If you want to explore the southernmost parts of the American Southwest before hitting up some of the world’s most famous casinos, then a Houston to Las Vegas road trip should be right up your alley. You can visit some of America’s lesser-known national parks before visiting one of its best-known. There are also plenty of state parks along the way that can give you access to a variety of environments. Various theme parks, museums, and landmarks are also easily accessible from Interstate 10 and Highway 93, which comprise the bulk of the journey. You could also take Interstate 40 from Texas and through New Mexico and Arizona as an alternate route.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote national parks in the continental United States, but getting there is not particularly difficult. This park is 801,000 acres large and is actually on the U.S./Mexico border. It’s primarily located in a big bend of the Rio Grande River, hence its name. In addition to the Rio Grande, visitors can explore various canyons, hot springs, mountains, and desert environs. Whether you want to watch birds, stars, or the Rio Grande, you’ll be able to do so at Big Bend National Park.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of the country's newer national parks. It’s located close to the Texas/New Mexico border and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At this park, you can visit Guadalupe Peak, which is Texas’ highest point at 8,749 feet. This park has plenty of trails ranging from the paved and wheelchair-accessible to the difficult and challenging. Whether you want to stroll across an arroyo or hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak itself, you’ll have plenty to do in this new but lovely national park.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Up next on your road trip itinerary for Houston to Las Vegas is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This park is quite well-known and brings in roughly 410,000 visitors each year. If you’ve spent part of the day exploring the rocks and mountains of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, you’ll have the chance to cool off in Carlsbad Caverns. Not all of this national park is underground; there are several trails that give visitors the chance to explore some canyons and an old mining operation. If you visit Carlsbad Caverns between Memorial Day weekend and October, you’ll be able to watch the Brazilian free-tailed bats that live in the caves fly out of the cavern at sunset.
Saguaro National Park
When people envision the quintessential example of a desert environment, they often picture saguaro cacti like those found in Saguaro National Park. This national park is incredibly easy to reach since it’s right outside of Tucson, AZ. Many of its trails are also easy, and most aren’t rated higher than moderate. Should you desire a challenge, however, you can take the 20-mile hike around Tanque Verde Ridge, which will give you lovely views of local wildlife and the city of Tucson.
Grand Canyon National Park
Since this journey starts with a lesser-known national park with outstanding western scenery, ending the journey with one of the most popular national parks that’s well-known for its outstanding western scenery is appropriate. Grand Canyon National Park draws more than 6 million visitors a year thanks to its enormous canyon through which the Colorado River flows. Hikers, backpackers, cyclists, river rafters, and curious tourists are all drawn to this extraordinary national park.
On your road trip from Houston to Las Vegas, you’ll be able to visit multiple different state parks. Each one has its own unique qualities that will enhance your vacation.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
If you’ve decided to visit Big Bend National Park, then you should visit Big Bend Ranch State Park, which is right next door. This park has 238 miles of trails that you can explore on horseback, on a four-wheeler, on a bike, or using your own two feet. Bird-watching, whitewater rafting, and stargazing are some other popular activities at this lovely state park.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Franklin Mountains State Park begins within the El Paso city limits and extends all the way to the Texas/New Mexico border. More than 100 miles of trails provide ample avenues of exploration for hikers and bikers alike. Many types of desert flora and fauna are also on display here.
Picacho Peak State Park
Not too far past Saguaro National Park is Picacho Peak State Park. This lovely state park centered around Picacho Peak is roughly halfway between Tucson and Phoenix. The peak itself is 1,500 feet; it’s surrounded by a bevy of hearty desert wildflowers that delight many visitors. The park is right off Interstate 10, so it’s easy to access.
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park did not become a state park until 1991, but it’s become immensely popular in the last few decades. Its stunning red rock formations, canyon area, and proximity to the city of Sedona make it a desirable destination for travelers. Sedona is only two hours from Phoenix, so you won’t have to go too far from your main route.
Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu State Park is located on the Arizona side of a wide portion of the Colorado River that has formed Lake Havasu. The park is only two and a half hours from Las Vegas, so it’s close to the end of your Houston to Las Vegas road trip. Swimming, hiking, boating, and birding are prominent activities here. You can also check out the reconstructed version of London Bridge, which was transported from London in the late 1960s and assembled close to this state park.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is on the northwest side of San Antonio, TX. It’s close to Interstate 10, so getting there is easy. Some of the most popular, exciting rides at this Six Flags park include Batman: The Ride, Goliath, Iron Rattler, Poltergeist, Superman: Krypton Coaster, and Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster.
Scenic Drive - Overlook
Since so much of the Texas portion of this Houston to Las Vegas RV road trip skirts the border of Mexico, you may want to stop by Scenic Drive – Overlook in the El Paso area. This rocky overlook gives you panoramic views of both El Paso on the American side and Ciudad Juarez on the Mexican side.
Pima Air & Space Museum
Pima Air & Space Museum is logically located across Interstate 10 from Tucson International Airport. More than 80 acres of outdoor exhibits and over 250,000 square feet of hangars house nearly 400 different pieces of aircraft and spacecraft.
Papago Park is in Phoenix close to the Tempe area. This large hiking and picnicking area features multiple popular locations. The Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Hall of Flame Fire Museum, the Hole in the Rock Trail, and a couple of golf courses are all part of this sprawling complex.
Roughly 40 minutes outside of downtown Las Vegas is Hoover Dam. This iconic dam from the Depression-era draws numerous tourists every year. You can’t miss it as it’s right on the route of your road trip from Houston to Las Vegas.
San Antonio is Texas’ second-biggest city in terms of population. Since it’s so large, you can easily find a bevy of dump stations and campgrounds nearby. Local attractions include the Alamo, the San Antonio Zoo, and the San Antonio Aquarium.
El Paso is a border town on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. Its name translates to “the pass,” which is accurate since many people use it to enter Mexico. If you’re planning to take a side trip south of the border, then you’ll have plenty of campgrounds in the area from which to choose.
Just as San Antonio is Texas’ second-largest city, so Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city. It’s home to the University of Arizona and Saguaro National Park. There are also multiple dump stations and campgrounds in the area.
Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona. It’s considered to be Arizona’s cultural heart for a variety of reasons. You’ll be able to explore those reasons yourself by taking advantage of the variety of campgrounds available in the area. You’ll also be able to clean your camper at several nearby dump stations.
Henderson is not as large as the other options, but it still has over 300,000 people in its city limits. It’s close to Las Vegas, so you can take advantage of those Vegas dump stations and campgrounds.