From the turquoise waves of the Pacific Ocean to the vast expanses of the Lone Star State, the California to Texas road trip is the perfect adventure if you are looking to explore historic cities, listen to some country and blues tunes and taste some of the most delicious barbecues in the nation.
The 1,930-mile road trip from California to Texas will take 29 hours to drive. On the way, you can visit Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Austin, Flagstaff, Gallup, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Grand Canyon National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.
You'll travel through unbearably beautiful landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico on this road trip from California to Texas. Read on to learn more about our recommended routes, top highlights, places to stay, and the best seasons to make this incredible journey.
How far is Texas from California, and how long will the road trip take?
The Northern Route from California to Texas starts from San Francisco and ends in Dallas. This route spans around 1,930 miles and covers 29 hours of driving time.
Alternatively, the Southern Route begins in San Diego and ends in Houston. You'll cover over 1,665 miles and 25 hours on the road.
Both journeys offer plenty of sights and experiences, and while they can be completed in a few days, we recommend allocating at least a week to the journey. This will give you plenty of time to enjoy all the amazing things this region offers.
Best road trip route from California to Texas
While both the Northern and Southern Routes from California to Texas provide a journey filled with beautiful and different landscapes and cities, they offer unique experiences and sights. The best route for you will also depend on where you start your journey from and where you'd like to visit in Texas.
The Northern Route from San Francisco to Dallas follows parts of the historic Route 66, and will allow you to explore iconic cities like Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and Amarillo.
You'll have the unique opportunity to drive on segments of the original Route 66, immersing yourself in the rich history of the 'Mother Road'. This route also gives you a chance to visit the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
However, be mindful of heavy traffic, particularly in Los Angeles, and plan your travel to avoid rush hours.
On the other hand, the Southern Route from San Diego to Houston takes you through the heart of Texas, entering the state near El Paso. This route is ideal if you want to experience the vast cultural and nightlife offerings of major cities like Phoenix, and Austin.
You will get to visit the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park on this route and will have the opportunity to make a detour to the otherworldly White Sands National Park and the majestic Big Bend National Park.
Similar to the Northern Route, traffic can be a concern, especially in Los Angeles and Austin, so timing your drive is important.
How to drive from California to Texas
The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between California and Texas. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.
Starting from sunny San Diego, take Interstate 5 (I-5) north through the famous beach towns of Southern California. Continue driving through Orange County to Los Angeles.
From this iconic city, take I-10 east to Palm Springs and pay a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. Then, continue on I-10 east past the Colorado River into Arizona.
Continue driving en route to beautiful Phoenix. Here, you can see the city's amazing museums and enjoy its wonderful food scene.
After Phoenix, head southwest to Tucson. Then, make your way past Coronado National Forest on the interstate to El Paso. Once you've gotten your fill of this amazing city, head back on the route through the south of Texas.
Keep driving through the charming countryside of Texas and soon you'll arrive in Austin. After your visit, continue east to Columbus. Here, merge onto I-10 and continue driving to Houston.
Starting from San Francisco, drive east across the bay to Oakland. From here, take I-5 south through the Central Valley of California.
Continue driving southeast; you will get the opportunity to make a detour to Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Forest before you reach Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the USA. From here, continue northeast to Barstow on I-15 and merge onto I-40.
Continue driving along the old Route 66 past Mojave National Preserve. Once you reach Williams, in Arizona, the route will take you to the iconic landscape of Grand Canyon National Park.
From here, head south to Flagstaff, where you can use as your base if you want to spend an extra day or two in Grand Canyon. Afterwards, drive through Petrified Forest National Park and enter New Mexico.
You will soon reach Albuquerque and have the option to make a detour to Santa Fe. After exploring this culturally rich city, head back on the interstate and drive east to Amarillo. Here, you can see the famous Cadillac Ranch.
Continue driving east through Texas Panhandle on US-287. Soon, you'll arrive at your destination in Dallas.
Best places to stop between California and Texas
There are so many amazing places along both routes to stop and enjoy the region. Below are our favorite stops along the way on a road trip from California to Texas so you can make the most out of this amazing journey.
Be dazzled by the stars in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, a dazzling Pacific Coast city, is an ideal overnight stop along both the Northern and Southern Routes. Approximately 380 miles into the Northern Route and 120 miles along the Southern Route, it offers the perfect place to explore this famous region.
Famed as the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is where the allure of Hollywood's film and TV industry meets the chic neighborhoods of Beverly Hills. Iconic landmarks like the Hollywood Sign and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Hollywood Sign, first built in 1923, became an icon symbolizing the entertainment industry's global influence. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Walk of Fame celebrates the stars of the entertainment world, with over 2,600 brass stars embedded in the sidewalks.
While in Los Angeles, we recommend staying at The London West Hollywood, an amazing option in Beverly Hills. This hotel is an oasis of relaxation, featuring a rooftop pool exclusive to guests, offering private sunbathing with panoramic views of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.
The rooms, designed by the award-winning David Collins Studio, exude contemporary luxury, ensuring a comfortable and stylish stay. Start each day with a complimentary breakfast served in elegant surroundings.
For those looking to explore nearby, the iconic Whiskey a Go Go nightspot on Sunset Boulevard is just a minute's walk away. Alternatively, a leisurely 25-minute walk will take you to the lush Beverly Hills Park.
A dive into the nation's history in Dallas
Dallas, a fast-paced city with a story to tell, is an excellent destination choice along the Northern Route. This Texan city not only played a pivotal role in American history, but also has a thriving art district and world-renowned museums.
Among the must-visit attractions is the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, offering an in-depth look at the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Another highlight is the Dallas Arts District, a vibrant hub of creativity featuring museums and performance venues.
For your stay in Dallas, The Kimpton - Pittman Hotel is hard to beat. Located in the historic Deep Ellum neighborhood, known for its rich blues music heritage, this hotel combines modern luxury with convenient access to the city's famous music scene.
You can enjoy the heated outdoor pool, complete with a poolside bar for relaxing with a cocktail on a daybed or in a cabana. The Elm & Good bar and restaurant offers a happy hour from 4pm to 6pm on weekdays, featuring cocktails and dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.
Just a minute's walk from the hotel, you can embark on the Deep Ellum Art Mural Tour, immersing yourself in the neighborhood's artistic spirit. A 20-minute walk will take you to the Dallas Museum of Art, a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces.
A luxurious stay in Houston
Houston, a sprawling metropolis in Texas, is the ideal destination along the Southern Route, offering plenty of attractions for every visitor. Whether it's exploring world-class museums, enjoying performances in the Theater District, or admiring the 19th-century architecture in the Historic District, Houston has something for everyone.
Key attractions include the NASA Space Center, where you can delve into the world of space exploration and experience the wonders of the universe. The Houston Museum of Natural Sciences is another must-visit, with its extensive collection and fascinating exhibits.
If you are looking for something unique to see in Houston, the Beer Can House is a quirky work of folk art, decorated with approximately 50,000 flattened beer cans.
For your stay in Houston, The Post Oak Hotel in Uptown Houston is the perfect choice. The hotel features a pristine pool area lined with palm trees, where you can relax on hired daybeds and cabanas while enjoying a cocktail.
We highly recommend treating yourself to one of the lavish treatments and facilities of the fabulous spa, including a steam room and sauna.
Dining at The Post Oak Hotel and its five restaurants is an experience in itself. From the Gatsby-like charm of the H-Bar to the colorful outdoor patio of Bloom & Bee, you'll have plenty to choose from in both formal and casual dining.
Nearby, the iconic Water Wall, a stunning 64-foot-tall sculptural fountain, is just a 30-minute walk or a 5-minute drive away. The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center offers a tranquil escape from the urban hustle and bustle, also located a 30-minute walk or a 5-minute drive from the hotel.
Things to see on a road trip from California to Texas
There's plenty to see along both routes on a road trip from California to Texas, no matter where you start and where your destination is. To help you plan your ultimate road trip, we've included our top highlights below.
- Oakland Zoo - Nestled in the Oakland Hills, the Oakland Zoo offers a diverse range of wildlife exhibits set in a natural environment, providing educational and conservation-focused experiences.
- Vaquero Beach at Pyramid Lake - Vaquero Beach is a popular destination at Pyramid Lake, offering recreational activities like swimming, boating, and fishing amidst picturesque surroundings.
- Universal Studios, Hollywood - Universal Studios in Hollywood is a world-renowned theme park and film studio offering behind-the-scenes tours and thrilling rides based on popular movies.
- Hollywood Walk of Fame - The iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles features over 2,600 brass stars embedded in the sidewalks, honoring celebrities from the entertainment industry.
- California Route 66 Museum - Located in Victorville, the California Route 66 Museum celebrates the history and cultural significance of this legendary highway with vintage memorabilia and exhibits.
- The Historic Seligman Sundries - In Seligman, Arizona, this historic spot offers a nostalgic glimpse into the classic Route 66 era, complete with souvenirs and retro charm.
- Grand Canyon National Park - The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is renowned for its immense size and its intricate and colorful landscape, offering breathtaking views and numerous hiking trails.
- Walnut Canyon National Monument - Near Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon National Monument showcases remarkable cliff dwellings and offers insights into the lives of the ancient Puebloan people.
- Standin' on the Corner Park - Located in Winslow, Arizona, this park is a tribute to the famous song "Take It Easy" by the Eagles and features a statue and a mural for a perfect photo opportunity.
- Jack Rabbit Trading Post - A classic Route 66 roadside attraction in Joseph City, Arizona, known for its quirky souvenir shop and the iconic "Here It Is" sign.
- Navajo Code Talker Museum - Situated in Gallup, New Mexico, this museum honors the Navajo Code Talkers, whose unique language helped win World War II, offering a rich historical perspective.
- Indian Pueblo Cultural Center - In Albuquerque, New Mexico, this center celebrates the culture, history, and art of the Pueblo Native Americans through exhibits, performances, and educational programs.
- Midpoint Cafe on Route 66 - Located in Adrian, Texas, the Midpoint Cafe is famously known as the halfway point of Route 66 and offers a nostalgic dining experience with its retro ambiance.
- Cadillac Ranch - An iconic public art installation near Amarillo, Texas, featuring ten graffiti-covered Cadillac cars half-buried nose-down in the ground.
- Grapevine Lake - Located near Dallas, Texas, Grapevine Lake is a popular spot for outdoor activities like fishing, boating, and hiking, with beautiful natural scenery.
- San Clemente State Beach - This picturesque beach in California is known for its rolling surf, sandy shores, and is a favorite spot for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.
- Cabazon Dinosaurs - A roadside attraction near Palm Springs, California, featuring giant dinosaur sculptures that are both whimsical and educational.
- Palm Springs Windmill Tours - An informative tour in Palm Springs, California, that provides an up-close look at the massive wind turbines and insights into renewable energy.
- Joshua Tree National Park - A unique national park in California, known for its fascinating desert landscape, distinctive Joshua trees, and a variety of hiking trails.
- El Dorado Hot Springs - A tranquil oasis in Tonopah, Arizona, offering natural hot spring pools for relaxation and rejuvenation in a rustic setting.
- The Japanese Friendship Garden - Located in Phoenix, Arizona, this serene garden symbolizes the friendship between Phoenix and its sister city, Himeji, Japan, featuring traditional Japanese landscaping.
- Phoenix Art Museum - The largest art museum in the southwestern United States, located in Phoenix, Arizona, showcasing a vast collection of art from around the world.
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park - Near Superior, Arizona, this park is Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden, featuring plants from the world's deserts and arid lands.
- Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture - An eco-friendly sculpture in Las Cruces, New Mexico, made entirely from recycled materials, depicting a giant roadrunner bird.
- El Paso Museum of Art - Located in El Paso, Texas, this museum boasts a significant collection of European, Mexican, and American art, along with temporary exhibits.
- Chamizal National Memorial - A cultural and historical park in El Paso, Texas, commemorating the peaceful settlement of the Chamizal dispute between the USA and Mexico.
- Historic Old Town, Fort Stockton - A charming historical area in Fort Stockton, Texas, where visitors can explore the rich history and heritage of the region.
- Ozona Museum - This museum in Ozona, Texas, showcases the local history and culture, featuring artifacts and exhibits that highlight the area's past.
- Fredericksburg Historic District - A picturesque district in Fredericksburg, Texas, known for its German heritage, quaint shops, and historic buildings.
- Zilker Metropolitan Park - An urban park in Austin, Texas, offering a wide range of outdoor activities, beautiful gardens, and scenic views of the city skyline.
- Lady Bird Lake - A reservoir on the Colorado River in Austin, Texas, popular for hiking, biking, and water activities, with stunning views of the Austin skyline.
Best time to go on a road trip from California to Texas
Embarking on a road trip from California to Texas offers plenty of amazing experiences no matter which season you travel.
In spring, you'll have mild temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas and Houston. This season is ideal for exploring the Northern Route, despite the potential for occasional rain showers in northern regions.
Spring events like the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival in April add a cultural touch to your trip. Similarly, the Southern Route in spring is delightful, with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April being a major highlight.
Summer brings hotter temperatures, typically between 85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in both Dallas and Houston. While driving the Northern Route, be mindful of the busy tourist season at the Grand Canyon National Park.
Summer events include the Flagstaff Folk Festival in June and the Route 66 Cruisin' Reunion on the Southern Route in September.
Fall offers a break from the heat, with cooler temperatures ranging from 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas and Houston. This season is perfect for attending the State Fair of Texas in Dallas between September and October, showcasing Texas's rich cultural heritage.
Winter, with temperatures in Dallas and Houston ranging from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, poses challenges for the Northern Route due to the risk of snow and ice. However, winter's cooler climate in Dallas and Houston makes for a comfortable stay.
Winter is a great time to experience the holiday festivities of the major cities and towns on both routes. You'll also get to see some of the region's famous mountains covered in snow caps.