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Ultimate Austin to Big Bend Road Trip Planner

Austin to Big Bend is one of our favorite road trips in the Lone Star State.

Big Bend National Park is located in Western Texas.

The park has been called ‘the country’s most surprising and dramatic national park’.

The terrain in Big Bend National Park ranges from desert to mountains and valleys.

View of the South Rim Trail at Big Bend National Park
View of the South Rim Trail at Big Bend National Park

You can easily visit Big Bend National Park on a three to four day road trip from Austin.

Also Read: Best Road Trips in Texas

Road trip Austin to Big Bend will take you through scenic mountains and deserts, making this a memorable experience in West Texas.

This also makes a great family trip because of the many attractions for kids.

West Texas road trip views near Fort Davis
West Texas road trip views near Fort Davis

Here is our detailed itinerary for the Austin to Big Bend National Park Road Trip.

Also Read: 21 Best Road Trips from Austin, Texas

How far is Big Bend National Park from Austin?

Driving from Austin to Big Bend takes about 6 hours.

You will be taking US-290 to I-10 then continue on the interstate till Fort Stockton.

Exact Time & Distance: Via US 290 W & I-10 – 6 hrs 41 mins, 437 miles

Bluebonnets blooming along the roadsides at Big Bend Ranch State Park
Bluebonnets blooming along the roadsides at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Best time to visit Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is open year-round.

The best time to visit Big Bend National Park is from November to March. You can avoid the summer heat and other visitors during this time.

Our favorite time to visit is spring when Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers are blooming in the park.

Javelina in Big Bend Texas
Javelina in Big Bend Texas

The weather is pleasant, but be aware that the park can get crowded with visitors during these months, especially during spring break.

If planning a visit over Thanksgiving or Christmas, then we recommend advance reservations.

For summer or fall visit, carry plenty of water and hike early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat.

Essential Stops on Austin to Big Bend National Park Road Trip

If you are planning a road trip from Austin to Big Bend National Park, make sure to stop at the following spots:

Enjoy kayaking in view of the Downtown Skyline of Austin Texas
Enjoy kayaking in view of the Downtown Skyline of Austin Texas

Austin

Austin is the capital of Texas and the fourth-largest city in the United States.

It is an amazing city that has plenty of things to do.

When you are here, you can visit the Texas State Capitol and take a free guided tour to understand its history and heritage.

Texas state capitol building in Austin is a must visit attraction
Texas state capitol building in Austin is a must visit attraction

There are many other things to do in Austin, like visiting Zilker Park, swimming in Barton Springs, or enjoying the restaurants and nightlife on Sixth Street.

Starting in Austin, take Highway 290 through the Texas Hill Country.

Also Read
Best Day Trips from Austin, Texas
Perfect Weekend in Austin Itinerary

Hamilton Pool Swimming Hole in Dripping Springs near Austin is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Texas
Hamilton Pool Swimming Hole in Dripping Springs near Austin is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Texas

Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs is 20-minutes away from Austin and has a small town feel.

One of the top attractions in Dripping Springs is Hamilton Pool; it’s an natural spring fed swimming pool in a limestone canyon that has beautiful clear water.

Dripping Springs offers many other recreational opportunities like canoeing and tubing, hiking, historic buildings and art galleries in downtown, and wineries.

Trail overlook with a view of the Pedernales River near Johnson City Texas
Trail overlook with a view of the Pedernales River near Johnson City Texas

Johnson City

Johnson City is a charming city located on the Pedernales River.

It makes a great pit stop along the way to Big Bend.

Popular places to visit are the Chenault House, Sam Rayburn Museum, and Big Creek Park.

Optional: Luckenbach

Luckenbach is a small town near Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country.

This place has become one of the most famous places in Texas for its population of 3 and for its country music events.

The population of Luckenbach might be small, but it’s a fun place to visit!

Public library in Fredericksburg has stunning limestone facade
Public library in Fredericksburg has stunning limestone facade

Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg is a German town in Texas that you can visit when you are on the way from Austin to Big Bend National Park.

The city of Fredericksburg has a charming downtown filled with German restaurants, wineries and breweries, and boutique stores.

Beautiful road on the way to Enchanted Rock in Texas Hill Country
Beautiful road on the way to Enchanted Rock in Texas Hill Country

One of Fredericksburg’s best attractions is Enchanted Rock.

It’s a large pink granite dome that is located in scenic Llano County and has a rich history involving Native Americans and settlers.

Junction

Junction is a rural town that’s filled with rolling hills and beautiful landscape.

It’s located in the middle of Texas Hill Country and makes a great stop on the drive from Austin to Big Bend.

Junction is home to South Llano River State Park and London Hall, one of the oldest dance halls in Texas.

Geological formations in Caves of Sonora Texas
Geological formations in Caves of Sonora Texas

Sonora

Sonora is a small town in the south of Texas famous for its caverns.

Caverns of Sonora is a privately-owned cavern that is open to visitors.

On a tour of the caves, you can see different formations including stalactites, stalagmites, columns (or pillars), flowstone and soda straws.

Sonora’s Historic Main Street is a charming mix of vintage stores and classic architecture.

You can see historic buildings such as the Sutton County Courthouse, Miers Home Museum, and the Old Sonora Ice House Ranch Museum on a quick stroll.

Sunrise near Davis Mountains in West Texas
Sunrise near Davis Mountains in West Texas

Ozona

Ozona is a city in West Texas – it’s the county seat of Crockett County.

The town has attractions such as the historic town square and the Crockett County Courthouse, named after Davy Crockett, and the Crockett County Museum.

The museum educates visitors about the history of first settlers and has many artifacts about them.

The nearby Fort Lancaster State Historic Site is great to visit for history buffs.

Fort Stockton

Fort Stockton is a charming town that consists of many historic buildings.

It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and has plenty of places to explore, including a historic downtown area with some great restaurants.

One of the top attractions in Fort Stockton is the Historic Fort Stockton Museum.

This museum educates visitors about the history of the city and has many artifacts from the 1800s, including weapons and clothing.

Also Read: 24 Best Things to do in West Texas

Target Art Installation near Marathon in West Texas
Target Art Installation near Marathon in West Texas

Marathon

Marathon is a small town in the Big Bend region of Texas. 

It is known as the gateway to Big Bend National Park.

The city has spectacular mountain scenery, historical buildings, charming old downtown area, and plenty of great activities to keep you busy.

The Rio Grande River offers many opportunities for recreation including boating and fishing.

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend National Park Texas
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend National Park Texas

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend offers the opportunity for night sky observing, bird watching, star gazing, and nature photography.

Recommended activities for visitors include hiking in the park, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, and kayaking / canoeing the Santa Elena Canyon.

The paddling trip on the Rio Grande through deep canyons with ancient walls is one of the best kayaking trips in Texas and will definitely be the highlight of your Big Bend trip.

Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park
Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend also offers horseback riding, mountain biking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, canoeing, kayaking and rock climbing.

Also Read: Best National Parks in Texas

Things to see near Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote and scenic National Parks in the country.

While the park has striking landscapes and many activities that visitors can participate in; there are many other places to visit near Big Bend National Park.

Here are some of our favorites to add to your Austin to Big Bend National Park road trip:

Old abandoned adobe hut near Terlingua, Texas
Old abandoned adobe hut near Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua

Terlingua Ghost town is a small town in West Texas.

This abandoned former mining town has many historical buildings such as the Terlingua Trading Company and the Chisos Mining Company.

The Silver King Hotel was built in 1899 by Marcus Daly and it’s still standing today.

Tourists can also enjoy activities like mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, backpacking and scenic drives on historic routes throughout Terlingua Ranch.

Views of the canyons and mountains inside Big Bend Ranch State Park
Views of the canyons and mountains inside Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is located near Alpine, Texas and can be easily seen while visiting Big Bend National Park.

The park has plenty of scenic trails and opportunities for wildlife viewing, camping, picnicking, hiking, and horseback riding.

The park also has primitive campsites for visitors who would like to experience camping in the Texas desert.

Hotel Paisano in Marfa Texas
Hotel Paisano in Marfa Texas

Marfa

Marfa is a very unusual and unique town in the Texas desert.

It was founded in 1883 and is known for its beautiful landscapes and historic buildings.

Two famous attractions here include the Marfa Mystery Lights and the Prada Marfa art installation.

Visitors will find many restaurants and antique stores located in downtown Marfa, including El Paisano Hotel.

Small Herd of Pronghorns near Alpine in West Texas
Small Herd of Pronghorns near Alpine in West Texas

Alpine

Alpine, Texas is a small town in the heart of Big Bend Country.

It is home to Big Bend Regional airport.

The beautiful, small town is a great place for tourists to visit.

From the murals and buildings in historic downtown to Museum of the big bend, Alpine has plenty of attractions and is worth sending a day.

Fort Davis National Historic Site Home of the Legendary Buffalo Soldiers Alpine Texas
Fort Davis National Historic Site Home of the Legendary Buffalo Soldiers Alpine Texas

Fort Davis

Love history? Stop in Fort Davis!

Fort Davis is a historic Texan city and features many beautiful buildings including Victorian homes.

It is home to the Fort Davis National Historic Site which has several historic buildings including hotel, museum, two residences, schoolhouse, jail, and blacksmith shop.

The mountain scenery here make Fort Davis one of the top cities to visit in Texas.

Balmorhea

Balmorhea is a town in the west Texas desert.

It is home to the Balmorhea State Park which offers hiking, wildlife viewing and camping.

Creek at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas
Creek at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas

The park is a great spot for birdwatchers and other nature enthusiasts.

Visitors can rent out tents or stay in one of the RV campsites that are available within the park.

If you have the time and want to extend the Austin to Big Bend National Park road trip, then consider visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Park in New Mexico.

Salt Basin Dunes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park Texas
Salt Basin Dunes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park Texas

Things to remember while planning the Austin to Big Bend Drive

A visit to Big Bend requires a long drive and a lot of preparation, but for those who make the trip, it’s well worth it. 

Prep your car well in advance of the trip with oil changes, tire checks, and maintenance.

Book your hotels or make camping reservations well in advance.

Glamping in West Texas near Big Bend
Glamping in West Texas near Big Bend

Bring along a paper map so you do not have to search for trails or roads in case of low internet connectivity.

Fill up on gas whenever possible or you could get stuck with an empty fuel tank in the desert.

Nearby towns offer plenty of opportunities to refuel while there are fewer gas stations in the remote desert country.

Cattail Falls in Big Bend National Park
Cattail Falls in Big Bend National Park

Pack enough food and water for the trail, avoid hiking alone in the high heat, and carry hats and sunglasses to stay safe from the hot sun.

We hope you liked our Austin to Big Bend National Park road trip itinerary and essential stops.