This epic Texas road trip itinerary covers all of the must-see stops, where to stay, the best time to visit and more!
Texas draws visitors every year for a vast number of reasons. Some go for the Country Music and nightlife, while others go to explore National and Natural Parks. Due to the size of Texas, there is more to explore than you could ever imagine! But a road trip is a great way to do it.
Table of Contents
Texas Road Trip Itinerary
San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas and the seventh largest city in America. It is full of colonial heritage and is great for history and nature buffs.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
This World Heritage Site has preserved four out of the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio, Texas.
- The Alamo: This was originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, as Spanish historical mission and fortress that was founded by missionaries in the 18th century. You can take many interactive tours, and see exhibits and reenactments of the Texas Revolution. The 4.2-acre site gives you a lot to explore.
- Mission Concepcion: This is not just a National Park and World Heritage Site, it is also a National Historic Landmark. Mission Concepcion is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. It is dawned with original fresco artwork and beautiful architecture.
- Mission San Jose: This is the largest out of the missions and is nearly fully restored to its original design. This site has Indian Quarters, workshops, a convent, granary and a church.
- Mission San Juan: The San Antonio Food Bank cultivates it crops from this location. There is a 300-year-old watering system to see and learn about as well as the Yanaguana Trail.
River Walk is a beautiful 15-mile-long city park 5 miles from downtown San Antonio. Home to the largest urban ecosystem in the nation, it is a relaxing stroll to take around the city.
You could spend the day shopping, sightseeing, and eating your way through the River Walk and never get bored. A few favorite stops include Brackenridge Park, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the Sunken Garden Theater.
Caverns at Natural Bridge
In 1960 a group of students and educators from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio came across two miles of cavern passage. The first half mile of this has been developed and is open for discovery tours, hidden passage tours, adventure tours and many others. You can explore these passages and caves and have a really unique experience that you will never forget.
Where to Stay in San Antonio:
Read more: Where To Eat In San Antonio, Texas
It is no secret that Austin has become an extremely popular travel destination over the past years. As it is the capital of Texas, there are things to do and see there for everyone. Austin is well known for its music scene, the Formula One’s Circuit of the Americas raceway and its many parks and lakes.
Austin can get extremely hot and humid, but that shouldn’t detour you from visiting especially when there are plenty of swimming holes to check out.
- Jacob’s Well: A perennial karstic spring for swimming, swimming is permitted with reservations only. Aside from swimming, there is plenty of hiking, bird-watching, geocaching, and picnicking.
- The Blue Hole: A lush park with a featured swimming area. There are plenty of trails to hike, a basketball court and even a rope swing into the water!
- Krause Springs: A 115-acre site that offers camping and swimming that features 32 different springs! There is also a man-made pool and a natural pool that flow directly into Lake Travis.
- Barton Springs Pool: Located in the Zilker Metropolitan Park showcases a swimming pool filled entirely with water from surrounding natural springs. The main Barton Spring is the fourth largest spring in Texas.
Sixth Street is probably the most famous street in all of Austin and tends to be noted as a must-stop when visiting here. Sixth Street offers a variety of entrainment, food and nightlife. There seems to be at least one event going on every day there!
Texas State Capitol
The Capitol offers guided and self-guided tours throughout the building. These are great to learn more historic information about The State Capitol. You will walk through beautiful halls with ornate architecture and beautiful grounds that span 22 acres.
Lady Bird Lake
Named after First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, this is a beautiful must stop to see. Though technically a lake, it definitely looks like a river. It runs straight through downtown Austin and offers hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, cruising, a charming boardwalk and even bat-watching!
Where to Stay in Austin:
Fort Worth was once an important trading post at the very end of the Chisholm trail. Fast forward to today, and now it is a really unique city to visit. Full of art, rodeos, and even the National Cowgirl Museum.
The Fort Worth Stockyards are famous for their boot-making companies and other western themed stores. If you’re looking to spend the day outside, stop by the Fort Worth Botanical Garden, the oldest major botanical garden in Texas.
Where to Stay in Fort Worth:
Waco Texas may be known for the Dr Pepper Museum but I recommend having a day at Cameron Park. A 416-acre park full of greenery, hiking trails, mountain biking, and horseback riding. And don’t forget the Waco National Monument! This National Monument is a paleontological site and museum full of fossils from mammoths and other mammals form the Pleistocene Epoch.
Where to Stay in Waco:
Hill Country will surround you with beautiful scenery and natural resources. There are always plenty of events happening so be sure to check the calendar and plan to stop by one of those! The great thing about Hill County is that even in the state of Texas, you will experience very low humidity and it will often be accompanied by a subtle breeze.
You will have no problem finding things to do in Hill Country. There is plentiful shopping and museums including the National Museum of the Pacific War. If you happen to be in the area in the springtime, stop by the spring wildflower display.
There is also no shortage of fine wine and cuisine as the region has been said to be the fifth-best wine region in the country! The area is also known for bringing in tons of locally-grown produce and farm-raised meats into their restaurant cuisine.
Fredericksburg Texas is known for being one of the most charming towns within the Lone Star State. It is centrally located within the state of Texas and has a lot of German influence and heritage. It holds numerous wineries, shopping options as well as having amazing museums and other cultural experiences.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Enchanted Rock is one of the most popular sites to visit near Fredericksburg. The most notable part of the park is the pink granite dome, the largest in the United States.
There are plenty of camping, picnic and hiking options as well as different exhibits and cave explorations to take part in. This is a stop that you will want to plan ahead for as reservations book up quickly as it is one of the most visited state parks in Texas.
Read more: 18 Best Weekend Getaways in Texas
Where to Stay in Hill Country:
This area of Texas is full of unique lodging options! A few of my favorites include…
13 Acres Wellness Retreat for glamping combined with wellness (yoga, meditation, etc.)
Walnut Canyon Cabins in Fredericksburg for a little more luxury
Vineyard Trail Cottages for an adults-only option
Marathon may be a desert town of only 400 people but it is the gateway to Big Bend National Park and many other interesting attractions. It is filled with many European inspired gardens, parks and art galleries. Definitely make a stop at Big Bend Pizza which is touted to have some of the best pizza in Texas — and they even offer tasty gluten free dough!
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park lives up to its nickname as, “Texas’ Gift to the Nation”. Like all national parks, it is unfathomably beautiful, has countless recreational opportunities, but it is also full of thousands of years of cultural history including many archeological sites dating backs as far as 10,000 years.
You can actually drive along parts of the Comanche Trail which is the same route the warriors traveled on for their raids into Mexico.
The park offers River Tours on the Rio Grande River where you can see dark lava and basalt formations, and you can even go horseback riding, or take a jeep tour off the beaten bath. There are endless amounts of adventures to be had here, make sure to give yourself enough time to do so!
Where to Stay in Marathon:
La loma del chivo – One of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed with the sweetest owners and staff.
Hotel Parker at Quarter Circle 7 (in nearby Alpine, TX)
If you’re craving beaches, your must-stop is Mustang Island. This small, 18-mile island on the Gulf Coast of Texas goes from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas.
With a plethora of water activities such as kayaking and swimming for you to enjoy. This beach is noted for wild horses and endangered sea turtles. If you are more of an adventurer, there is plenty of mountain biking available and Mustang Island is actually the Fishing Capital of Texas!
Where to Stay Near Mustang Island:
Guadalupe Mountain National Park
Home to the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest points in Texas, various ecosystems in one location and historic sites, this National Park has way more to offer than it may appear. The Park history alone is so much more than just the hiking trails such as Devil’s Hall and Guadalupe Peak.
The history of battles, pre- and post-civil war is incredibly powerful. The Natural history is just as interesting as well. The resources that come from this one sight is absolutely incredible. After all of this, there is still so much to learn about the wildlife. This is a great park to camp at to give yourself more time to learn and explore.
Where to Stay Near Guadalupe Mountain NP:
Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Van Horn, TX
The iconic Route 66 is located west of Amarillo Texas. Also known as The Mother Road and The Main Street of America, it is one of the best road trips across the USA.
Unfortunately, you can no longer drive most of the original roadway; however, there are many quirky roadside attractions to check out along the modern Route 66.
Cadillac Ranch was built by a group of artists from San Francisco that called themselves “The Ant Farm”. “The Ant Farm” partnered with billionaire Stanley March III to build a piece of public art to throw off the locals. What came from this was a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten half-buried Cadillacs were placed in line with their tails up.
Many people have come to see this and have defaced the cars with graffiti and artwork which The Ant Farm actually came to encourage. Cadillac Ranch has become a rite of passage and a ritual for travelers along Route 66. It is definitely a sight to see!
Fort Davis is a small desert town that many don’t visit because it is seeming out of the way; however, the Fort Davis National Historic Site allows its visitors to see twenty-four buildings and over 100 ruins from an Indian Wars frontier military post. You can learn about how the United States Army was able to open Texas up for settlement and learn all about the American “Buffalo Soldier”.
Where to Stay in Fort Davis:
If the Caverns at Natural Bridge interested you, there are a few other places that you must see! The Caverns of Sonora, a National Natural Landmark has stunning crystal formations and Cascade Caverns offers more limestone cavern formations.
The Best Time To Visit Texas
The best time to visit Texas — especially on a road trip — is during the months of April and September. This is when you’ll typically find mild weather and not too many tourists.
High season in Texas is October and March so if you want to avoid the crowds, it’s best to skip travel during these months. However, if you want to experience two of Austin’s biggest festivals –Austin City Limits and South By Southwest — you can plan your trip around these dates.
I road tripped through texas for a 4-weeks during the month of March and, while it was crowded in Austin, I found the weather to be ideal. The only downside was that some of the best swimming holes were not open yet.
Low season in Texas is during the months of May to August — when temperatures can reach 90°F (32°C) and above. January and February can be very unpredictable for weather, so if you visit during these months, plan accordingly.