I’m a natural born Texan, and like any Texan will tell you, our state is pretty amazing. We’ve got everything from forests to deserts to mountains – but of course since Texas is so big, you have to drive quite a distance to see it all.
While most people would probably opt to fly from one end of the state to the other and arrive in a few hours, I think a much more scenic option is to attempt the drive from Houston to El Paso, or literally from East to West Texas.
It’s not the shortest of road trips, but it’s one that I’ve done several times (twice this year already) and is completely worth it to get to see all the character that Texas has to offer. If you’re considering getting to know the state of Texas like a true Texan, here are a few things to keep in mind for the trip:
And I’m not just talking about gas. Stopping every few hours as you make your way across the Lone Star State is essential to keeping yourself alert and focused. I like to stop at every major city/town, which if you’re going from Houston to El Paso means stopping at San Antonio, Junction, Fort Stockton and Van Horn. Usually a McDonald’s stop is perfect for me to grab a large, cold drink and stretch my legs for a few minutes. Of course my absolute favorite refuel stop is Buc-ees. This amazing convenience store is a must-stop for any Texas road trip, if only for the amazing bathrooms and the delicious Beaver nuggets (which are actually a form of corn pops, not chicken)! The most convenient location is about an hour before you get to San Antonio, in Luling.
Drive in the Morning
When I drove back to Houston from El Paso a couple of weeks ago, I managed to go a full 10 hours before needing someone else to take over. But that was because I mostly drove during the day with the sun setting behind me. Driving at night has its advantages because you avoid the sun completely, but the truth is that it’s pretty much a recipe for you to end up exhausted since your body will just be craving a bed! Instead, try to beat the sun by keeping it behind you for as long as possible. If you’re heading out from Houston, start driving well before sunrise so that by the time the sun ends up ahead of you, you’ll almost be at your destination.
Take Advantage of Rest Stops
I think rest stops are underrated by most people, but they make great stops during road trips. Rest stops are meant for exactly what they sound like – to take a break from all that driving. They’re perfect places to use the restroom, walk around for a bit, or just clear your head from seeing nothing but the road for hours. If you feel like you’re about to fall asleep at the wheel, please take advantage of them if only to nap for a few hours. Another thing I love about rest stops is that they make great photo ops. I’ve gotten some of my best travel photos at rest stops because they’re usually designed to tell the character of the land you’re passing through. If you want proof, these were all taken at rest stops:
Stop by the Small Towns
Though I’ve always lived in Texas, it’s a completely different thing to live in a large city than it is to live in one of Texas’ quaint small towns. I’m not exaggerating when I say many of them look straight out of Wild West movies, which makes them absolutely worth driving through. I also don’t know what it is about Texas, but we manage to have some of the most hilarious souvenirs. I guess nothing says Texas like huge welcome signs featuring snakes, cowboys, and other iconic Texas creatures. If you’ve got some extra spending money, do yourself a favor and stop to shop around for one of these unique souvenirs in one of Texas’ small towns. Everyone will know exactly where you’ve been when they see it.
I have a special place in my heart for El Paso since it’s my hometown, but the truth is that aside from Franklin Mountains State Park (which is beautiful and worth driving through), there really isn’t much to do in the city. The neat part about going to El Paso is that it’s the perfect jumping off point for other amazing sights such as White Sands and Ruidoso in New Mexico, and even Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico. I’ve visited all 3 of these sights recently during my trips to El Paso, and I am so glad that I did.
If you only have time to visit one, I recommend White Sands, which is only an hour from El Paso. It’s literally miles of surreal white sand dunes – there’s nothing else like it in the country. Ruidoso is an adorable mountain oasis to escape to if you don’t mind the extra 2.5 hours it takes to get there. And of course, there’s Juarez, which is nice because it’s right on the other side of El Paso. But keep in mind that stopping by Mexico will require a passport, and you will most likely get stuck in traffic on the bridge that crosses back into the U.S. (I also wouldn’t recommend staying there after dark, as it can get a bit sketchy).
Anyway, that’s all for my tips! Hope these help if you’re planning a road trip across our beautiful state. In the spirit of all things Texas, I’ll end this post with a few fun facts about the Lone Star State.
- El Paso is closer to California than it is to Dallas (seriously).
- We have 3 of the country’s most populated cities: Houston, Dallas & San Antonio.
- Texas is the most farmed state in the country.
- We have over 16 million cattle in Texas, and you can’t drive for too long without seeing some.
- Texas has been under 6 different nations (including the Texas Republic, aka why some Texans insist we’re actually a country).