Best Road Trips for Fall in Texas
While the colors of fall in Texas may not match the splendor of New England’s autumn blanket, there are plenty of places where you can get out and discover the changing season from the comfort of your car.
Texas road trips have long been a favorite of travelers in the Lone Star State, partly because there’s so very much to see. As a youth growing up near San Antonio, Sundays were our favorite day of the week to load up the family in the car and hit the road for a day of sight-seeing and discovery.
Often we didn’t have any particular place to go, no certain destination in mind. But with gasoline prices under the 30-cents a gallon mark, it didn’t really matter. With a full gas tank, a full back seat and a full ice chest, it was a family ritual that most often we looked forward to experiencing each week. And you can bet there was no better time of year than the fall season when the leaves begin to change from summer green to golden shades of yellow, orange and red.
From deep East Texas to the rolling Texas Hill Country, fall is a special time in Texas, and if you want to experience it best, you will need to suck up to the outrageous price of fuel and just DO IT!
Below are some of our favorite scenic drives to take in autumn, but by all means be creative. Grab a Texas road map and plot out your own route — whether it’s only for a day drive or a full weekend getaway. Enjoy the changing season!
Lost Maples State Natural Area
With little question, this amazing natural area is one of the best places in Texas to view the turning colors of fall. Keep in mind that weather and seasonal climate have a great deal to do with how colorful the fall season will be.
It seems to vary from year to year depending on rainfall, summer temps and other natural factors. Visitors to the park can enjoy picnicking, camping, backpacking, sightseeing, hiking, photography, birdwatching, fishing, swimming, and nature study. People should stay on designated trails, because maples have a shallow root system, and soil compaction from walking can damage the trees. Also, many natural hazards exist due to the steep/rugged terrain. But if you catch it just right, the fall spectacle is one you’re not likely to forget for a long time.
Getting There: Lost Maples State Natural Area is located 86 miles northwest of San Antonio and just a few miles north of Vanderpool. If you’re traveling from the San Antonio Metroplex, we would advise taking a route that will lead through the heart of the Hill Country. From San Antonio: take IH10 West and exit at Comfort, Texas onto Hwy 27. Stay on Hwy 27 through Kerrville and to Ingram. Take the lest fork in Ingram (Texas Hwy 39) and follow this scenic drive along the Guadalupe until you intersect FM 187. Follow the signs.
River Road – Central Texas Hill Country
River Road is a 10.6-mile scenic drive between Loop 337 in New Braunfels and Canyon Lake Dam which crosses the Guadalupe River four times. The river cuts through tall limestone bluffs and towering cypress trees. There are occasional rapids, but for the most part the river flows along lazily. The riverfront property is all privately owned, and there are many places to camp and spend the night, as well as restaurants.
Bastrop State Park Scenic Drive
It’s not about changing colors. It’s about evergreen beauty in the fall. Get in the car and go for a leisurely drive along Park Road 1C between Bastrop and Buescher State Parks. This scenic 12-mile drive will take you through the beautiful Lost Pines of East Central Texas. Turn down the radio and enjoy the serenity of the forest along this quiet drive.
Big Bend Region – Way Out West
If you don’t mind a lot of driving to get there, the Big Bend region of Texas offers plenty to see and do, and the fall season is just about the perfect time to do it. A 74-mile loop through the Davis Mountains (beginning and ending in Fort Davis) offers a host of choice mountain landscapes. Features include nine scenic roadside parks, McDonald Observatory atop Mount Locke, beautiful Madera Canyon and Davis Mountains State Park. El Camino del Rio, or “The River Road,” is the local name for the road that stretches from Lajitas northwest to Presidio and beyond. It is one of the most spectacular drives in Texas, plunging down mountains and through canyons along the sun-drenched Rio Grande.
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo is a spectacular scenic canyon nearly one million years old that is the second largest canyon in the United States. The canyon was home to prehistoric Indians about 12,000 years ago. Activities at the canyon today include: camping, horseback riding, hiking, horse rentals, fishing, geological and nature study, mountain biking and scenic drives.
Granbury – Central Texas
Granbury is located about 25 miles southwest of Ft. Worth and is a perfect hub for a scenic drive and visits to several state parks. The historic town square of Granbury has been preserved and prospers with boutiques, antique shops and other attractions. Granbury even has its Opera House that presents musicals and revues throughout the year. Lake Granbury is mostly developed with private housing additions, but there are a couple of public areas. Be sure to pick up a lake map.
East Texas Fall Colors
A 32-mile paved drive from one of the best viewpoints in East Texas to the steam trains and historic sites of Rusk. The drive starts at Love’s Lookout, one of the best viewpoints in East Texas. Keep in mind that most of East Texas is clothed in brilliant fall colors once the season arrives, usually in late October. So grab a road map and set off on your own to discover this remarkable region.