Road Trip from California to Texas
There are two main routes you can take to get from Texas to California—a high route (I-40) and a low route (I-10). This road trip route, which I’m calling option 1, takes you along the lower part of New Mexico and Arizona on your way to San Diego, California. After reading about the stops in route 1 and route 2, you can decide which one sounds most exciting to you! Or, of course, if you’re planning a round-trip road trip then you can do one each way.
Best Stops Along Route 1 (A Low Route I-10)
Saguaro National Park
White Sands National Park
Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
NASA Johnson Space Center
1. Explore San Diego
If you have not been to San Diego, you must take this opportunity to visit the city. Of all the major Cali cities, San Diego best embodies laid-back California. Its surf culture, beckoning beaches, and postcard-perfect weather are enchanting.
San Diego's coastal seat makes it an ideal destination for adventurers and sun seekers. Whether you're hiking along the sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, walking through the frothy surf of Coronado Beach or admiring the postcard-worthy scenery at La Jolla Cove, you'll find little reason to stray far from the city's natural wonders. Spend a day at Balboa Park – the city's definitive culturual hub – and soak up the stunning setting while exploring the many museums, theaters and gardens that call this 1,200-acre park home.
And don't forget to enjoy the food here. Its serious food scene prides itself on a blend of Michelin nods and cheap eats—no trip is complete without a fresh fish taco in La Jolla.
Where to stay in San Diego?
We highly recommend the Pendry San Diego.
Pendry San Diego features a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center and bar in San Diego. Around less than 0.6 mi from San Diego Convention Center, the property is also 1.3 mi away from USS Midway Museum and offers free WiFi. The accommodations offers a 24-hour front desk, room service and ticket service for guests.
Find the best vacation hotel deals and book yours at Booking.com, Hotels.com, Agoda, Expedia, & TripAdvisor. and don't forget to sign up at Extrabux (What is Extrabux?) , then you can get up to 6% super cashback from Extrabux! Sign-Up Bonus: Free to join it & get $20 welcome bonus!
2. See Saguaro National Park
You can explore Saguaro National Park in so many ways from scenic drives to hiking, and watching the sunset. Please note that Saguaro National Park West/Tucson Mountain District is in the Tucson Mountain Range and borders Marana. Saguaro National Park West is where the architecturally stunning Red Hills Visitor Center is located (at 2700 N Kinney Rd., Tucson). During regular operations the Red Hills Visitor Center offers guided tours, indoor exhibits, gift shop, restrooms, vending machines, and drinking fountains. Saguaro National Park East is located about one hour away, in a different mountain range that has different scenery from Saguaro National Park West. If you're looking for iconic Saguaro Cactus landscape, Saguaro National Park West is that one.
Note: A visit to Saguaro National Park West may be combined with visits to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2.6 miles from the Red Hills Visitor Center) and Old Tucson (5.6 miles from the Red Hills Visitor Center). Old Tucson is temporarily closed until new management takes over running the historic Western theme park and movie backlot.
Pavorite things to do in Saguaro National Park West:
1. Scenic Drives
2. Go Hiking & Have a Picnic
3. Mountain Biking
4. Camping Trip
5. See the Wildlife
6. View Ancient Petroglyphs
7. Watch the Sunset
3. Visit White Sands National Park
Located in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert, between the New Mexico towns of Alamogordo and Las Cruces, is one of the world’s largest gypsum sand dune fields. From sledding down the sand dunes to taking a ranger-led hike, here are ten fun things to do when you visit White Sands National Park.
1. Stop at the White Sands Visitor Center
2. Pick Up an Adventure Pack
3. Become a Junior Ranger
4. Tour the Native Plant Garden
5. Drive the Dunes
6. Walkabout the White Sands
7. Play in the Sand
8. Have a Picnic
9. Take Some Photographs
10. Take a Ranger-Guided Tour
4. Eat at Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue
While road tripping New Mexico, Don't forget to eat at Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue in Cloudcroft. Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue Offers Texas-Style Brisket in New Mexico.
If you do want to stop here to eat, just know that they close when they run out of food…whatever time that happens to be. So if you want to get their best items (or any food at all) then you need to get here early! They write the names of their sold-out items up on a chalk board, so if you get here in the afternoon you’ll find a huge line of customers anxiously watching and hoping Mad Jack’s won’t sell out of their favorite items before it’s their turn in line! But if you’re here in time, make sure you order the sliced brisket and the sour cream-based potato salad, which are some of the best items on the menu.
5. Stop at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, area of the Chihuahuan Desert in southeastern New Mexico, U.S., near the base of the Guadalupe Mountains (a segment of the Sacramento Mountains). It was established in 1923 as a national monument, designated a national park in 1930, and proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains more than 119 limestone caves that are outstanding in the profusion, diversity, and beauty of their formations. Caves are fragile environments that are affected by human activities and natural processes both underground and on the surface. It is a good attraction not to be missed.
6. Explore Newman's Castle
Experience the old world charm of Newman’s Castle, a one-of-a-kind custom creation hidden just outside of Bellville in the rolling countryside.
The castle features a moat (watch out for gators!), a massive working 3,000 lb. drawbridge with an accompanying portcullis, a chapel, five round corner turrets, a courtyard, and a central keep with a dramatic view of the surrounding lands.
7. Visit the Johnson Space Center
The Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston are well worth seeing if you are in the area, or making a pilgrimage to if you're an avid space geek. There are a lot of cool things to see there.
Best Stops Along Route 2 (A High Route I-40)
San Diego（You can also use San Diego as the first stop on this trip if you want.）
Westside Lilo's Cafe
Grand Canyon National Park
Petrified Forest National Park
Bandelier National Monument
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
1. Explore San Diego
2. Stop by the London Bridge
The famous London Bridge, the centerpiece of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Somehow, the bridge that once crossed the Thames River ended up in the middle of the desert. Lake Havasu is a planned city, and founder Robert McCulloch thought that his town wouldn’t be complete without an attraction, so he bought the old London Bridge and moved it across the pond. The bridge is among the top tourist sites in Arizona, pulling in people from all over the state.
Interestingly, when Robert brought the London Bridge to Arizona, he also brought over the centuries of violence and death attached to the bridge. From the Great Fires of 1212 and 1666 to the numerous drownings and accidents, to the severed heads displayed on the bridge by the Crown, Lake Havasu’s London Bridge is cursed. Drivers and pedestrians who cross the bridge might see misplaced characters from 19th century England walking along the roadway. Others have been followed home by dark energy after crossing the span. Historians say that there’s a good possibility that human remains are buried within the bridge and its granite bricks.
3. Eat at Westside Lilo's Cafe
Like Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue on the 1-10 route, Westside Lilo’s was an unexpected gem of a find and a place. Located on Historic Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona. Whether you’re traveling the entirety of the Historic Route 66 or simply passing through the area, take a rest and stop in for a bite to eat at their restaurant in Seligman, the "Mother Town of the Mother Road" and enjoy their wonderful atmosphere with your fellow travelers!
Favorite item on the menu was their Texas Toothpicks appetizer, and they also make their own ranch dressing which is good enough to drink straight from the container! Their chicken fried steak, schnitzel, and carrot cake are also very good…and they make huge cinnamon rolls (think birthday-cake sized…but be aware they do have raisins in them, which is not for everyone).
4. Marvel at the Grand Canyon National Park
Offering rim to rim hiking, donkey rides, and whitewater rafting, Grand Canyon National Park is a hugely popular national park destination.
Grand Canyon National Park encompasses canyons, river tributaries, and surrounding grounds. The Grand Canyon is situated in Arizona's northwestern quadrant. With millions of visitors making the trip to the canyon each year, this park is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. In addition, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
The Grand Canyon had a long and arduous road to becoming a national park, beginning in the 1880s with several failed congressional bills. After making multiple visits to the area, Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument in 1908. The bill to grant national park status to the area was passed in 1919 and signed by then-President Woodrow Wilson.
There are two public areas of Grand Canyon National Park, the North and South Rims. At 7,000 feet above sea level, the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most accessible section of the national park, with numerous places where visitors can pull over to admire the views. The Grand Canyon North Rim, 1,000 feet higher than its southern sibling, isn't as popular because it is harder to get to, especially when harsh winter weather closes access roads. By car, the trip from one rim to the other is 220 miles. However, if traveling by foot, the distance across the canyon is 21 miles via the Kaibab Trails.
5. Visit the Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park, near the town of Holbrook, has petrified wood, 13,000 years of human history, plus hiking, camping, and horseback riding.
Experience one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archaeological sites at Petrified Forest National Park. 200-million-year-old fossils tell the tale of the prehistoric earth and its inhabitants in Arizona’s Painted Desert.
Petrified Forest National Park provides access to many outdoor activities, and the best way to enjoy and experience it is on foot. Designated hiking trails range in length from less than a half-mile to three miles, and each trail promises you a breathtaking view of the surrounding Painted Desert.
You can also head out into the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area by horse, burro, mule or llama, or you can do an overnight backpacking trip through the park.
6. Explore Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is in the same region as Santa Fe and the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, so while you’re in this area you will definitely want to visit. Bandelier consists of some gorgeous scenery, as well as fascinating archaeological sites. The park preserves and protects the homes of the Ancestral Puebloans, so on a visit you can climb up into some of the pueblo structures and experience them first-hand.
Most visitors begin their exploration of Bandelier with a walk on the Main (Pueblo) Loop Trail. This short 1.4 mile loop trail starts from the Visitor Center and leads through excavated archeological sites on the floor of Frijoles Canyon. A portion of this trail is handicapped accessible.
Other trails in this area include the 3 mile round-trip Falls Trail to the beautiful Upper Falls and various trails of different lengths and difficulty leading up to the mesa tops.
The Tsankawi section of Bandelier National Monument is 12 miles from the main section of the park. At Tsankawi you take a 1.5 mile walk along a mesa, viewing cavates, petroglyphs and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi. Climbing ladders is a required activity at this site.
For visitors looking for longer hikes, the Bandelier Backcountry offers countless opportunities for all day journeys and multiple-day overnight backpacking trips. Most of the 70 miles of trails are in the officially designated wilderness areas. Permits are required for overnight stays.
7. Visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The National Monument, on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, includes a national recreation trail and ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level. It is for foot travel only, and contains two segments that provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification.
The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a pyroclastic flow.
Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks, and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet up to 90 feet.
You’ll want to make sure that there’s no rain about to fall, as the slot canyon turns the rain into a powerful river. It is actually dangerous to hike here during a storm, so don’t risk it if you see dark clouds! But if the conditions are right during your trip, this will be an unforgettable road trip stop.
8. Eat Delicious New Mexican Food in Santa Fe
There’s lots of delicious New Mexican food in Santa Fe. Even if you don’t have much time to spend in Santa Fe, I recommend driving through and making a stop at a restaurant like La Choza or The Pantry (those were two of our favorites). Both have excellent chile options to try and good sopapilla. You will certainly be left wanting more because it is just so good!
Where to stay in Santa Fe?
We highly recommend the La Fonda on the Plaza.
The centrally located La Fonda on the Plaza, with Santa Fe mountain views, features an outdoor pool, rooftop hot tub and spa. Guest rooms offer flat-screen cable TVs and free Wi-Fi.
Rooms provide desks, safety deposit boxes and ironing facilities. They also have bathrobes and hairdryers.
A gym, business center and meeting rooms are available to guests at La Fonda. The hotel offers an on-site restaurant and bar.
La Fonda is less than a half mile from St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, Palace of the Governors Museum and New Mexico Museum of Art. It is also within walking distance of New Mexico State Monuments.
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