If you are in search of a great road trip from deep in the heart of Texas to the California coast, you should consider taking a Dallas to San Diego road trip. You’ll be able to visit a number of excellent national and state parks that will allow you to explore multiple different environments. There are also plenty of great points of interest and towns to visit on your road trip itinerary from Dallas to San Diego that you won't want to miss.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of two amazing national parks that are located in the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas and New Mexico. This park is on the Texas side and is actually one of the nation’s newer national parks. It’s home to Guadalupe Peak, which is Texas’ tallest peak at 8,749 feet. If you’re not up to summiting Guadalupe Peak, then you can still visit lovely features like El Capitan, McKittrick Canyon, and Frijole Ranch.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is right across the border in the southern part of New Mexico. The main attractions here are, of course, underground, but there are some great trails to explore in the Chihuahuan Desert as well. Multiple trails take you underground to view amazing fossilized cave features like Iceberg Rock, Devil’s Spring, and the Whale’s Mouth. After you’ve explored the park by day, you can watch the Brazilian free-tailed bats make their daily flight from the caves at sunset and then go stargazing at night.
White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park is less than an hour northeast of Las Cruces, New Mexico, so it’s not too far from your route. The large field of gypsum sand dunes draws numerous people to this unique national park every year. Visitors enjoy exploring the dunes and trails on foot or horseback—and, of course, sliding down the dunes on sleds. You’ll find more here than dirt, however, as there are coyotes, roadrunners, bobcats, and more that call this desert park home.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is conveniently located just outside of Tucson, Arizona, so it’s an essential stop on your Dallas to San Diego road trip. The park is known and named for its distinctive cacti, but there are plenty of yuccas, mountain views, waterfalls, and more here. Easy, moderate, and hard trails give you plenty of exploration options, so you can take a simple hike or a hardcore camping trip.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is also known for its distinctive desert foliage. In addition to the otherworldly Joshua trees, you can find plenty of yuccas, cacti, rock formations, desert animals, and more in this 1,200-square-mile national park in California. The park is close to the San Andreas Fault line, and multiple smaller fault lines run through the grounds. Whether you want to take an easy loop trail or set out on a difficult, adventurous trek, you can choose your own adventure at Joshua Tree National Park.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park is, as its name implies, a great place to see dinosaur tracks. This 1,500-acre park not too far from Fort Worth can take you back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and left footprints for humans to find ages later. When you’re not hunting for dino tracks, you’ll be able to hike, bike, and camp in the park and fish and swim on the Paluxy River.
Rockhound State Park
Rockhound State Park isn’t too far from Interstate 10 and Las Cruces, New Mexico. It’s one of the few state parks out there that actively encourages its visitors to take rocks and such home with them. Jasper, perlite, quartz, geodes, and more can be found here. Plenty of plants and animals live here as well such as bighorn sheep, lizards, mountain lions, prickly pears, and more.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park is fairly close to Tucson and Tombstone, so it’s near some great attractions on your Dallas to San Diego road trip. If you want to tour some more caverns after having seen the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns, then you can find some nice ones here. Two and a half miles of underground cave passages await you; there are multiple hiking trails on the surface that you can explore as well. Plenty of local flora and fauna live here, so there’s an abundance of life at Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Picacho Peak State Park
After you leave Tucson but before you pass south of Phoenix, you’ll first pass close to Picacho Peak State Park. Picacho Peak is the main attraction, so you’ll enjoy exploring this formation that’s 1,500 feet tall. The spring wildflowers are particularly gorgeous here, but there’s plenty of beauty to see all yearlong. Desert mules, badgers, geckos, and more await you at Picacho Peak State Park.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is only 45 minutes from San Diego, so it’s one of the last destinations you’ll visit on your road trip from Dallas to San Diego. The park is located in the gorgeous Cuyamaca and Laguna mountains and contains 24,000 acres of vibrant forestland. More than 100 miles of trails provide ample options for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Fort Worth Zoo
Not too far into your Dallas to San Diego RV road trip, you’ll want to stop by the Fort Worth Zoo. More than 540 different species call this zoo home, so there are plenty of exotic animals to see. You can also hop aboard the Yellow Rose Express Train, take a ride on the Country Carousel, and climb up the Tasmanian Tower.
National WASP WWII Museum
If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) who served during World War II, then this museum to the west of Abilene is the place to go. Two hangars house historical exhibits and aircraft from this important period in world history. You’ll be able to see multiple types of aircraft on which these women trained for their crucial service during WWII.
Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument is located in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. This nearly 12,000-acre park has earned the nickname of “Wonderland of Rocks” because of its many distinctive rock formations. You can explore this park on foot thanks to 17 miles of hiking trails, but you can also view some of the majesty and splendor of this park on the 8-mile scenic drive from the comfort of your camper.
The legendary Wild West town of Tombstone, Arizona, is close enough to your route that you have to add it to your road trip itinerary from Dallas to San Diego. The O.K. Corral is one of Tombstone’s most famous buildings, so why not stop by? Daily reenactments of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, life-size figures of the gunfight’s participants, and tours of the O.K. Corral Stables help bring this time period to life.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
You’ll get to see plenty of saguaros and Joshua trees on this trip, so you should complete the theme of visiting parks named for classic desert flora and pay a visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument just shy of Arizona’s border with Mexico. Here, you’ll get to see plenty of this distinctive type of cactus. Dozens of miles of trails await you—or you could go off the beaten path on a backcountry camping adventure.
Dallas and Fort Worth are often mentioned in the same breath, but there is so much to do in Fort Worth that you should take time to explore it. Plenty of dump stations and campgrounds are in the area if you need them. Be sure to check out Sundance Square, the Fort Worth Stockyards, and Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
El Paso is aptly named since it serves as a passage between multiple different locations. As such, there are plenty of places to explore there like the Scenic Drive – Overlook and the El Paso Zoo. You can park your trailer at multiple campgrounds in the area.
Across the Texas border and not too far north in New Mexico is Las Cruces. If you need to tend to or park your camper, you’ll find a bevy of dump stations and campgrounds nearby. Places to visit are Dripping Springs Natural Area and Old Mesilla Village.
In addition to Saguaro National Park, Tucson is also home to fun places like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Pima Air & Space Museum. There’s no shortage of dump stations and campgrounds in the area.
You may not be able to catch the 3:10 to Yuma, but you can still enjoy a variety of locations via RV. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park and Castle Dome Mines Museum and Ghost Town are two great places to visit. Numerous dump stations and campgrounds are ready to prepare you to cross the border into California.