El Paso, Texas, USA downtown city skyline at dusk with Juarez, Mexico in the distance.
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Road Trip from San Antonio to El Paso

Published by Dianne Titos on April 11 2023

Are you looking for a road trip across the second-largest state of the US, past stunning landscapes of deserts, canyons, grasslands and mountain peaks, and through interesting artsy towns and vibrant, historic cities? Then the road trip from San Antonio to El Paso is for you.

The 740-mile road trip from San Antonio to El Paso will take 13 hours to drive nonstop. You can drive via Del Rio, Big Bend National Park, Marathon and Marfa, or via Fredericksburg, San Angelo, Big Spring, Midland-Odessa and Carlsbad Caverns.

This road trip allows you to immerse yourself in the colorful culture of Texas with Tex-Mex culinary delights, rich history and is also full of natural wonders of iconic Texas landscapes such as the Chihuahuan Desert and the wider Big Bend region. Read on to find out more.

How far is El Paso from San Antonio, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between San Antonio and El Paso
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Carlsbad Caverns Route680 miles11 hours 30 minutes
Big Bend National Park Route740 miles12 hours 30 minutes

The road trip from San Antonio to El Paso is 738 miles long and takes 12 hours and 30 minutes to drive non-stop when traveling along the Big Bend National Park Route.

Alternatively, the Carlsbad Caverns Route is shorter at 680 miles long and takes 11 hours and 30 minutes to drive nonstop.

Seeing that the road trip includes several fascinating small, artsy towns and bigger cities with wonderful cultural attractions, as well as incredible natural wonders to explore, we recommend you take at least 3-4 days for this road trip, to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park, USA, showing evening sunrays.
Stunning Santa Elena Canyon can be found at the popular Big Bend National Park.
Paul Leong/Shutterstock.com

Best road trip route from San Antonio to El Paso

Both of our suggested routes are fantastic options that will take you past breathtaking landscapes of rugged beauty, and several interesting towns and cities with a rich history. Your choice of route then depends on which particular sites and landmarks you would like to see.

The Big Bend National Park Route takes you close to the Mexican border and offers chances to visit several towns with a rich arts scene, such as Del Rio, Marathon and Marfa.

You can also explore the stunning canyons, desert landscapes and rich wildlife of the Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Alternatively, the Carlsbad Caverns Route takes you along a more northerly route past the historic cities of San Angelo and Big Bend, and the oil-producing region of Midland-Odessa.

You'll get to visit several incredible natural areas, from the pink granite monolith of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, to the mesmerizingly beautiful Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and the captivating Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Big Bend National Park Route

First, drive west from San Antonio along US-90. You'll drive past the fascinating towns of Uvalde and Del Rio, and can stop off at the beautiful Amistad National Recreation Area.

From Marathon, you can take US-385 south to visit the magnificent Big Bend National Park, by the river Rio Grande. Afterwards, return back to Marathon the same way and carry on further west along US-90.

After Marfa, you'll soon reach Interstate 10 (I-10), a major east-to-west highway in the US. This road will lead you the rest of the way into El Paso.

Carlsbad Caverns Route

Exit San Antonio along I-10 direction northwest. You'll first head towards Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where you can admire stunning pink granite outcrops. From there, follow Texas State Highway 16 and TX-71 to Brody.

From Brody, you'll drive along US-87 past the city of San Angelo to Big Spring, with rich Native American and pioneer history.

After Big Spring, TX-176 takes you further west, to Carlsbad and Carlsbad Caverns Natural Entrance. You can visit these stunning underground caves and afterwards admire mountain landscapes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Then, follow US-62 to El Paso.

El Capitan, under storm clouds, in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas, USA with a stream in the foreground.
A real highlight of this route is the hike to see El Capitan in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Best places to stop between San Antonio and El Paso

This road trip is filled with stunning outdoor recreation areas, national parks with rugged desert beauty and mountain landscapes, and fascinating towns and cities.

Carry on reading to discover our recommendations for the best places to stay overnight during this road trip.

Visit Alpine and explore the Big Bend area

Alpine is located about two-thirds of the way along the Big Bend National Park Route. It is a friendly small city, nestled amongst the scenic hills of western Texas. Alpine is a great base for exploring the Big Bend area, and the city itself has interesting attractions to offer.

A Small Herd of Pronghorns, west of Alpine, Texas, USA.
You might even get to spot a Small Herd of Pronghorns when visiting Alpine.
Charles Lemar Brown/Shutterstock.com

While in Alpine, we recommend visiting the Museum of the Big Bend. It showcases fascinating objects related to Native American tribes of the area, the mining era and Big Bend National Park.

If you have extra time, explore the Turner Range and Animal Science Center, close to Sul Ross State University. It hosts rodeos and horse shows throughout the year.

In addition, two fabulous nature areas are within reach of Alpine: Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, both of which contain breathtaking desert, canyon, forest and river landscapes.

A great place for an overnight stay in Alpine is Holiday Inn Express and Suites Alpine, an IHG Hotel. This modern hotel offers tastefully decorated rooms. Once you have checked in, head to the hotel's indoor swimming pool and hot tub to unwind after a long drive.

Holiday Inn Express and Suites Alpine is conveniently located right on the route of your road trip. Furthermore, the hotel is close to Alpine city center. This makes it a great location for exploring both Alpine and the surrounding larger Big Bend area, including Big Bend National Park.

Explore an ancient Comanche trading route in Big Spring

Big Spring is located about halfway along the Carlsbad Caverns Route. It is one of the highly fascinating historic spots to visit along your road trip route and boasts rugged but beautiful vistas of the Southern High Plains, just north of the Chihuahuan desert.

Bluebonnets bloom in Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA.
You'll be surrounded by nature beauty at Big Spring and the nearby state parks.

Big Spring used to be a central point along an ancient Comanche trading route, and the natural springs in the area then provided a crucial water source for all surrounding life.

One of the attractions and landmarks at Big Spring is the Big Spring State Park where you can enjoy hiking and jogging. If staying longer, you can also admire the clear night skies and do some stargazing.

Comanche Trail Park is the site of the original “big spring” that used to give life to many people and creatures in the surrounding area. Currently, there is a lake, a theater and a trail system at this landmark, meaning you can spend an entire day here if you'd like to!

As a place to stay overnight in Big Spring we can recommend Hampton Inn & Suites Big Spring. It is a comfortable, stylish hotel, with wonderful staff and a lovely breakfast that will help you refuel before your adventures ahead.

The hotel is found right along the route taking you through Big Spring, making it a convenient stop to stay over during your road trip. The lovely property also features a well-equipped fitness center, a fantastic swimming pool and hot tub, and free parking for guests.

In the vicinity of the hotel, you'll find supermarkets, restaurants and cafés. Attractions nearby to the hotel include the Heart of the City Plaza, about a mile away, and Big Spring State Park, about 2-3 miles away from the hotel.

Where to stay when you reach El Paso

El Paso is a large city right on the border of the US and Mexico. It is considered a vibrant, safe city with a rich cultural and culinary scene. You'll find operas, art galleries, and centuries-old Spanish missions here, as well as amazing Mexican and international food.

El Paso, Texas, USA downtown city skyline at dusk with Juarez, Mexico in the distance.
El Paso is a vibrant city with great culture and beautiful architecture, set against Juarez in the distance.
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

As an accommodation option, we can recommend Stanton House El Paso. This hotel offers luxury accommodation and amazing views over the city. A

You will also find private parking for guests, a terrace, a bar, a fitness & wellness center, and a restaurant serving delicious French and Mexican food on the property.

The hotel is located in downtown El Paso. Nearby attractions include El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso Museum of History, and San Jacinto Plaza.

You can also enjoy visiting Franklin Mountains State Park while in El Paso, whether for hiking or jogging or to take a scenic drive with views of the mountains, the city, and Ciudad Juárez on the other side of the border.

Things to see on a road trip from San Antonio to El Paso

There are lots of exciting activities to do and places to see along this road trip. You can walk in or drive through stunning nature areas of deserts, canyons and rich wildlife of Texas, and explore arts, culture and history in several enchanting towns and cities. Read on to discover some of our recommendations for best things to see and do during this road trip.

A lake in Del Rio, Texas, USA with hills and trees in the distance.
Enjoy a peaceful spot by the lake at Del Rio.
Alexander Imperial/Shutterstock.com

Big Bend National Park Route

  1. Uvalde, Texas - Uvalde is home to an array of historic buildings, including the Grand Opera House operating since 1891. The area is also popular among birders and other nature enthusiasts, due to the many wetlands and diverse bushland present here.
  2. Del Rio, Texas - Del Rio is a true cultural melting pot and offers something to every visitor. You can enjoy the culinary delights of Tex-Mex cuisine, barbecues and “Pan Dulce” or Mexican pastries, enjoy art and history at the Casa de la Cultura or the Whitehead Memorial Museum, or view rock art at Canyonlands Archeological District.
  3. Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas - This beautiful natural area offers wonderful chances for practicing water sports, hiking, picnicking or viewing ancient rock art.
  4. Big Bend National Park, Texas - In this stunning national park by the river Rio Grande, you'll experience vast deserts and craggy mountains covered with pine and aspen. There is also rich wildlife and plant life present in this landscape of mountains, canyons, cliffs and rivers.
  5. Marathon, Texas - Marathon is one major gateway to Big Bend National Park. The city also harbors the beautiful, historic Gage Hotel and Gardens, and a colorful arts scene.
  6. Alpine, Texas - Alpine is an enchanting small town, and also a wonderful gateway town to Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and Fort Davis area. Attractions include the Museum of the Big Bend and Turner Range and Animal Science Center showcasing rodeos and horse shows.
  7. Marfa, Texas - Marfa is an important arts hub in the region, and the Ballroom Marfa Arts Center hosts cultural events and concerts. The city is also known for the mysterious “Marfa Lights”, an orb phenomenon that can be observed from a viewing platform outside the city.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas, USA with iconic granite mounds in the foreground.
The Carlsbad Caverns Route gives you the chance to see the iconic granite mounds at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Carlsbad Caverns Route

  1. Fredericksburg, Texas - Fredericksburg is a city with a strong German heritage, which can be seen in the city's many German-style buildings and the Pioneer Museum featuring settlers' artifacts and homesteads. The city is also known for its fantastic wineries.
  2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas - Make a stop to view this fascinating pink granite monolith and surrounding wilderness area. There are lovely hiking trails in this landscape of grassland, bushes and iconic granite mounds.
  3. San Angelo, Texas - San Angelo is an interesting city located in the Concho Valley, central Texas. It is best known for Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, a US army post from the 19th century, a lovely Concho River Walk with gardens and parks, and a historic downtown area.
  4. Big Spring - This place historically used to be an important site on an ancient Comanche trading route that stretched a distance between what now are other nearby US states, Texas, and even Mexico. Currently the city harbors fascinating historic sites and offers views of the Southern High Plains and the start of the Chihuahuan Desert.
  5. Midland-Odessa, Texas - Midland-Odessa metropolitan area is the business center of the largest oil production region of the US, the Permian Basin. You'll also find wonderful attractions here, such as the Ellen Noël Art Museum and Odessa Meteor Crater.
  6. Carlsbad, New Mexico - Carlsbad is considered a highly sunny city and is a fabulous place to visit to view some of the city's historic sites or cultural attractions, spend time at Lake Carlsbad Beach Park, or visit the nearby Carlsbad Caverns.
  7. Carlsbad Caverns Natural Entrance, New Mexico - This natural cave system offers the visitor a chance to view some of the largest underground caverns in America. You can enter the caves via the Natural Entrance or a visitor's lift.
  8. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas - Guadalupe Mountains National Park provides the visitor with breathtaking views of the Chihuahuan Desert and tall mountains, including fossilized reef mountains and the four highest peaks of Texas. The area's grasslands, desert and forests support a rich wildlife and offer superb hiking opportunities.
The Natural Entrance route at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, USA
Enjoy a fascinating opportunity to see inside a cave at the Natural Entrance route at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Sandra Foyt/Shutterstock.com

Best time to go on a road trip from San Antonio to El Paso

El Paso can be a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year. However, summer often sees the largest crowds of tourists, and winter nights here can get cold, which is why spring and fall are considered the best seasons to visit El Paso.

Average temperatures in El Paso in summer range between 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit, making it fairly hot to visit in the summertime. Furthermore, tourists often crowd into the city in the summer. However, should you enjoy the sunny hot days, this is definitely your time to visit the city.

In winter, temperatures can be as low as 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit during the night, so it can be rather chilly. A benefit to visiting during winter months, however, is that you might find cheaper deals for flights and accommodation between December and March.

March-May and September-October are generally considered the best times for visiting El Paso, for temperatures are moderate (ranging between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit), making these wonderful times for exploring the many parks in the city or the magnificent Franklin Mountains.

Do also consider the timing of some of the most popular events and festivals taking place in El Paso over the course of the year, when deciding when to do your road trip.

For example, in May you can enjoy participating in the Neon Desert Music Festival which brings thousands of music fans together to enjoy performances of reggae, R&B, indie and electronic music.

Or, in June, the spectacular Southwestern International PRCA Rodeo takes place in El Paso. It is the longest-running sports event in the city.

Fiesta de las Flores celebrates El Paso's Hispanic heritage and culture, and this festival takes place yearly in September. The festival features dances, entertainment, parades, crafts and local cuisine.

Finally, Texas Showdown Festival is an interesting tattoo and music festival, the largest in the country. It is held annually at El Paso County Coliseum, and in 2023 it will take place in September.