end your trip at San Antonio where you can explore the sights of the city.
You need to decide what accommodation you want to stay in for your road trip. There are lots of options to choose from depending on the style of trip you are planning.
A motor home could be a great option for your road trip. If you don’t have one of your own, have a look at this website to find an RV rental. If you plan on using a motor home, make sure you familiarize yourself with how everything works before you set off.
You will also need to plan where you will park and sleep, and check which parks allow motorhomes.
Staying in cabins can be a really comfortable and affordable way to explore Texas. They are cabins that are suitable for a range of prices so this is a great option whatever your budget. You can use this website to look for cabins in the area you are visiting.
If you are visiting popular areas then there will be a range of hotels to choose from. Make sure you compare hotel deals online to get the best deal. You can use this website to see what hotels are available.
Tips For Your Texas Road Trip
Before you head out on your road trip, make sure that you keep these useful tips and tricks in mind.
Plan Your Trip Carefully
Texas is a very large state, the second largest in the United states, and you need to take that into consideration when you are planning your trip.
Think about how long you will be spending in the car to get to your destination and give yourself plenty of stop-offs to break up the journey. You will also need to make sure that you give yourself enough time to explore each place you visit so you don’t feel rushed.
Do Your Research
To make the most out of your time in each place, you need to do some research before you get there. Look into the places you might want to eat and see if you need to book, and check what attractions need to be pre-booked or require tickets.
To balance this out, give yourself some time on your trip to explore and be spontaneous.
Don’t Try To Do Too Much
If you fill your trip with too many destinations or activities then you will feel stressed and you won’t be able to enjoy yourself. It also might be impractical. Remember, if you don’t get a chance to do everything you want then you can come back for a second visit.
Visit The Institutions
If you are visiting from out of state, make sure you check out the iconic Texas institutions like Buc-ee’s and Rudy’s. You should also make sure that you try the famous foods of Texas – BBQ food, Chilli, Pecan Pie, Peach Cobbler, Chicken Fried Steak, and much more.
Driving In Texas
Driving in Texas might be different to what you are used to. The speed limits are high and people like to drive fast – there is a lot of road to cover!
You will also need to re-fuel whenever you can, there might be some big gaps between gas stations and you don’t want to get stuck on a long Highway. This is especially important if you are exploring rural areas.
Don’t Always Take The Shortest Route
If you aren’t in a rush, try taking some of the back roads rather than the most direct route. This will let you see some of the smaller towns and find some unexpected hidden gems along the way. This is ideal if you have some time to spare on your trip and you want to be spontaneous.
There are lots of options for exciting road trips in Texas. Whether you want to soak in the culture, learn about the history, or explore the natural landscape, there is something for everyone.
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