4 Best Scenic Drives Near San Antonio
Sitting at the intersection of several major highways running through the state of Texas, the city of San Antonio is an excellent starting point for road trips. With unforgettable experiences to discover in every direction, one can find a diverse array of natural beauty from this Hill Country to the canyons and mountains out west.
These road trips can be accomplished in as little as a few hours each, but there are so many things to do along the way that it is advisable to take much more time than that. Whether you're interested in exploring the outdoors, studying history, or partaking in the region's culture, read on to explore four scenic drives near San Antonio, Texas.
Tour of Texas Hill Country
San Antonio is situated at the southern end of the Texas Hill Country, one of the state's most interesting, beautiful, and unique parts. Luckily, it is simple to explore this region outside of San Antonio. Drivers can take IH-35 out of the city and drive a loop that will take them past some of the most fun and exciting parts of Hill Country. A straight drive along this loop will take one back to San Antonio in about two and a half hours, but with so many great places to stop, this can quickly become a day-long or even long weekend tour.
FM 3009 Highlight: Natural Bridge Caverns
This area is the most famous cave complex in the state. With regular tours departing every hour, this is an excellent place to view the limestone rock formations and explore a recently discovered cave home to prehistoric humans.
Outside of the cave, there are plenty of fun activities for kids and adults to enjoy, such as wall climbing and ziplining. There is also a shopping complex along with several eateries at this location.
TX 337 Highlight: Gruene, Texas
Some of the towns across the region focus on preserving the history and legacy of early settlers. Few towns preserve their culture like Gruene; several of the buildings here have been standing for over a century. Of particular note is Gruene Hall, a preserved dance venue that still plays host to country music stars.
FM 2722 Highlight: Comal Park
A trip around the Hill Country is not complete without enjoying one of the area's beautiful rivers. Comal Park is located along the Guadalupe River and is a fantastic place to enjoy aquatic adventures. Tubing along the river is a very popular pastime for park-goers. Canyon Lake is also on the park grounds, which provides sailing, jet-skiing, and fishing opportunities. The lake is especially popular with anglers as it is home to the rare rainbow trout species.
There are many more excellent stops along this drive. Through this part of the Hill Country, the entire loop will also take drivers past New Braunfels, with its German culture and world-famous waterpark. Extending the drive a bit past Gruene can take travelers to the city of San Marcos, home to one of the largest outdoor shopping outlets in the nation. The drive through Hill Country will also likely take visitors past several wineries offering tastings. However, the best part of a drive through Hill Country is the views.
The rolling hills and lush meadows make for an incredibly scenic drive, particularly in April and May, when the bluebonnets bloom. Spring is the best time for this road trip, whether for a fun day out or an exciting weekend vacation.
The Scenic Route to Garner State Park
For a westward-bound drive out of San Antonio, one great idea is to head to Garner State Park. This route takes drivers out of the city on IH-10 to the 1604 Outer Loop and then TX-16, past many exciting destinations on the way to the park itself. The entire drive can be undertaken in roughly four and half hours non-stop, but there are so many sights to see that visitors should plan for significantly more time.
Loop 1604 Highlight: Helotes, Texas
Helotes is a small Texas town that nevertheless packs in a lot of excitement. It is a near mandatory stop for country music lovers. One of the primary attractions in Helotes is John T. Floore's. This location features music venues inside and outside and has hosted some of the biggest names in country music, including Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. It is also an excellent place to enjoy some Texas barbecue.
Helotes also has several other music venues, with shows throughout the year. The town is also home to the Helotes Creek Winery, which features over 35 wine flavors.
TX-16 Highlight: Bandera, Texas
This town has proclaimed itself the cowboy capital of the world, and it has quite a bit to back up that bold claim. Bandera was the staging ground for some of the last great cattle drives, and it commemorates that history in its museums. Bandera is also a great place to watch a rodeo, a frequent occurrence. Visitors can also enjoy activities such as horseback riding or visiting a working guest ranch. For lovers of the cowboy culture, Bandera is a fantastic stop.
FM 470 Highlight: Garner State Park
Garner State Park is an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It has miles of trails available for hiking. Nearly three miles of the Frio River run through the park, making it a great choice for swimming or tubing. Some truly adventurous visitors may even enjoy kayaking along the river. The park also features camping areas and cabins for overnight stays. Amenities are available, such as indoor restrooms, a snack stand, and a rental station.
This westerly road trip is an incredible way to explore southwest Texas's culture and natural beauty. It is of particular interest to fans of country music and the history of the old west. While just the drive itself is worth the time, travelers will want to set aside some time to visit the fantastic stops on the way. Garner State Park is an exceptional destination in and of itself, with its gorgeous views and hiking trails. The stops along the way can turn the trip from a fun day out to a weekend excursion. Taking this scenic route is highly recommended for those visiting Garner State Park.
Cruise El Camino Real in Texas
Known as "The Kings Road" in English, El Camino Real is one of the most historic routes in the nation. This historic trail was first cleared in the 18th century and is now a paved road going past old missions and some of the earliest European settlements in Texas. The western portion of El Camino Real will take drivers west out of San Antonio and then south to Eagle Pass. This portion of the trail can be undertaken in about three and a half hours. However, it is wise to budget more time for all of the sights to see.
US 90 Highlight: Uvalde, Texas
One of the first major stops on this section of the El Camino Real tour is Uvalde. This small town is a great place to explore. The Grand Opera House highlights the many music venues in Uvalde. Music festivals throughout the year make Uvalde a great place to visit.
The town is also in a unique part of Texas. Nearby is one of the largest bat colonies in the world. Tour guides in Uvalde take visitors out to see their flight.
US 277 Highlight: Del Rio, Texas
Del Rio lies at the western end of the route, a unique town near incredible parks. At the Amistad National Recreation Area, visitors can enjoy activities along the lake bordering Mexico. The Devil's River State Natural Area is bisected by a river and features impressive mountain views for those who come to swim or fish. There are even caves to explore in the Kickapoo Cavern State Park. The Del Rio area is a great place to enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities.
US 57 Highlight: Eagle Pass
The end of El Camino Real in the United States is in Eagle Pass, a town honoring its history and the culture of the US and Mexico. Fort Duncan Park, which commemorates a 19th-century Infantry Encampment, is one place to visit. Eagle Pass is also home to the only casino in Texas.
After enjoying Eagle Pass, visitors can see Piedras Negras in Mexico. At Piedras Negras, one can find the Plaza de las Culturas, a place with pyramids and other art forms celebrating the ancient cultures of the Maya, Aztec, and Olmec.
There are plenty of things to enjoy along the historic El Camino Real trail. The road takes drivers past some of Texas' rich history, particularly its time as a Spanish colony.
It is worth taking the time to explore the forts and missions found along El Camino Real. Additionally, the route goes through some of the great sources of natural beauty. A road trip along El Camino Real provides opportunities to hike and camp along rivers, mountains, or canyons.
While El Camino is one of the longer drives in Texas, it is well worth it for the culture, history, and natural beauty.
Explore the Texas Independence Trail Region
One of the sources of state pride for Texans is the state's rich history, and one of the most cherished portions of that history is the Texas War of Independence. It's easy to drive a large portion of that trail out of San Antonio. The drive to Victoria takes a little over two hours and highlights much of the history of the Texas struggle for independence.
IH-35 Highlight: The Alamo
At the very start of this journey lies one of the most critical sites in Texas history. The Alamo was an abandoned Spanish mission fortified by Texian rebels in the early days of the war. Ultimately, The Alamo fell to the Mexican Army, but the rebels' last stand inspired the cause and is remembered to this day at the site. Little of the original complex remains, but much has been rebuilt and restored. The Alamo and its surrounding museums tell the tale of the early days of the Texas War for Independence and are considered a mandatory visit for lovers of Texas History.
TX 181 Highlight: Goliad, Texas
Goliad is known as another pivotal site in Texas history. The museums of the town relate to the story of the Goliad Massacre. Hundreds of Texians had surrendered to Mexican forces on the understanding that they would be released to the United States. Instead, Mexican General Santa Anna ordered them all executed at the very fort they had been defending. Today, visitors to Goliad can explore Texas history in the form of these museums and the rebuilt Franciscan Mission in the town.
TX 59 Highlight: Victoria, Texas
The city of Victoria was a staging ground for Texian soldiers during the war. Briefly occupied by Mexican forces, the town kicked the soldiers out following the Texian victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Victoria is unique in that it commemorates the history not just of the Spanish colonies but also the French explorers who laid claim to this part of Texas. Today, Victoria is a modern city, but it is a great place to remember the final victory in the Texas War of Independence.
This historical trail runs through many of the most significant sites in Texas history. The museums, memorials, and historical parks along the route tell the tale of the struggle for independence. Making this trip is an excellent way to explore the history of the war firsthand. Along the way, drivers will also enjoy the culture and natural beauty of South Texas. It is well worth setting aside a day or two to make this trip and learn a lot about Texas history.
Fun, Excitement, & History Await in Texas
Each of these unique drives offers a great way to explore Texas. From San Antonio, amazing adventures are waiting in every direction. These routes will take drivers past some of the most beautiful parts of the state and through some of the most exciting and charming small towns in Texas. These road trips will allow visitors to experience Texas's culture, history, and beauty. Each of these drives can be accomplished in a day, but travelers will want to budget additional time with so much to explore. No matter what direction one chooses, these trips will produce some unforgettable experiences.