The Texas Hill Country to Big Bend Drive - Fauna Travel

The Texas Hill Country to Big Bend Drive

Highway into Big Bend National Park / Freddie Marriage / Unsplash

13 Days

Texas is our home, and we know it well–It’s also a massive state with a lot to see. This itinerary connects two of our favorite places, the Central Texas Hill Country with far West Texas. Start this epic road trip with great food and music in Austin before striking west toward the Big Bend for world-class hiking–and fine art. After summiting a mountain (Texas has mountains), head back to the hills for a laid-back finish of delicious Mexican food and historic missions in San Antonio.

We suggest traveling between mid-October and mid-May to avoid the worst Texas summer heat. March and April are particularly nice because the weather is temperate, and the wildflowers are blooming across the state. This itinerary can also be reordered and connected to our Most Luxurious Road Trip in the West itinerary if you’d like to drive from Austin to the Grand Canyon.

This itinerary connects two of our favorite places, the Central Texas Hill Country with far West Texas. Experience live music, great food, and epic hiking across the Lone Star State.

Your custom travel playlist includes music by The Texas Tornadoes
“Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” is a breakup song done in an upbeat style that begs to be sung out loud in your car. The Texas Tornadoes’s unique blend of country, rock, and Tejano music feels right anywhere near the border.

Day 1-3: Austin

Hotel Saint Cecilia

Arrive at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and pick up your rental car. We can arrange anything from a standard rental to a luxury sports car. If you want to embrace the Texas lifestyle, we recommend choosing an SUV or pickup truck. Next, drive your vehicle to the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin’s popular South Congress district. The hotel has an authentic laid-back luxury spirit that predates Austin’s explosion in popularity. The tiny pool with its iconic sign is the perfect place to sip a margarita and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Hotel Saint Cecilia / Courtesy of Bunkhouse Hotels
Hotel Saint Cecilia / Courtesy of Bunkhouse Hotels

Spend the rest of your day shopping on South Congress before a night out downtown. Austin has one of the most vibrant dining scenes in the state so you can enjoy everything from classic Tex-Mex to excellent seafood or farm-to-table options. We love to end the day with a craft cocktail at Small Victory Bar.

Day two is open to exploring what the city has to offer. Take a paddle on Ladybird Lake and grab a smoothie or visit Ellsworth Kelly’s Chapel of Light at the University of Texas. You can even drive into the Hill Country to look for swimming holes, wildflowers, and antiques.

On your final day in town, we suggest the quintessential Austin experience. Start the morning with breakfast tacos and a long leisurely swim in Barton Springs. After lunch and freshening up at the hotel, indulge in some of the world’s best barbeque before two-stepping at the Broken Spoke, Austin’s most iconic dancehall.

The Broken Spoke / John Rodgers / Flickr

Day 4-5: Marfa

At seven hours, the drive to Marfa is the longest leg of the trip, so we recommend getting an early start and going for it. We’ll suggest an audiobook and pack a picnic to get you there easily. If it’s hot enough, a dip in Balmorrhea Pool is an excellent break from the highway. The goal is to arrive in town and settle into the hotel before dinner.

Untitled works in concrete at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas / Wikimedia Commons
Untitled works in concrete at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas / Wikimedia Commons

We recommend a stay at the Hotel Saint George for its comfortable beds, reliable restaurant, and stylish outdoor pool and bar. El Cosmico is another option for travelers looking to stay in something fun, like a trailer or a teepee. Marfa is an international art mecca, but it’s still a tiny town, and hours are unpredictable, so we’ll schedule a dinner reservation in advance. The following day, experience the artwork of Donald Judd at the Chinati Foundation or investigate some of the smaller galleries and shops in town.

Prada Marfa / Shelby Cohorn / Unsplash
Prada Marfa / Shelby Cohorn / Unsplash

Day 6-8: Cibolo Creek Ranch

Forty minutes south of Marfa is Cibolo Creek Ranch, one of Texas’s best guest ranches. It’s not the Four Seasons, but it’s a great hotel with 30,000 acres of private Chinati Mountains to explore.

Cibolo Creek Ranch / Courtesy of Cibolo Creek Ranch luxury Texas ranch nature
Cibolo Creek Ranch / Courtesy of Cibolo Creek Ranch

The property’s rooms are housed in several 19th-century hacienda-style forts but include modern amenities like a pool, spa, and extensive wine cellar. You also get stunning desert mountain vistas, a resident bison herd, Native American rock art, and many activities like horseback riding or shooting. We recommend settling in here for a few days to take in the space.

We’ve sent you some reading material including, The Tecate Journals
The Tecate Journals tell the story of Keith Bowden’s adventure paddling down the Rio Grande the length of the Texas-Mexico border. Along the way, he encounters smugglers, border patrol agents, and friendly locals, who paint a fascinating picture of border life. View on Amazon

Day 9-10: Big Bend National Park

Depart Cibolo Creek in the morning for a three-hour drive along the border with Mexico to Big Bend National Park, one of the most remote and dramatic parks in the United States. There are plenty of glamping options, such as Camp Elena and Basecamp Terlingua in nearby Terlingua. Willow House is the most sophisticated hotel in the area, but children are not allowed. If you have time on your first day here, we recommend the Lost Mine Trail for a scenic warm-up hike. Then, spend the following day in the Chisos Basin hiking to the top of Emory Peak for an epic view from the top of Texas into Mexico.

View of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park / Adan Guerrero / Unsplash

Hiking enthusiasts may want to add an extra day here. We recommend staying at the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon on your final night. The food is excellent, and the location outside the park will give you a jump on the drive the next day.

Day 11-12: San Antonio

Hotel Emma on the San Antonio River Walk / Courtesy of Hotel Emma

After breakfast, head down Highway 90 and back toward San Antonio. This remote stretch of highway is one of our favorite drives in Texas. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places to eat between Marathon and Del Rio, but the JP Bar and Grill serves excellent burgers and fries that are worth the stop in tiny Comstock. Check into the Hotel Emma by late afternoon and enjoy a complimentary margarita in the library after your long drive. The hotel occupies the former Pearl Brewery building, which has been revitalized into the most luxuriously steam-punk place to stay in Texas. Enjoy dinner and drinks at the hotel for the evening.

On your last day in Texas, visit the Alamo or the other more atmospheric missions around town. It is also a great time to pick up parting souvenirs at one of the many local Mexican markets. Enjoy an enchilada and a margarita at one of San Antonio’s many fantastic Mexican restaurants for dinner.

The Alamo / Eric Francis / Unsplash
The Alamo / Eric Francis / Unsplash

Day 13: Departure

Depending on where you are visiting from, you can either depart from San Antonio or drive an hour and a half back to the Austin airport for your flight home the next morning.

Contact us to start planning your journey into the wild.

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