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Perfect Texas to California Road Trip Planner

Looking to plan a Texas to California road trip this year?

This incredible road trip takes you through beautiful national parks, charming cities, along abandoned ghost towns, and through stunning landscapes of the American southwest.

Stop along landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, White Sands National Monument, Death Valley and more.

This is one of our favorite road trips from Texas and it also makes an amazing family vacation.

Also Read: Houston to Las Vegas Drive

Where to begin the Texas road trip to California?

Houston

Houston makes a great start for this road trip from Texas.

If you’re flying into the city, take some time to enjoy attractions including Johnson Space Center, Hermann Park and the museums, and the Kemah boardwalk.

Dallas

Dallas is another great Texas spot to start this road trip.

Check out the Dallas World Aquarium, explore Deep Ellum, and go to the top of Reunion Tower for amazing views.

Be sure to also see Highland Park Village , America’s first planned shopping center, it’s beautiful with cobbled streets and fountains.

Austin

Living in Hill Country and Central Texas?

Or from the West Coast and want to plan a road trip back home?

Austin to California road trip is pretty popular option with several families!

San Antonio

San Antonio also makes a great start for the Texas to California road trip.

Visit the Alamo and Rivercenter Mall for shopping with a Mexican flair.

Take a cruise along the San Antonio Riverwalk before venturing on this road trip.

Where to end Texas California drive?

Los Angeles

End your road trip in Los Angeles, California.

Enjoy the iconic sights of Hollywood, savor Mexican food, and visit the museums then lounge on the Southern California beaches!

San Diego

If you’re looking for a laid back beach town, head to San Diego.

Get out on the water or explore local beaches including La Jolla Shores and Coronado Beach!

San Francisco

If you want to see the Golden Gate bridge, then San Francisco is the perfect final destination.

Hop on a bus tour, visit Golden Gate Park or take the trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh seafood.

Yosemite

Yosemite is amongst the top attractions on the West Coast.

To plan this trip, take Route 66 through Texas and see the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.

After Death Valley, take the detour along SR 395 through Alabama Hills and Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite’s eastern entrance in the summer.

No matter where you choose to go in California, there are endless experiences waiting for your family!

How many days to plan for the Texas California drive?

The time spent on the road depends on your budget, desired stops, and availability.

Most families plan 1 week to 10 days for this road trip which takes you to about 4-5 states total.

But it’s not uncommon to spend 2 weeks or exploring the many attractions along this route.

Which Routes to take for the Texas California drive?

The most popular route for this road trip is along Historic Route 66.

This northern route takes you through the Texas panhandle, along the Grand Canyon, before ending in Los Angeles.

Route 66 between Texas and California offers a unique road trip experience through history and nature.  

You’ll visit small towns, enjoy stunning desert landscapes, and view the famous Route 66 signs as you cross the states.

An alternate route is along the I-10 W.

Drive through the desert landscapes of West Texas, visit amazing places such as never-ending sand dunes at White Sands, New Mexico and the towering cacti at Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona.

Midpoint of Route 66 at Adrian Texas
Midpoint of Route 66 at Adrian Texas

Attractions along Route 66 between Texas and California

From your starting point in Texas, drive north towards Amarillo.

Amarillo

Amarillo, Texas is located on Historic Route 66.

Enjoy Historic Route 66 district, visit Amarillo’s Big Texan Steakhouse, and see the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots.

Stay overnight and plan a detour to Palo Duro Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Texas.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park & Historic Downtown Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in North America!

See where Texas Rangers hid horses to fend off Comanche Indians.

Explore historic buildings and petroglyphs dating back thousands of years ago.

Hike to the lighthouse rock formation and see wildlife in the park.

Cadillac Ranch

After leaving Palo Duro Canyon, continue your drive west along Historic Route 66 to see Cadillac Ranch.

This iconic Route 66 art installation is a favorite with road trippers.

Spray paint the cars, snap a photo for the ‘gram, and admire the unique art work!

Santa Fe

Next up, Santa Fe.

Whether you choose to visit in the summer or in the winter, Santa Fe is worth a detour off Historic Route 66.

This charming city is an artsy place with cobbled streets and pueblo-style buildings all set against stunning mountain views.

See Native American art at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

Stay at one of Santa Fe’s boutique hotels or tuck into a delicious meal with local flair.

Petrified Forest National Park

Make a beeline for this unique national park just across the border in Arizona.

Walk along corridors of petrified wood in the badlands.

See many different plant fossils dating back to when Arizona was a coastal area below sea level!

Marvel at the views of the Painted Desert before continuing your trip out west.

Detour: Antelope Canyons, Page

Take a slight detour to see the famous slot canyon.

Guided tours to see the Antelope Canyons depart daily and it’s worth the drive to see these incredible sandstone formations.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff is a charming small town of Route 66.

Nestled amongst pine trees and cool mountain breezes, it’s the perfect place to stop for a night.

Popular things to do in Flagstaff include touring the historic downtown area, see dinosaur fossils at the Museum of Northern Arizona, and enjoy stargazing at the Lowell Observatory.

Grand Canyon South Rim

The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World!

This monumental sight will take your breath away.

It’s a perfect detour from Historic Route 66.

See the Grand Canyon at the South Rim which has spectacular views and is open 365 days a year.

Numerous attractions await your family at the Grand Canyon – enjoy scenic walks or mule rides, see exhibits at visitor center, or take in fascinating presentations from park rangers.

Admire the natural beauty of this world famous icon from a walk along the rim and admire its depths on a hike to the canyon floor.

Optional: Las Vegas

Before entering California, take a slight detour to Vegas.

The lights, shows, and glamour of Las Vegas are famous.

Experience the city’s unique attractions, see mind-boggling buildings, and gamble at one of many hotels along the Strip.

There are also tons of family friendly attractions in Vegas – from aquariums to amusement parks!

From Vegas, head to California to finish your Route 66 road trip.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is a huge expanse of arid desert landscape.

A must attraction is Badwater Salt Flats.

This is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

View fantastic salt formations and see interesting flora that thrive under extremely harsh conditions.

See the Devils Golf Course, a mountainous landscape with jagged rock spires and sled at the golden sand dunes at Mesquite Flats.

Families traveling Route 66 will love the ‘racetrack playa’ – a large dry lake bed with mysteriously moving rocks!

Marvel at the sweeping mountain ranges from Dante’s View and visit Scotty’s Castle, a 1920s mansion in Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park has plenty to explore!

Los Angeles

The Texas to Los Angeles road trip along Route 66 will end at the Santa Monica Pier.

This is a great spot for family photos to remember this epic journey!

Then take the time to explore Los Angeles.

Some of Los Angeles must visit attractions include Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland, and Venice Beach.

Attractions along I-10 on Texas California road trip

Here are some of the essential attractions to enjoy on the Texas California road trip along I-10W.

Fort Stockton

Fort Stockton, Texas is an important spot for the Texas California road trip.

It’s a quiet little town with a few attractions including Fort Stockton Pioneer Memorial Museum and the Pecos County Courthouse.

El Paso and Franklin Mountains

El Paso is a major city near Mexico USA border.

It has family attractions including the El Paso Zoo, Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso Natural History Museum, and Chamizal National Memorial.

Franklin Mountains State Park is located in the center of El Paso.

It’s an oasis of trails, picnic areas, and scenic overlooks.

The park has wonderful views of the city below!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its underground rock formations.

Explore the amazing limestone caves on a guided tour and admire the stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, as well as flowstones.

See the Chihuahua Desert in all its glory from the hiking trails in the park on your Texas California road trip.

White Sands National Park

Famous for its gypsum sand dunes, White Sands National Monument is an essential stop!

Located near Las Cruces, it ‘s known for its surreal landscapes.

The dunes are magnificent during the day but they glow under the stars at night!

White Sands National Monument is a great spot to escape from busy modern life and feel small in this vast desert scenery.

Saguaro National Park

In Arizona, Saguaro National Park is a must visit attraction.

It is home to the gigantic saguaro cacti that stand proud in the rust colored deserts of Arizona.

Hike to see a giant saguaro from up close or admire them from an overlook in this incredible national park.

The park has several hiking trails that lead through majestic saguaro forests and offer views of the sweeping desert landscape as well as the wildlife.

Tucson

Tucson is the closest town near Saguaro National Park.

It’s a worthwhile stop on your road trip for several reasons!

Tucson is an artsy city known for its stunning Old Town and lively shopping district.

See historic missions, charming cafes, and eclectic galleries while in Tucson.

Palm Springs

Next on I-10W, visit Palm Springs, California to see an old Hollywood hotspot.

Palm Springs is a desert playground for celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Elvis!

Be sure to visit Palm Canyon Drive for stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains in this high desert resort town then enjoy urban attractions such as museums and the design district.

Joshua Tree National Park

California is home to Joshua Tree National Park.

Hike among the unique Joshua Trees in this arid park near Palm Springs.

This national park has several stops including Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, and also the Lost Horse Mine!

Continue west on I-10 till Los Angeles and enjoy the Pacific beaches!

Best Time to plan Texas California drive

The best time to plan this ultimate family road trip from Texas is during the spring break, through spring and fall, and early summer.

Summer is also popular time for the trip – however you will experience extreme temperatures during the day especially in Western Texas and in dry and arid Arizona.

Stay hydrated and plan to see indoor attractions such as museums during the hottest part of the day.

Winter is another great time for this road trip – enjoy mild temperatures for the most part and enjoy whale migration on the Pacific Coast.

You can also enjoy some snow along the route!

Plan the perfect Texas Southwest USA road trip with our comprehensive guide and start packing today!

What is your favorite part of this Texas to California road trip itinerary?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!