If you want to travel all the way from the Gulf Coast to the California Coast, then you may want to embark on a Houston to Los Angeles road trip. You’ll be able to see wonders both above and below the ground in some great national parks, state parks, and tourist destinations. You’ll go through multiple big cities that have their own unique flavors and characteristics. Deserts, caves, lakes, forests, rivers, and numerous types of flora and fauna will all be on display on this road trip from Houston to Los Angeles.
Big Bend National Park
While you won’t drive past the Grand Canyon on this trip, you will still be able to visit Big Bend National Park, which features a river and a canyon of its own. If you’ve ever wanted to check out the Rio Grande, then this is a great venue at which to do so. Adventurers love this park because of its kayaking, backpacking, and mountain biking opportunities. Even if you’re not a hardcore hiker, you can still enjoy plenty of easy or moderate trails that take you through the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains and along the Rio Grande.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park gives you the ability to explore the inside and outside of the Guadalupe Mountains. The main attraction at the park is, of course, the caverns themselves, but there are also a few hiking trails that will take you into the Chihuahuan Desert. Another popular activity here is bat-watching—especially in the evening when the bats leave the caverns.
White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park is also in a desert environment, but its stark white sands set it apart from other national parks. The gypsum sand dunes found here are the largest in the world, measuring 275 square miles. Unsurprisingly, hiking and horseback riding are two of the most popular activities here. Visitors also often like to sled down the white dunes so that they can enjoy this unique sand up close and personal. This park’s proximity to Holloman AFB makes it an ideal location for missile tests; if you want to learn more about this aspect of this unique national park, you can do so at the White Sands Missile Range Museum.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is the embodiment of what many people think of when they envision the Old West. Naturally, the main attraction at this national park is the saguaro cactus, but you’ll also be able to see a variety of other desert flora. Many trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels take you through various parts of the Sonoran Desert. Whether you want to park your RV in the park itself or outside of it in a private camp, there are multiple places for you to stay here.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is the final national park on your road trip itinerary from Houston to Los Angeles. This park features yet another desert environment dotted with unique flora. You’ll enjoy exploring this 1,200-square-mile park with its many Joshua trees and other plants and animals. The rugged nature of this park attracts backpackers, mountain bikers, and backcountry campers, but it also brings in bird-watchers and stargazers.
Guadalupe River State Park
Guadalupe River State Park isn’t too far from the San Antonio area, so it’s the first state park you’ll encounter on your Houston to Los Angeles RV road trip. More than 2,000 acres of land along the Guadalupe River provide numerous opportunities for fishing, canoeing, swimming, and tubing. If you want to do some hiking, backpacking, or horseback riding, there are multiple lovely paths within the park for you to do so.
Balmorhea State Park
Balmorhea State Park is located in Balmorhea, which is one of many Texas towns you’ll pass through on your way to El Paso. You’ll want to stop and stay awhile at this state park, though, thanks to its large spring-fed pool. Many visitors enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming in this special natural pool. Once you’re done swimming, you can relax in any of the lovely sitting areas in the park and engage in some bird-watching and picnicking.
Rockhound State Park
Rockhound State Park in New Mexico is one of the few state parks in the country that actually encourages visitors to take pieces of nature with them when they go. As its name implies, Rockhound State Park is a rock collector’s dream. Jasper, geodes, quartz crystals, and many other types of desirable stones can be found here with a bit of effort and luck. There’s more here than rocks, though; you’ll be able to explore two trails in the park that take you through some rocky desert landscapes.
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
Before you get to Tucson, you should pay a visit to Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. If you’re interested in learning more about the Old West, you’ll want to stop by this historic, famous Western town. In addition to the Tombstone Courthouse, you can tour well-known places like the O.K. Corral, the Bird Cage Theater, and Boot Hill Cemetery.
Mount San Jacinto State Park
Between Joshua Tree National Park and San Bernardino is Mount San Jacinto State Park. This 14,000-acre park in the San Jacinto Mountains is a worthy final state park to visit on your Houston to Los Angeles road trip. Whether you want to go hiking, camping, geocaching, horseback riding, or some combination of these, you can do so at Mount Jacinto State Park.
San Antonio River Walk
No matter what type of entertainment you’re looking for, you can likely find it along the San Antonio River Walk. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and numerous other attractions line this popular destination along the banks of the San Antonio River deep in the heart of San Antonio.
Caverns of Sonora
Near the Texas town of Sonora close to Interstate 10 is the entrance to the Caverns of Sonora. In these highly decorated caverns, you can see numerous crystals and underground formations. You can also go panning for gemstones and fossils.
Tucson Botanical Garden
While you can, of course, see some excellent desert flora at Tucson’s Saguaro National Park, you can view a wide variety of gorgeous flowers and other plants at the Tucson Botanical Garden. You can walk through lovely gardens like the Backyard Bird Garden, the Cactus & Succulent Garden, and Aloe Alley.
South Mountain Park and Preserve
South Mountain Park and Preserve is in the southwestern portion of Phoenix. It contains greater than 16,000 acres and has parts of the Ma Ha Tauk, Gila, and Guadalupe mountain ranges. You can drive, bike, or hike your way to Dobbins Lookout or take advantage of multiple other hiking trails.
Palm Springs Air Museum
At the Palm Springs Air Museum, you can tour four hangars full of 59 flyable and static aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Other exhibits contain uniforms, weapons, and other memorabilia from these various conflicts.
San Antonio is the second-largest city in Texas, so you can count on there being plenty of dump stations and campgrounds in the area. The Alamo, SeaWorld San Antonio, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas are just a few of the local attractions you can visit.
El Paso is in far West Texas on the American side of the Rio Grande. Some lovely campgrounds can be found in this part of Texas. If you want to learn more about the area’s history, you can visit places like the Ysleta Mission and the El Paso Museum of Art.
Tucson is home to both Saguaro National Park and the University of Arizona, so there are plenty of dump stations and campgrounds on hand to cater to nature-lovers and sports fans alike. Other local attractions include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Pima Air & Space Museum.
Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, so you won’t have to work hard to find dump stations and campgrounds locally. This city is known for its arts and its cuisine, so you’ll have plenty of great options here.
Palm Springs averages 354 days of sunshine a year, so you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s known for its pools and spas as much as its nearby mountains and preserves. Plenty of campgrounds abound here if you’d like to stay and explore the area.