Your Chicago to Austin RV road trip will take you through the states of Illinois, Missouri, either Oklahoma or Arkansas, and Texas. Both routes will take you approximately two days. If you have time, this is an excellent opportunity to plan your itinerary to include all the sites you most want to see. Along this path, there are many national and state parks, national historical sites, monuments, famous landmarks, beautiful environs, and entertaining cities and venues. You will pass through or close by cities like St. Louis, Memphis, and Dallas, which all have their own unique aspects, and your start and stop cities of Chicago and Austin are large urban areas that are vastly different from each other.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is next to Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan in northwest Indiana. This park is a wonderful site to add to your itinerary at the beginning of your trip, and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park will bookend it nicely.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is a natural choice to jump-start your Chicago to Austin road trip. It is a huge park that lies adjacent to Lake Michigan for 15 miles of shoreline. While inside this 22,000-acre park, you will see sand dunes that can reach upward of 200 feet, bogs, marshes, rivers, prairies, and forests. Besides all the activities that are available on Lake Michigan, you can also hike on more than 50 miles of trails and observe the wildlife. There are many historical buildings and landmarks you can visit as well.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park preserves the buildings and history of the early Spanish missions that were established in the southwestern regions of North America. These missions served to evangelize, educate, and protect the local peoples of the areas. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park contains four of the five existing missions that were built in the vicinity of the current city of San Antonio. The fifth mission is the Alamo, which is managed separately. The park consists of Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada, Mission San Jose, and Mission San Juan, and they are connected by several miles of roads and nature trails. The missions are still active parishes, but visitors can tour each mission and the attached historic buildings.
Your Chicago to Austin road trip will take you through the heartland of the Midwestern and Western states of the U.S. Each of the states you drive through has a number of state parks that showcase their respective state's best natural and historical attributes.
William W. Powers State Recreation Area
The William W. Powers State Recreation Area is located on Wolf Lake, which is on the southeast side of Chicago near the Illinois and Indiana state line. This park is a great fishing site for the family, and you can catch largemouth bass, bluegill, northern pike, sunfish, bullhead, crappie, walleye, and muskie. The park contains 6 miles of shoreline for bank fishing, and there are several picnic areas for families.
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Lying alongside the Mississippi River just north of the city of Memphis, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is a large preserve that contains hardwood stands and bald cypress and tupelo swamps. Much of the park is located on top of the Chickasaw Bluffs and has groves of oaks, hickory, beech, and sweet gum. There are 10 state Champion Trees and two national Champion Trees inside the park. Visitors have opportunities to observe deer, otter, beaver, turkey, foxes, and bobcats; plus, there are over 200 species of waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds, and birds of prey to discover. The American bald eagle is often seen throughout the park.
There are campsites and cabins, nature exhibits, and numerous hiking trails. A popular trail is the 8-mile Chickasaw Bluff Trail that has a loop that overlooks Poplar Tree Lake. For additional fun, you can play on one of the largest disc golf courses in the Southeast. This wooded course has 36 holes that are divided into two 18-hole courses for beginners and advanced players.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park, located in Texas, contains a diverse environment of rivers, streams, and small canyons. Visitors can use the bird blind to spot various species of birds, and everyone will love visiting the butterfly garden. There is a short trail up to Twin Falls Overlook, and the 6-mile Wolf Mountain Trail will take you alongside the mountains and canyons. If you enjoy mountain bikes, then you will love the recently added Juniper Ridge Trail, which is a 10-mile technical and obstacle single-path course.
There are many intriguing places to add to your road trip itinerary from Chicago to Austin. These can be iconic American symbols or just plain fun. When you want a break from the road, you can take a few days for each experience and enjoy them all fully.
The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch is a much-visited site in St. Louis that commemorates the westward expansion inside the United States that began taking place soon after the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark famously set out on their expedition of exploration to the West Coast from this spot. The Gateway Arch was built in the 1960s and stands 630 feet high on the Missouri banks of the Mississippi River. Visitors can view stunning vistas from inside the arch and also visit the beautiful riverfront park.
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas was first established before there even was a national park system. It was created by Congress in 1832 in order to provide people with the hot spring water that was believed to possess medicinal properties. Today, visitors can visit eight historical bathhouses, two of which have hot spring baths. You cannot take a hot spring bath outside, but you can dip your hand into one of two hot pools in the park. You can also drink the hot spring water and the cold spring water inside the park. Besides experiencing the springs, visitors can hike and bike throughout the park.
Six Flags Over Texas
It's Six Flags! Of course, this is a fun place to visit while taking your road trip from Chicago to Austin. Located in the Fort Worth-Dallas area, Six Flags Over Texas has all the thrills and excitement you expect from a large theme park. The younger members of your family can spend their time in the fun Looney Tunes children's areas, and the older members will love La Vibora, a bobsled type of experience, and roller coasters like Batman: The Ride.
As this is a long trip, you will most likely want to break it up over the course of some days or weeks. The drive takes place mostly on interstate highways, and there are several cities that you will undoubtedly want to visit.
The city of Champaign is located in central Illinois and is directly on your route from Chicago to Austin. The University of Illinois is here, and there are multiple cultural and recreational centers and parks, such as the Krannert Art Museum, the Spurlock Museum, and West Side Park. If you want to stay at a campground, then the D and W Lake Camping and RV Park is a restful and fun campground to stay at, and you will enjoy the activities afforded by the lake.
Memphis is a great place to camp and take a few days to sightsee while on your road trip from Chicago to Austin. It is midway on your route and is home to many famous culturally and historically significant sites. Memphis is on the Mississippi River and is known for the music legends who recorded albums there, and tourists continue to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley's mansion. Other sites include many music halls of fame. While here, you can stay at the Agricenter campgrounds, which offer convenient proximity to Memphis. There are also plenty of dump stations to be found.
Texarkana is one of two twin cities with the same name that straddles the Texas and Arkansas state line. There are many things to see and do in Texarkana, like walking around Spring Lake Park, visiting the Discovery Place children's museum, and touring the 1800s Ace of Clubs House museum. Sunrise RV Park offers a nice campground and features a playground, pool, game room, outside games, and a laundry facility.