20 Places To Visit On A Houston to Los Angeles Road Trip

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Depart on an epic road trip from Houston to Los Angeles to see some incredible cities and natural sites across the southern states of the USA. 23 hours of solid driving will see you reach your destination, having covered 1552 miles (2498 km) and crossed four states. By road-tripping this journey, you will uncover new cities, visit national landmarks, and be immersed in new and exciting cultures. Depending on your travel companions and chosen route, you may decide to spend longer than a day in some locations, making the most of what they have to offer.

Begin your journey in Houston, immersing yourself in Texas culture and spending time by the ocean before heading inland. On your road trip stop at other major cities such as Austin (Texas), Phoenix (Arizona) and San Diego (California). End your journey in the City of Angels and relax in luxurious surroundings. Along the route, make the most of natural sites such as Joshua Tree National Forest and learn about wildlife at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. If you are planning on road-tripping from Houston to Los Angeles here are 20 places to explore, rest and recharge at.

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20 Places To Visit On A Houston To Los Angeles Road Trip

1- Houston, TX

houston to los angeles road trip
Driving on Interstate Highways in Houston, Texas.

Begin your road trip in Houston, TX, the fourth-largest city in America.

If you are travelling with children, spend the afternoon at Houston Zoo, where there’s a large selection of animals from across the world and the opportunity to meet some of them.

You can feed giraffes and even go behind the scenes and learn about reptiles and how to care for them.

There is also a petting zoo where children can become closer friends with the animals.

Grab a bite to eat at the Conservatory food hal, which has stalls serving a variety of cuisines, including Tex Mex, pizza and poke bowls.

The stalls frequently rotate so that each visit will be different to your last.

The conservatory’s underground beer garden is a great way to try a local brew with your meal.

Top tour: Space Center Houston Admission Ticket.

2- Corpus Christi, TX

Sunset in Corpus Christi between the buildings
If you’re going on a driving vacation from Los Angeles to Houston or reverse, you may want to check out Corpus Christi.

Make your way down the coast to Corpus Christi, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico.

Corpus Christi is a great destination to make the most of the beaches on the Gulf before heading inland.

If you plan on spending a few days in the city, take a boat to Padre Island National Seashore.

This barrier island is a quiet haven with around 70 miles (113 km) of coastline.

Padre Island is the perfect destination if you enjoy nature, as the island is a haven for birds, with approximately 380 species sighted there.

Round off your time in Corpus Christi by visiting the Texas State Aquarium.

The aquarium aims to rehabilitate, rescue and protect marine life and is a great place to learn more about life in the oceans.

Two of the most popular exhibits are Dolphin Bay, where you can see dolphins both above and below the surface of the water, and Floating Phantoms where you can uncover the ethereal beauty of jellyfish.

Driving from Houston to Corpus Christi covers 208 miles (335 km) and takes approximately 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Top tour: Glowing Kayak Tour Corpus Christi – North Padre Island.

3- San Antonio, TX

River Walk in in San Antonio aeriel view of colourful umbrellas.
When travelling from Houston to Los Angeles, stop for a bite to eat at the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

Head further inland and stop at San Antonio to be immersed in history, culture and great food.

Call into the San Antonio Museum of Art to visit one of the most impressive collections in Texas.

The museum houses an extensive collection of artworks from Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome, with some pieces from more than 5000 years ago on display.

For something a little more unique when visiting the city, stop by Natural Bridge Caverns.

A group of students uncovered the caverns in the 1960s, which have today been transformed into a tourist attraction to show off the marvels of nature.

The caverns take their name from the large bridge-like stone at their entrance.

Driving from Corpus Christi to San Antonio covers 143 miles (230.14 kilometres) and takes approximately 2 hours.

Top tour: San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour.

4- Austin TX

Downtown Skyline of Austin
Austin is a fun place to visit on Los Angeles to Houston drive.

Spend a day or two exploring Austin, the state capital of Texas is a small city filled with great things to do, places to eat and natural sites to visit.

Austin is famous for its music scene, so if you can’t make a show, head to Waterloo Records to explore the most extensive record collection in the city.

There are plenty of vinyl for sale ranging from rare and desirable records to the weird and wonderful in their dollar bins.

If dancing is more your thing, look no further than Broken Spoke, a dance hall and music venue that offers performances, dance lessons and more all under one roof.

Driving from San Antonio to Austin covers 79.5 miles (127.94 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Top tour: Austin Biker Gang E-Bike Adventure.

5- Fort Stockton, TX

Fort Stockton is a great place to spend an afternoon to break up your long drive.

This historic centre was a military fort during the Indian Wars of 1867 and 1886.

Tour the historic fort, uncover its purpose during the war and learn more about the men fighting to defend it.

In traditional small-town fashion, Fort Stockton has a unique roadside attraction worth snapping a photo of.

Look for Paisano Pete, the world’s second-largest statue of a road runner, who is 11 ft (3.32m) tall.

Before you depart, enjoy some local wine and accompanying cheeses at the Grey Mile Saloon, which has stood and served hungry and thirsty patrons since the Wild West days.

Driving from Austin to Fort Stockton covers 339 miles (545.57 kilometres) and takes approximately 5.5 hours. 

6- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

Switchback footpath winds into natural opening of Carlsbad Caverns
One of the places to explore on a Houston to Los Angeles drive is the Carlsbad Caverns.

Cross into New Mexico and explore the beauty of the earth below the surface at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert and is covered with colourful flowering cacti, a variety of wildlife and plenty of canyons to venture into.

Beneath the desert are a series of more than 119 caves and caverns of limestone that vary in size and are accessible with a ranger or at your own pace on its easy-to-follow trails.

Driving from Fort Stockton to Carlsbad Caverns National Park covers 144 miles (232 km) and takes approximately 2.5 hours. 

7- El Paso, TX

El paso by night
When driving from Houston to Los Angeles, you could swing by El Paso.

Your last stop in Texas is El Paso, a city on the Rio Grande west of the state.

El Paso sits on the Mexican border, and many Mexican influences can be found in the city, from its architecture to its food.

Wander around the beautiful Keystone Heritage Park and Botanical Gardens to uncover a natural paradise.

The park has a wetlands area that is populated by more than 200 species of birds.

Throughout the park are native cacti, flowers and trees, and some archeological finds dating back more than 4000 years.

Escape the heat and immerse yourself in art at the El Paso Museum of Art.

The museum has collections featuring works of art from Latin America and Europe and temporary exhibitions from up-and-coming artists from across the USA.

Driving from Carlsbad Caverns to El Paso covers 149 miles ( 239.79 kilometres) and takes approximately 2.5 hours. 

Top tour: UTV Adventure Tour / Rental.

8- Coronado National Forest, AZ

Coronado National Forest is a unique place to visit to get out of the city and back into nature on your road trip to Los Angeles.

The forest is vast and, as a result, has many different climates and weather patterns.

Visit the desert areas to see towering cacti and colourful flowers covering the ground before venturing up into the mountains, which at certain times of year, are capped with snow.

There are campgrounds available to extend your stay with areas to pitch tents or to stay in one of the park’s log cabins.

Driving from El Paso to Coronado National Forest covers 338 miles (543.96 kilometres) and takes approximately 6 hours.

9- Tucson, AZ

Tucson skyline from Sentinel Peak
The Tucson skyline and Santa Catalina Mountain range from Sentinel Peak Park.

Visit your first city in Arizona on your road trip and spend a day or two in Tucson, which is surrounded by natural landscapes filled with wildlife.

Visit one of its many National Parks and gardens to return to nature.

In the city, film buffs should head to Old Tucson Studios to experience life on set.

The studios were a key filming location for Little House on the Prairie and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Tours of the studios are available, and an onside theme park and live stunt performances add additional enjoyment to your visit.

Driving from Coronado National Forest to Tucson covers 63.2 miles (101.71 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour 40 minutes.

Top tour: Historic Bike Tour in Tucson.

10- Theodore Roosevelt Lake, AZ

Theodore Roosevelt Lake is a great location to spend a day or two as it has excellent day-use areas and camping spaces.

The lake is a reservoir created by the Theodore Roosevelt Dam and is Arizona’s largest body of water.

Wild open spaces, mountains and grasslands surround the lake in the desert.

There are plenty of activities to get involved with.

If you enjoy fishing, there are many piers and sections of shoreline where you can catch a range of fish, including channel catfish and carp.

If spending time on the water interests you, boats, jet skis, paddle boards and more are available for hire.

Driving from Tucson to Theodore Roosevelt Lake covers 133 miles (214 km) and takes approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes.

11- Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Arizona skyline at sunset
One of the major cities to visit between Houston and Los Angeles is Phoenix, Arizona.

Make Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, your next stop.

If you haven’t had enough of cacti during your dessert drive, spend an hour or so at the Desert Botanical Garden, a 140-acre landscape packed with various species of desert flora.

Try a Sonoran Dog from Nogales Hot Dogs for a bite to eat. These hot dogs are a beef hot dogs wrapped in bacon topped with pinto beans, cheese, onions and chillis.

Find peace before continuing your road trip at Ro Ho En, the city’s 3.5-acre Japanese Friendship Garden.

This tranquil and inviting garden is filled with water gardens, a tea house and plenty of lush greenery.

Driving from Theodore Roosevelt Lake to Phoenix covers 106 miles (270.59 kilometres) and takes about two hours. 

Top tour: Small-Group Deluxe Grand Canyon with Sedona Day Trip.

12- Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ

Arizona Organ Pipe Cactus against sky low angle view.
On a road journey from Los Angeles to Houston, stop to check out the incredible Organ Pipe Cactus.

Drive back towards the border to experience the vast and wild beauty of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This UNESCO biosphere reserve shares its USA border with Sonora, a Mexican state.

Choose to hike, drive or camp at the national monument to make the most of this impressive site.

The monument is the home to the Organ Pipe Cactus and is the only place within the USA where they thrive naturally.

This protected area has various animals, including the pygmy owl, kangaroo rats and desert bighorns.

Book onto a ranger-led program to discover the flora and fauna of the area and uncover more about its human history.

Driving from Phoenix to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument covers 127 miles (204 km) and takes approximately 2 hours 10 minutes.

13- Yuma, AZ

Yuma is your last city stop in Arizona and is well worth a visit.

It has warm weather and is a Guinness World Record holder for being the world’s sunniest city.

Make the most of the nice weather and explore the city on foot, or visit its nearby lakes or the Colorado River and swim and canoe.

An unusual thing to do in Yuma is to visit the old Yuma Territorial Prison, a historical state park open to the public where you can book guided tours or ghost walks.

Satisfy your hunger before you leave by ordering pizza from Da Boyz.

This pizza place serves Italian-style pizzas with a range of toppings, tasty and spicy hot wings, and a range of sandwiches and calzones.

Driving from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to Yuma covers 173 miles (278 km) and takes approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.

Top tour: Yuma Scavenger Hunt: Desert Sun & Fun.

14- Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, AZ

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect wild desert bighorn sheep.

The refuge has been open since 1939 and covers nearly 550,00 acres (222,557 ha)of rugged desert wilderness.

Looking over the desert are the Kofa Mountains and Castle Dome Mountains which are well worth the climb if you are spending a few days here.

If you are shorter on time and are just passing through, take the time to explore the landscape on a short circular hike.

While you may not see any of the bighorns protected by the refuge, there are still plenty of things to look at and explore.

Driving from Yuma to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge covers 72.9 miles (117 km) and takes approximately 2 hours.

15- Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Road in Joshua Tree
When driving between Houston tx to Los Angeles, ca, Joshua Tree National Park is a gem to explore.

Joshua Tree National Park falls across the Mojave and Colorado deserts, giving it a unique appearance packed with flora and fauna unlike any other American desert.

If you plan on spending the night, look up at the night sky for unrivalled views of the stars.

The park is a dark sky location that offers some of the best chances at seeing the stars and even the milky way with the naked eye.

The park is famous for its unusual and unique rock formations, including Arch Rock, near the White Tank Campground.

Head here for some great natural photos of this unique landscape.

Driving from Kofa National Wildlife Refuge to Joshua Tree National Park covers 142 miles (220 km) and takes approximately 3 hours.

Top tour: Joshua Tree National Park Offroad Tour.

16- Salton Sea, CA

Southern California's Salton Sea at sunset.
The Salton Sea is a unique spot to explore when road tripping between Boston and Los Angeles.

The Salton Sea is an unusual body of water in California, making a great stopping destination for the day.

The sea is completely landlocked but is filled with saltwater that is slowly evaporating.

It’s an environmentally significant location in the state and one currently being studied by scientists for its impact on local wildlife.

A recreation area on the northeastern side of the sea has a visitor centre and spaces for fishing, swimming and camping.

The areas surrounding the sea are peaceful and make for great photographs out across the sea towards the mountains.

Driving from Joshua Tree National Park to the Salton Sea covers 46 miles (74 km) and takes approximately hours.

Top tour: San Andreas Fault Offroad Tour.

17- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA

As you head towards your destination, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park and well worth visiting.

The state park is dramatic, wild, vast, and filled with various desert terrain, including badlands, oases and canyons.

Begin at the visitor centre to grab a map or two and uncover any special natural events in the park during your visit.

During spring, wildflowers cover the ground and spectacular multi-coloured sunsets wash over the cacti and rocky mounds.

Driving from Salton Sea to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park covers 63.4 miles (102 km) and takes approximately 1 hour.

18- San Diego, CA

Historic heart of San Diego
The Historic Heart of San Diego is a vibrant spot with bars and restaurants to explore on a drive from Houston to Los Angeles.

Visit your first Californian city on your road trip and spend a day or two in San Diego.

Take a break from driving and relax at Balboa Park in its many gardens or museums.

The San Diego Zoo is inside the park, perfect for wandering around with children.

Head to the panda exhibit to see some of the only Giant Pandas living outside of China.

Indulge your artistic side at the San Diego Museum of art, which houses an excellent permanent collection of Spanish and Italian old masters inside and an impressive sculpture garden on its grounds.

There’s also plenty of things to do in San Diego at night.

Driving from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to San Diego covers 87.5 miles (141 km) and takes approximately 2 hours.

Top ticket: San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass Ticket.

19- Crystal Cove State Park, CA

Blue sky over the farthest south end of Crystal Cove beach
Driving from Houston to LA will take you past stunning California beaches, such as Crystal Cove.

Crystal Cove State Park is the final state park and natural landmark on your Houston to LA road trip.

This beautiful state park welcomes both wilderness and shorelines across its 2400-acre (971 ha) site.

There are 3.2 miles (5.15 km) of inviting and soft golden sands to relax or stroll along.

Many Californians head to the state park to hike one of the park’s trails or to spend a night or two camping under the stars.

While in the park, make the most of its varied landscape and various activities, such as hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Take to the beaches and brave the waves to surf or swim, venture underwater and snorkel or scuba dive.

Driving from San Diego to Crystal Cove State Park covers 83.3 miles (134.06 km) and takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

20- Los Angeles, CA

Street with palms in Beverly Hills
The palm-lined streets of Beverly Hills.

After an epic road trip from Houston, arrive in Los Angeles, the centre of celebrity, film and TV. 

For some of the best views across LA and to visit one of the most filmed locations, head to Griffith Park.

The park is home to an excellent observatory where you can learn more about the solar system and get the chance to see the stars.

If you are travelling with children, take the short drive to Disneyland California, to meet some of their favourite characters and enjoy movie-themed rides and snacks.

Add to your movie-themed time in Los Angels by visiting the Hollywood sign on a hike or posing for a photo beside your favourite stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Driving from Crystal Cove State Park to Los Angeles covers 47.3 miles (76.12 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.