Driving through Big Bend National Park, Texas.

9 Most Scenic Road Trips to Take in Texas

A road trip is fun, but a road trip in Texas is a bucket-list-worthy experience. From the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the historic sites of the Old West in Marfa, no two destinations in the Lone Star State are alike. It’s a place of diversity, intrigue, and always warm hospitality. Experience Texan hospitality for yourself on a scenic and memorable road trip through the state with one of these nine itineraries. 

El Paso to Big Bend National Park

Road in Big Bend national park in Texas
Road through Big Bend National Park.

Experience the true Old West of the United States on this epic road trip through Far West Texas. The route from El Paso to Big Bend National Park is approximately 292 miles and takes around 4.5 hours when driving straight through, but there are plenty of exciting stops along the way. The small town of Marfa is a hub for artists; it sits about 1.5 hours outside of Big Bend National Park and is worth spending a night or two exploring along this route. The Chinati Foundation is a must-visit attraction in this art town because it's an art museum founded by artist Donald Judd. The vast property of the museum houses various contemporary art exhibits, including Robert Irwin's "untitled (dawn to dusk)" installation.

For dinner, dining at Margaret’s provides a small-town experience on the quaint and visually stunning main street of Marfa. Plan for another stop in Marathon, where the historic Gage Hotel is located. Star gazing here in the Chihuahuan Desert is the perfect way to spend a night before continuing to the dramatic desert landscapes of Big Bend National Park to go hiking.

Austin to San Antonio

Aerial View over Austin Texas Interstate 35 busy traffic sunny day Capital City Cityscape Urban Skyline
Aerial view over Austin, Texas Interstate 35.

Austin to San Antonio is a much shorter, easier Texas road trip that connects two unique, vibrant cities. It’s a leisurely drive along the I-35, spanning approximately 80 miles. For most people, the drive takes only 1.5 hours, but the journey can (and should) take much longer when making the most of the drive. Along the drive, you'll get a glimpse of the beautiful natural scenery of Canyon Lake, but it's worthwhile to pull off the highway a few times to make stops in the small towns and unique diners just off the Interstate.

Stop in the towns of San Marcos and New Braunfels for swimming or floating in the rivers. In San Marcos, float in inner tubes down the San Marcos River (perfect during the summer heat) with a rental from Lions Club Tube Rental or Texas State Tubes. In New Braunfels, there is a meeting of two rivers, The Comal River and Guadalupe River to view, photograph, or float in.

Route 66 and the Texas Panhandle

Cadillac Ranch, located along I-40, is a public art sculpture of antique Cadillacs buried nose-down in a field.
Cadillac Ranch, located along I-40 (Route 66), is a public art sculpture of antique Cadillacs buried nose-down in a field. Image credit YuniqueB via Shutterstock

The Texas Panhandle refers to the 26 northernmost counties in the Lone Star State. The famous Route 66 spans a whopping 177 miles through the Texas Panhandle, from the border with Oklahoma all the way to New Mexico. Travelers can start in Texola in the far east or begin the venture west from any of the small towns along the route, such as Adrian, depending on which Texas city you fly into.

Along Route 66 in the Panhandle, must-visit towns to stop in are Shamrock, McLean, Groom, Conway, and Amarillo. The Texas Panhandle offers completely different scenery to admire from other areas of the state. Its vast, grassy plains are awe-inspiring, and travelers can also enjoy a visit to Palo Duro Canyon State Park on this route.

Dallas-Fort Worth to Waco

Aerial view downtown Waco from Washington Avenue Bridge cross Brazos River.
Downtown Waco from Washington Avenue Bridge crosses the Brazos River.

Dallas Fort Worth is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area, which encompasses 11 counties in Texas. This massive urban center is the perfect place to begin a scenic Texas road trip since so many international flights have direct routes to DFW. From the airport, pick up the rental car; start the day at the Dallas Art Museum, and end in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Spend a night in Fort Worth before continuing towards Waco the next day for the scenic drive portion of the road trip.

Stop en route at the town of Granbury, which sits on the banks of one of the largest rivers in the state, the Brazos River. Continue on for a tour of Dinosaur Valley State Park, in Glen Rose, which is an expansive area of natural beauty. The park spans 1,524 acres and is home to rolling hills, wide open spaces, and vibrant blue waterways (as well as dinosaur-themed attractions). Admire the tranquility of the waterways and park before continuing to Waco.

San Antonio to South Padre Island

Overlooking South Padre Island Beach in Texas
South Padre Island Beach in Texas.

The drive from San Antonio to South Padre Island is rewarding but long – fortunately, there is a lot of beautiful scenery to admire along the way. The drive takes a little over 4.5 hours and spans 298 miles, taking travelers from the vibrant city of San Antonio south toward the coast. While in San Antonio, take time to enjoy the River Walk and the historic Missions.

Besides the beautiful Texas countryside and palm trees dotting the landscape, travelers won't want to miss a stop in Kingsville to see the historic beauty along this route. The old town charm and historic buildings, like the King Ranch Museum, coupled with the scenery of Dick Kleberg Park, make Kingsville a photo-worthy destination on this route. Finally, arrive in South Padre Island, where you’ll find one of the most picturesque beaches in Texas.

Austin to Houston

Empty highway at Texas interstate 10
Interstate 10 highway in Texas.

Austin to Houston is a Texas road trip that connects two of the state’s most interesting, bustling cities. While they are both well known, they couldn’t be more different. Austin is a quirky city known for its art scene and live music. Houston has a more urban, industrial appeal, being the base of space exploration, museums, and cultural centers. The route is 165 miles and takes around 2.5 hours, but with stops along the way, it could take a day or more.

This scenic cross-country road trip passes many impressive state parks and natural attractions, making it visually interesting the entire way. McKinney Falls State Park and Mount Bonnell Park in Austin are some of the most scenic places to explore at the beginning of the route, close to Austin. Then, there are two route options to Houston, either Interstate 10 or Route 290. Driving Interstate 10 from Austin to Houston offers scenic views of Bastrop State Park, and McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Opting for Route 290 means seeing Somerville Lake. On the way into Houston, check out Buffalo Bayou Park and Bear Creek Pioneers Park.

Texas Hill Country

Road and trees in the Texas Hill Country
Road and trees in the Texas Hill Country.

For a peaceful, scenic road trip through Texas, the Texas Hill Country is the ideal choice. This part of the country is underrated and leaves behind the hustle and bustle of the big cities for rural retreats and wineries. There are many beautiful loops you can drive through the Texas Hill Country, but one of the most classic options is to start in Austin and take the US-290 W to Pedernales Falls State Park for hiking and waterfall views. The next day, continue to Fredericksburg (the city in the heart of the Texas Hill Country) via US-290 W through Lyndon B Johnson State Park and Historic Site.

Along this route, travelers will find some of the best wineries in the area. After a night at a picturesque Bed and Breakfast in Fredericksburg, take the US-87 south towards the quaint town of Boerne. Scenic attractions of the day include the Cascade Caverns and Cave Without a Name. Take a short, half-day trip to Guadalupe River State Park from Boerne for more beautiful nature in the Texas Hill Country. End the trip by driving from Boerne to the lovely town of Wimberley, passing by Canyon Lake. Finish up the loop by making your way back to Austin.

Galveston to Corpus Christi

Port Lavaca Texas lighthouse
Port Lavaca, Texas lighthouse.

The drive from Galveston to Corpus Christi is approximately 250 miles, which takes about 4 hours when driving straight through. The route provides a scenic tour of the Gulf Coast, with lots of charming beaches (like Matagorda Beach) and towns to stop at along the way. First, stop in the town of Jackson Lake for hiking on the Dow Wood Trails, offering beautiful forest scenery and tranquility. Drive past the lovely Brazoria Reservoir and enjoy a rest stop or a quick lunch in Brazoria.

The drive into Port Lavaca is gorgeous as you cross Lavaca Bay and approach Lighthouse Beach. Be sure to stop at Buc-ee's in Port Lavaca for the complete Texas road trip experience. Continue on to Rockport and Port Aransas, which are must-visits for swimming and beaches (Rockport Beach, Mustang Island State Park Beach, or Port Aransas Beach). Arrive in Corpus Christi and embrace the coastal views.

El Paso To Odessa via Fort Davis

Driving through Van Horn, Texas, Culberson County
Driving through Van Horn, Texas. Image credit magraphy via Shutterstock

The Far West of Texas isn't just about the artsy town of Marfa and Big Bend National Park. Another fantastic road trip route that begins in El Paso takes travelers on a long and winding road to two historic towns in this remote part of the Lone Star State. Start driving on the I-10 E from El Paso towards Van Horn (121 miles) and spend a night admiring the vast desert landscapes and Van Horn Mountains. Hotel El Capitan is a coveted spot to stay in town. Then, drive 89 miles via the I-10 E and TX 118-S towards historic Fort Davis. The most beautiful attractions along this route include the Davis Mountains Preserve, Dead Mans Canyon, and the views from the McDonald Observatory.

A road trip through Texas is the best way to get a sense of just how vast the Lone Star State is. The beauty of Texas doesn’t just lie in its vibrant urban centers or well-preserved national parks. The magic is in the wild, open, and untouched expanses of land that spread across the state, emphasizing just how much there is to discover.


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