Itinerary: Texas Road Trip (From DFW)

In May of 2020 my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. Several months prior we had planned one of the most exciting Caribbean vacations for our family. It was going to be 3 solid weeks traveling St. Vincent, Barbados and St. Lucia. But, that trip never happened. Thanks, Covid! Since all international travel was halted for months we had to come up with a quick back-up plan. We had always wanted to see the different terrains Texas had to offer so… our incredible Texas Road Trip was born! I planned this 15-day trip about a month before we went. By far, the shortest planning time for any of our vacations. A few things really helped with planning on such short notice – everyone had stopped traveling due to Covid so, places to stay were abundant AND the new reservation system for tickets for Texas State Parks ensured we would get into the park we were wanting to visit on a given day. 

We saw 13 Texas State Parks, 1 National Recreation Area – Amistad, and 1 National Park – Big Bend. Despite our Caribbean trip being a bust – this is, by far, one of our most favorite trips. Texas has some of the most incredible landscapes you could imagine. Our boys slid down waterfalls, swam in crystal clear rivers, and hiked through deep canyons. We also slept in a tree house for the first time! I’ve put together our itinerary with our AirBNB stops along the way. We have many more Texas State Parks on our bucket list. So, if you piece this trip together with a few other stops – I’d love to hear about it! *Also, please see my list of things to consider at the bottom of this itinerary*

Day 1, Lometa, TX: 

We live in Rockwall, Texas so that is our starting point for this trip. We drove to Lometa, TX and stayed at a quaint little AirBNB cabin. It is located on a large property with the Colorado river running right on the property. We built a campfire each night we were there and made hot dogs and s’mores. We saw tons of wildlife. Find it here.

AirBNB Lometa, TX

Day 2, Colorado Bend State Park: 

The main attraction near this AirBNB is Colorado Bend State Park. A Texas State Park known for one of its waterfalls. We love waterfalls so it made sense this would be our first stop! This park is a definite must for anyone who lives in Texas. We did the hike to the main waterfall (Gorman Falls) – it is a *mostly* direct sunlight (AKA HOT) long hike. Take plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat! The end of the hike finds you traversing down huge boulders to the site of the waterfall. It is incredible. 

After the long hike back we were hot and in need of a swim! We did the Spicewood Springs Trail – a trail full of small waterfalls and springs. Our kids absolutely loved this spot. We will absolutely do this park again just for this spot! They slid down waterfalls and swam and swam for hours. Learn more about Colorado Bend State Park here.

Sliding down a waterfall on Spicewood Springs Trail – Colorado Bend State Park

Day 3, Inks Lake State Park:

We woke up on Day 3 at our AirBNB in Lometa and drove to Inks Lake State Park (about a 1 hour drive). We spent the day at Inks Lake and were- again- blown away by the landscape. We had loved Colorado Bend so much the day before and couldn’t believe how much we loved Inks Lake! We spent a lot of time at Devils Waterhole. We were there pretty early in the day and it was May so, not quite warm enough to swim. We sat on the bank and watched the incredible wildlife, listened to music, and ate some snacks. We saw plenty of snakes, turtles, fish, and birds. We probably sat for almost 2 hours before moving on to hike. We ventured up to the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall and explored that area for a while. Lots of cacti and rocky landscape. We saw bearded dragons and lizards galore. Our kids were in heaven! A storm happened to be rolling in so we loaded up and drove over to Buchanan Lake to check it out and hang out on the shore there. Overall, a great park worth checking out. Learn more about Inks Lakes State Park here.

That afternoon we drove to our next AirBNB – the treehouse! There are several tree houses on the property surrounding a communal area with a fire pit, stream, and game area. We saw so much wildlife here. The fireflies were heaven! Our kids absolutely loved sleeping in the trees. Our AIrBNB can be found here.

Day 4, McKinney Falls State Park: 

We woke up in the treehouse for Day 4 to dozens of deer right down below. And birds right in the trees in front of us! Our adventure for the day was Mckinney Falls State Park. Our kids were so excited to swim at this park. Unfortunately, the storm came through the night before and the river was raging. Definitely not safe to swim! So, we explored around. We saw Old Baldy – the 500 year old Cypress tree. We saw the Upper and Lower falls. Even though we did not get to swim, I still highly recommend this park. If you happen to go on a good swimming day – it looks absolutely amazing. We could’ve spent all day there! Learn more about McKinney Falls State Park here.

Since the rivers all around that area were raging from the rain the night before – we needed a safer swimming option. We headed to a place called Krause Springs. A deep water swimming hole and spring. It. Was. Amazing. I highly recommend stopping here on your trip to this area. Learn more about Krause Springs here.

At some point in this area we made a pit stop at Route 12 Filling Station. A kid-friendly restaurant and bar with a splash pad and playground! Our kids played and played while we had a beer. Heaven. Route 12 information can be found here.

Day 5, Pedernales Falls State Park: 

We woke up on Day 5 ready to tackle Pedernales Falls State Park. The water had receded some after the rain and it was a much better day for swimming and exploring. It is one of the top State Parks in Texas and I know why. You just have to see it to believe it. The scenery. The rocks. The way the river has carved out the landscape. We just absolutely loved this spot. We spent a great deal of time at the Pedernales Falls overlook. You can hike down to the water and see deep and shallow pools, waterfalls, and rugged terrain. This area is NOT for swimming. 

At this park there is a specific swimming spot on the trails map. We went there to spend the rest of the afternoon. The river was still moving pretty good so we kept to the shore most of the day. Our kids loved the crayfish in the shallows and lizards on the shore. They spent all afternoon trying to catch anything they could! Learn more about Pedernales Falls State Park here.

That night, we were in a new AirBNB. I wasn’t sure how the treehouse was going to go with kids so I only planned for us to spend 2 nights there. At this new spot – we made a campfire, had s’mores, and counted more deer than we had ever seen in a single location in our lives. Including fawns. My husband and I decided it was one of our top 3 stays on this trip. Find it here.

AirBNB Dripping Springs, TX

Day 6, Canyon Lake and Guadalupe River State Park: 

We woke up on Day 6 with two spots in mind for the day. Guadalupe River is a fairly small State Park and we knew we could cover it in a few hours. We added a stop at Canyon Lake for the morning to hang out on the shore and dip our toes in. Really, just an easy, relaxing morning. The water at Canyon Lake is crystal clear. We could see fish right from the shore. Turns out it’s a popular spot as the morning rolls on! We got there early and had a prime pick of spots, but by the time we left around noon it was packed! Canyon Lake is large. We pitched our stuff near Canyon Overlook Park. Its a steep hike down rocky terrain to get to the shore so pack accordingly! 

That afternoon we hit Guadalupe River State Park. Our kids got in a little rest on the drive there and were ready to go when we got there! Keep in mind rivers are FLOWING bodies of water. You will need a way to keep hold of your kids so they don’t get away from you. We saw one little boy float off pretty far from his mom and have a complete panic attack. Don’t let that happen to you. That said, yes yes yes go to Guadalupe River! Again, it is absolutely beautiful! The water is shallow so keeping up with kids is not super difficult – BUT if you have one that is not a strong swimmer – be mindful. Our kids absolutely loved walking up river and floating down over and over and over. We got a great workout in! It was an absolute blast. Learn more about Guadalupe River State Park here. **Please see my list of things to consider at the bottom of this itinerary*

Day 7, Krause Springs and Blanco State Park: 

We met up with family on this day! We headed back to Krause Springs and Route 12 Filling Station (yes, both for a second time) and had the best day! We also had tickets for Blanco State Park and wanted to check it out – its a small one. So we drove over to explore for a couple of hours. The river here is a perfect swimming spot with a dammed shallow area – great for kids! It was a perfect couple of hours letting our kids jump in and swim around. Learn more about Blanco State Park here.

Route 12 Filling Station – Dripping Springs, TX

Day 8, Palmetto State Park, Garner State Park and heading West to Del Rio, Texas!:

We woke up on Day 8 with a long day ahead. Tickets for Palmetto State Park and a straight drive West to Del Rio, Texas. We were leaving Central Texas behind and heading all the way to Mexico (pretty much!). 

We had Palmetto State Park on the list because it is one of the most unique Texas State Parks. It is full of dwarf palmettos! Like, full. It’s like being transported to a tropical forest. We loved it. Learn more about Palmetto State Park here.

We left Palmetto State Park to head West. Our final destination for the day was Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas. On the way we stopped at Garner State Park in Concan, Texas. 

Garner State Park deserves an entire blog post to itself. It quickly became one of our top 2 favorite Texas State Parks. (#1 comes later). We got to the park in the afternoon. Our tickets were timed for 2-5pm which meant we had to choose one hike. Our kids absolutely love caves so it was an easy choice – we did the Crystal Cave hike! This hike is considered “challenging” according to Texas State Parks but our kids made it up the climb, into the cave, and back down all on their own. The views from the cave were incredible. The entire state park is incredible. We went back to this park a few months later to fully explore and spend the day there. Learn more about Garner State park here.

From Garner we headed West! It was just over 2 hours of driving to our next stay with VRBO. It was located in a remote area directly on Lake Amistad. We arrived after dark. Bad choice as Google maps was trying to take us down a road that did not exist! We slowed down coming up to the “turn” and both looked and said, “there’s no road there.” And wouldn’t you guess, spotty cell service too! This is one of those times a paper map comes in handy. (We didn’t have one of those either.) So, we kept going to see if there were any other roads going in that general direction. Thankfully, it didn’t take us too long to find it. 

After the Google maps mishap we pull up to the VRBO property. A large animal (or several small ones) must’ve gotten to it before we did because the trash was dumped out and scattered everywhere on the front yard. Not the best first impression of an AirBNB. We were a little terrified of how the rest of this stay would go! We picked this spot for the view of the lake. And let me tell you – it took our breath away. You couldn’t take your eyes off of the lake. It was one of the worst first impressions of an AirBNB we experienced, but will probably go down as one of our most favorite stays. Find it here.

Crystal Cave – Garner State Park

Day 9, Devils River State Park:

We woke up on Lake Amistad and enjoyed the morning relaxing before driving to Devils River State Park. We picked this park because it is the most pristine, untouched river in the entire state of Texas. It is tied for first place for our favorite Texas State Park. 

Getting to Devils River is an adventure all in itself. I think that’s why we enjoyed this park so much. It is about an hour and half drive from the VRBO in Del Rio. The entire last hour of the drive is 22 miles on a rocky, unpaved road. We’ve done this kind of drive many times before, but let me tell you if you’ve never done it – you have to go 5-10mph on rocks. Big rocks, small rocks, flat rocks, sharp rocks, swerving to avoid rocks, sliding down rocky terrain… it’s an adventure. But we knew it would be worth it. Once you get to the end of the 22 miles – you have to drive another mile to get to the parking area for the 1+ mile hike to the river. It is remote. It is pristine. The park ranger told us that day we were the only people in the park. We had the whole place to ourselves! 

Of course we spent the entire day at the river. Pictures and written descriptions just don’t do it justice. The hike from the parking area is in full sun (AKA HOT). There is nothing when you get there. Just the you and the river. And some wildlife. We set our stuff up on the bank of the river near some tall grass. We were all hanging out when we heard a loud tromping noise through the grass. Honestly, I thought it was a large animal of some kind coming our way. We inched towards it to see what it was – and the sweetest little armadillo face popped out of the grass! It was the cutest thing. One of our favorite memories there. We admired him for a while until he retreated back into the grass. 

Devils River goes down as our top Brave Family Adventure of this trip. Learn more about this park here.

We went back to our VRBO that night and grilled on the back patio with the most incredible view of the lake. 

Devils River State Park

Day 10, Lake Amistad:

We had an easy day for day 10. After the adventure the day before at Devils River we decided it would be a good day with no driving and lots of exploring the lake from the house. Lake Amistad is like no other lake you’ve seen before. And the view from this VRBO was something we will never ever forget. Learn more about Amistad National Recreation Area here.

Amistad National Recreation Area

Day 11, Seminole Canyon State Park and on the move toward Big Bend National Park:

We decided to break up the 4.5 hour drive from Lake Amistad (Del Rio, TX) to Terlingua (Big Bend area) with a stop at Seminole Canyon State Park. This park is known for ancient pictographs. Something we had never seen as a family before. Pre-covid this park offered boat tours to get an up close look at the pictographs, however, when we were there we had to view them from the overlook on Canyon Rim Trail. 6 miles of hiking in the desert. Our 4 and 5 year olds did amazing. We did have to do some carrying (thank you, ergos – see my packing tips here). It took us several hours to do this hike. I feel like I’ve said it 100 times in this post but we absolutely loved it. The feeling of accomplishment when you hike 6 miles in direct desert heat and sun with your kids is incredible. We were all so proud of ourselves after this one! The pictographs were pretty cool too. Oh, and we saw Mexico on the other side of the Rio Grande! Our first time seeing Mexico on this trip. From Seminole Canyon we headed toward Big Bend National Park. Learn more about Seminole Canyon State Park here.

Our next AirBNB in the Big Bend area of Terlingua, Texas was actually our least favorite spot. I did not plan this one well. It was right off the highway so the boys had nowhere to go play when we weren’t out exploring. I do recommend this place for anyone without kids as the location to get to Big Bend is unbeatable (and why I picked it). Find it here.

Seminole Canyon State Park

Day 12, Big Bend National Park:

If you are a Texan – this park is an absolute MUST. I plan to do an entire post on Big Bend in the near future. I will link it here. In the meantime learn more about Big Bend National Park here.

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

Day 13, Big Bend National Park Day 2 and Big Bend Ranch State Park: 

Big Bend Ranch State Park is not to be missed if you’re in the area of the National Park. The Closed Canyon Trail and the scenery makes this park our tie for first place with Devils River. Learn more about Big Bend Ranch State Park here.

Closed Canyon Trail, Big Bend Ranch State Park

Day 14, Davis Mountains State Park:

Day 14 started our trek back North to make the full round back to our home in Rockwall. We stopped at Davis Mountains State Park which is about 2 hours from Terlingua and a great way to break up the drive going North. We enjoyed hiking at this park very much. Learn more about Davis Mountains State Park here.

From here, we continued driving North until we got to a hotel near Monahans Sandhills State Park. We found one with an indoor swimming pool so we could swim before bed. We spent the night at the hotel and woke up for Day 15 at Monahans Sandhills State Park. 

Day 15, Monahans Sandhills State Park

We stayed the night near this park so we could wake up early and spend the whole morning exploring before the LONG drive back home. If it fits your trip and you can make it to this park – do it. You climb up onto the sandhill and look out to rolling sandhills as far as the eye can see. Our kids absolutely fell in love. I highly, highly recommend this park. A definite for families with kids! Learn more here.

From here we drove 6 hours straight back to our house! The kids were WORN out and slept quite a bit. We had a complete blast exploring our great state of Texas. It wasn’t the Caribbean trip we had planned – but I guarantee we saw much more diversity in landscape than anything we would’ve seen in the Caribbean.

Writing this out has been a lot of fun. I hope I made it easy enough to jump around to things that interest you. Have you visited any of these parks? What are you most looking forward to checking out? Leave me a comment! 


-Texas State Parks require a day-pass reservation for visiting the park. These must be reserved in advance! I was able to book passes as I planned and mapped out our trip, about a month in advance. Keep that in mind when planning! Passes do sell out and you will not be allowed to enter without a pre-purchased day pass. 

-Rivers are flowing bodies of water. Everyone – even the strongest swimmers – need a life jacket. Our kids LOVE these lifejackets and will never be caught in a flowing body of water without them found here.

-It is extremely important to cover snake etiquette with young kids before setting out on any hike. Learn more about snakes here.

-Necessities when hiking 6 miles in the desert: WATER, hat, sunscreen, first aid kit, salty snacks, lip balm. 

-Kids must haves for this trip: TEVAS hurricane sandals found here , swimsuits, goggles 

-It is also important to note: at all times on this trip we had a stocked cooler full of cold water and food. Always buy more jugs/gallons of water than you think you’ll need. Many of the parks (especially the remote ones) do not have water refill stations. Texas late Spring and Summers are HOT. 

-When planning look at the park trail maps linked on the websites to the parks. You will see a .pdf link that reads “Park trail Maps”. These help you plan your day and know what to expect on your hike.

-For food and places to stop to eat – we mostly ate packed lunches from the cooler. We maybe stopped 3-4 times for cooked meals (or ordered pizza). Most of our days were spent in the parks and most of the parks have no food places on site. It’s pack in, pack out! Please prepare for that and have everything you need when going into a park. The last thing you want is to get out of a long hike with a bunch of hungry kids and nothing to feed them! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Itinerary: Texas Road Trip (From DFW)

  1. Cindi Harris

    Wow! Wishing I was young with my kids to do this trip. Guess I will have to take grandkids instead. Great job, Mel.

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