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Adventurous Texas Road Trip | Ultimate Guide

Looking for all the most adventurous stops along a Texas Road Trip? We got you covered, as Jake and I spent a month traveling around to the best spots in Texas. In this guide, we go over many of the best hikes, scenic drives and where you can even find some beachfront camping! Follow this ultimate guide to visit all the most Adventurous Texas Road Trip stops. 

Do note that this is an adventurous road trip, so we don’t stop in any of the major cities. And we did this road trip over a month’s time span, so if you are planning a shorter road trip, pick some of the favorite stops and condense your trip to accommodate the time. Let’s dive into some of our favorite stops along an adventurous Texas Road Trip. 

We primarily camp when on these road trips, because we travel full-time in our campervan. Therefore, we will give recommendations on campsites or campgrounds that we stayed at or would suggest. But if you plan to travel in a car, we suggest using Kayak to find the best deals on hotels or Vrbo to find the best deals on homes to stay in along your road trip. 

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Map of the Adventurous Texas Road Trip

Here is a map of all the stops on Google Maps for the Adventurous Texas Road Trip | Ultimate Guide. 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Hunter Peak
Jake Standing On The Edge Of Hunter Peak

First stop on the Adventurous Texas Road Trip Ultimate Guide are the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This park is home to the tallest mountain peak in the whole state of Texas. If a goal of yours is to climb to the top of this mountain, you might quickly find yourself needing a rest day right away. But there are a few shorter hikes in the park that are also very stunning. 

Mckittrick Canyon Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Foliage Along McKittrick Canyon

While Jake and I visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park, we chose to do 3 different hikes over 2 days. We started the adventure climbing Hunter Peak which climbs 8,360 feet high. The hike is 7 miles with 3,067ft elevation change. But if you want to say you climbed the tallest peak in Texas, we suggest Guadalupe Peak which is 9 miles with 2,982 ft elevation change. Both are stunning, but a true challenge. 

Devil's Hall Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Walking in Devil’s Hall in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The next day, we hiked McKittrick Canyon to Pratts Cabin, which was 4.6 miles with 200 feet elevation change, and Devil’s Hall which was 3.6 miles with 577ft elevation change. Both of these hikes are relatively easy, and a great way to explore the park. 

If you have time, we suggest doing all three hikes, but if you have to choose because of time, Devil’s Hall was my favorite hike in the park. 

Camping Near Guadalupe Mountains National Park:

Pine Springs Campground is located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park near the main entrance. The cost is $15 per night. This is your easiest spot to camp if you plan to stay for more than one day. But it’s really more of a parking lot than a campground.

Big Bend National Park:

A girl (Emily) standing in the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park
Santa Elena Hike

Second stop on the Adventurous Texas Road Trip Ultimate Guide is Big Bend National Park. You can easily spend a whole week here and still having a burning desire to explore more. The park is huge, covering over 800,000 acres, so you can imagine there is TONS to do here.

But some of our favorite hikes while here were: Santa Elena Canyon, The Window Trail, South Rim and Ernst Tinaja. 

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in the park as the trail is right along the Rio Grande River and it encompasses you between the tall canyon walls. It’s a short hike, but the drive is very scenic as well. The hike is a 1.5 mile hike with 610 ft elevation change.

Jake and Emily standing in "the window" which is a split in a canyon with a view down to the valley floor

Another favorite hike of our on the road trip was Window Trail. This hike starts in Chisos Basin, and brings you down to a break in the rock walls to a view of the valley floor. The hike is 5.2 miles with 948 ft elevation change. If you aren’t up for the hike down to the window, you can do a short .3 mile hike to the viewpoint which also offers a great view. 

Last but certainly not least of our favorite hikes in Big Bend National Park is Ernst Tinaja. This hike is not that easy to get to, as it is miles down a long, bumpy dirt road. You will definitely want a high clearance vehicle if you make the trek.

But this canyon section has beautiful colored rock layers unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

But be sure to check out our post: The Complete Guide To Big Bend National Park to find what hikes and adventures are best for you. 

Camping Near Big Bend National Park:

There are three different established campgrounds in the park, all in different locations to make it more convenient depending on what part of the park you are exploring. But a unique option for Big Bend National Park is that they offer primitive permits for camping within the park. These designated primitive camp spots are perfect if you enjoy solitude and don’t need to rely on the amenities of a campground. And we honestly preferred the primitive campsites.

If you want to book a campsite at a campground, Cottonwood Campground is located on the West side of the park, Chisos Basin is located in the middle of the park and Rio Grande Village is located on the East side of the park.

And if you want to book a primitive site, use to find the best spot for you. Do note that some of the campsites require 4×4 and high clearance to get to. Use the NPS website to find the location of all the different primitive sites and the road conditions. 

Amistad Reservoir:

Armstad Reservoir in Texas
Armstad Reservoir in Texas

The Amistad Reservoir is on the Rio Grande River. And the reservoir divides Texas from Mexico. The Spanish name for the lake means “friendship” and is managed by both The U.S. & Mexico. This area isn’t known to have many issues with border crossings, but if you do notice anything suspicious, report it to the local police. 

Amistad Reservoir was a cool little spot we found on our way from Big Bend National Park to Padre Island National Seashore. We found a campsite on the lake, blew up our inflatable kayak and had a fun day just soaking up the sun. It’s also a nice halfway point between Big Bend National Park and Padre Island National Seashore. 

Camping Near Amistad Reservoir:

There are 5 different campgrounds around the shore: 

The cost ranges from $6-$10 per night.

Padre Island National Seashore or South Padre Island:

Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island National Seashore

One of the coolest stops on the Adventurous Texas Road Trip Ultimate Guide is Padre Island National Seashore or South Padre Island. They let you drive your vehicle right along the beach shoreline, and even camp right along the shore.

Jake and I travel in a campervan full-time, so being able to park our campervan just feet from the ocean was an unreal experience.

Texas has a long bit of shore that goes along the Gulf Of Mexico. If you want to travel to the most southern tip of Texas, we suggest checking out South Padre Island. But Jake and I didn’t feel we needed to make it all the way down to the tip, so we stopped near Corpus Christi at the Padre Island National Seashore.

Do Note: It can be super windy along the shore, which can ultimately make it less fun when hanging at the beach, or camping in tents.

Camping Near Padre Island:

Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island National Seashore

We camped in two different spots while visiting Padre Island National Seashore. The first stop was South Beach. You can access the shore via 2wd, but there is soft sand in the areas where people camp. (We got stuck the first night but we had our traction boards that quickly got us out.) 

Also, you will definitely want to keep an eye on the tide. At one point our van was only a couple feet from the wave break, which was a little scary.

There are certain areas along the shore where the water tends to come up higher, so we quickly moved to a new spot, and didn’t have any issue with water coming up nearly as high.

But I would be a little weary where you park with a 2wd vehicle, as we did notice a few other people getting stuck out there. But there are plenty of trucks and I’m sure people would be willing to help you if you do happen to get stuck. 

You can stay up to 14-days on this shoreline for free. Although you have to pay the park entrance fee and obtain a free camping permit from the entrance booth. As mentioned above, we highly suggest purchasing a National Parks Annual Pass for this trip and this will gain you access onto the National Seashore at no additional cost. 

And the other place we camped was Port Arkansas. You need to buy an annual beach pass (from town hall or local gas stations), and are limited to 3 consecutive nights (unlimited day use). But Port Arkansas is much easier to access than Padre Island because it’s right adjacent to town and the sand is packed down.

There are also porta-potties and trash bins right on the beach.  So camping on Port Arkansas is a little easier to access, but offers much less privacy.

Beach camping at Port Arkansas, TX.
Beach camping at Port Arkansas, TX.

Jacob’s Well:

Jacob's Well a great stop along an adventurous texas Road Trip
Jacob’s Well

This is definitely a unique stop on the Adventurous Texas Road Trip Ultimate Guide. Jacob’s well is a perennial karstic spring. The mouth of the well is 12 feet wide and visibly descends 30 feet. But the well continues downward at an angle through a series of silted chambers which eventually reaches 120 feet deep.

During the warmer months (spring-fall) swimming is allowed in the well via a permit system. Jake and I visited during winter, so swimming wasn’t allowed. But you are still allowed to hike to the well and enjoy the view. Plus it tends to be a little quieter in the winter so you can get a bit more solitude while exploring the area. The hike to the well is a short .9 miles. 

Camping Near Jacob’s Well:

There wasn’t much camping around this area, so we decided to stay at Walmart in our campervan. If you aren’t traveling in an RV or Campervan, I would suggest trying to find a good deal on Kayak for a hotel nearby or consider renting a house with Vrbo

Hamilton Pool Preserve:

Hamilton's Pool Preserve a great stop along an adventurous Texas road trip
Hamilton’s Pool Preserve

An absolute must-see stop on the Adventurous Texas Road Trip Ultimate Guide is Hamilton Pool Preserve. To be honest, I saw this place and basically planned our whole road trip around it.

I am a sucker for aqua blue water with some stunning nature surrounding it, and that is exactly what Hamilton Pool Preserve is.

This is another place where you can swim during the warmer months with a permit. But during the winter months (which is when we visited) swimming wasn’t allowed. 

A permit is required whether you want to swim or not. Reservations are $12 per vehicle and must be made online at Travis County Parks Website. Another fee of $8 per person is collected at the entrance booth. 

Camping Near Hamilton Pool Preserve:

There isn’t a campsite too close to Hamilton Pool Preserve, but about 40 minutes northeast, there is Pace Bend Park Campground on Lake Travis. The price is $15 per night for a primitive campsite and is on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Caprock Canyon State Park:

Caprock Canyon State Park
Caprock Canyon State Park

If you are looking for some Utah vibes out in Texas, Caprock Canyon State Park is your answer. We thought we were back in the desert of Utah/Arizona when visiting this area (which is one of our favorite landscapes).

There are some cool hikes back in this area that are worth the trip. And even if you don’t have time to hike, it’s definitely worth a scenic drive through the park. 

Watch out for wild bison. We had an encounter with a wild bison on our hike, luckily we let him have his space and he let us have ours, but it is something to be careful of when visiting the park. Definitely give them PLENTY of space (at least 25 yards/ 75ft) and DO NOT approach them. 

Our favorite hike in the park was Canyon Loop Trail. The hike was 5.8 miles with 820 feet elevation change.

We actually missed our first turn, so ended up making the hike a bit longer than expected, but it was gorgeous none-the-less. It brings you amongst the tall canyon walls, up to the ridge, and back down through a wash. There were a few stream crossings, which water depth varies from season to season.

If you have more time in the area, we suggest also checking out Caprock Canyon Rim Trail. But there are tons of other great hikes to choose from in the area. 

Camping Near Caprock Canyon State Park:

There are a few different campgrounds in Caprock Canyon State Park: Lake Theo, Honey Flat, Wild Horse, Little Red, and South Prong Campground. The price ranges from $12-$22. You can make a reservation on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Website

Palo Duro Canyon State Park:

Palo Duro State Park a great stop on an adventurous texas road trip
Palo Duro State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is another surprise landscape we encountered in Texas. It is very similar to Caprock Canyon, but even bigger and even more beautiful. This is another place you could easily spend a couple days exploring the different trails within the park. 

Our favorite hike in Palo Duro State Park was The Lighthouse which is a 5.7 miles with 492 feet elevation. The hike starts heading toward the red rock walls and meanders into a beautiful valley.

The hike is a wide, dirt path that is well-maintained and easy to follow. The path will eventually lead you to a picnic table where you ascend to The Lighthouse.

It is a rocky, dirt path, that has some loose gravel in spots, so be careful and watch your step. But it is quite a unique spot on top of the ridge and well worth the climb. 

Jake and I only had a day to check out Palo Duro State Park, but there are definitely tons more hikes in the area that you should check out if you have the time. 

Camping Near Palo Duro State Park:

There are a few different campgrounds in the area: Sagebrush, Hackberry, Fortress Cliff, Juniper, Cactus Camp, and Mesquite Campground. The price ranges from $12-$26 per night. You can reserve a campsite at Texas Parks & Wildlife Website

Takeaway | Adventurous Texas Road Trip Ultimate Guide:

Texas was definitely an adventure! There is plenty of natural wonder to explore. If you’ve followed along on any of our other road trip itineraries, we tend to find free camping. But Texas doesn’t have free public land like much of the rest of the western half of the United States.

So we suggest if you know when you are traveling to book a campground in advance or be sure to show up early for the first-come, first-serve sites. But ultimately Texas has some unique adventurous stops along the way and it is worth the trip if you are looking for something new and exciting in the southern part of the United States.

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