Road Trips

The 9 Best Weekend Road Trips from El Paso, Texas

by Cindy Brzostowski
Updated September 14, 2022

weekend road trips from el paso tx
Photo: Linda Moon

At the western tip of Texas, El Paso stands as a gateway to adventures across multiple states.

Over by the city of El Paso, the borders of Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico unite, and for those headed west on I-10, it’s that final point where you’ll have to say goodbye to the Lone Star State. Just to give you a better idea of what it really means to be that far west within the state: El Paso is actually closer to San Diego (three states over) than it is to Houston.

All of this is to say, if you’re looking for a domestic road trip from El Paso, you don’t have to limit yourself to solely what’s in Texas with the additional options in New Mexico and even Arizona within easy driving distance too.

Whether you’re dreaming of spending the weekend at a picturesque national park, a bustling metropolis, or a quirky small town, at least one of these top weekend road trips from El Paso is sure to catch your attention.

Related Read: 5 Must-Do Scenic Train Rides in Texas

1. Las Cruces, New Mexico

road trips from el paso - las cruces
Photo: Shutterstock

In less than an hour, you can make your way from El Paso over to Las Cruces, the second-largest city in New Mexico. Las Cruces is known for its rich history having served as the homeland for many Indian Nations and their descendants, and having been a stop along the Camino Real. You can learn about the local history at New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, the Zuhl Museum, and Old Mesilla village.

Las Cruces is also a place where nature lovers can roam and experience for themselves why New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. Go for a hike to an abandoned mountain camp or a cave in the Dripping Springs Natural Area. See Paleozoic-Era fossilized footprints at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. Explore acres of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. You’ll find more than enough to do for a weekend.

  • Distance from El Paso: 47 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 60 minutes

Related Read: 9 Beautiful Hikes Near Albuquerque, New Mexico

2. White Sands National Park

road trips from el paso - white sands
Photo: Chris Curtis

Who said you need to go to the beach to enjoy some gorgeous white sand? Rather than offering its visitors forests or mountains, White Sands National Park in New Mexico features 275 square miles of sand dunes, making it the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Don’t even think about bottling up any of that beautiful sand as a souvenir since that’s a federal crime. What you can do, however, is sled down the sand with one of the plastic snow-saucers you can get at the gift shop, hike one of the established trails, and ride along the scenic Dunes Drive by bike or car.

The park does offer primitive backcountry camping—unfortunately just not right now. Don’t fret though since you can find a few other campgrounds in the area to post up for the weekend.

  • Distance from El Paso: 95 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Related Read: 9 Best Hot Springs in New Mexico for Soaking Your Worries Away

3. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Photo: Michael J. Thompson

Everyone talks about Big Bend National Park, but many forget that Texas has another national park within its borders: Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

One of this park’s claims to fame is that it has the highest natural point in the state, Guadalupe Peak, which stands at 8,751 feet above sea level. It normally takes between six and eight (mostly strenuous) hours to hike to the top and back, but boy, are the views from up there worth it. If you’re looking for something less challenging there are over 80 miles of trails to choose from.

The park has three developed campgrounds for tents and RVs as well as wilderness campgrounds for backpackers. Anyone staying at the park should get excited for some pretty spectacular starry skies.

  • Distance from El Paso: 113 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours

Related Read: 13 Awesome Things to Do in Lubbock, Texas

4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

road trips from el paso - carlsbad caverns
Photo: Doug Meek

Keep going past Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and you’ll be at another national park in no time—this one being Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Close to half a million people visit this spot each year to see the incredible rock formations underground. A nice aspect of the experience is that you don’t need to be on a guided tour to explore the cavern. Instead, you can set your own page along one of the two 1.25-mile trails: the Big Room Trail and the steeper Natural Entrance trail.

To make sure your visit goes off without a hitch, make a reservation ahead of time online or by phone. There’s no entering without that reservation and you can’t make one at the park! Also, if you want to camp know that there’s only primitive backcountry camping available on the premises. Otherwise, it’s off to accommodations in White’s City or Carlsbad for you.

  • Distance from El Paso: 156 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Related Read: 8 Secluded New Mexico Cabins for a Relaxing Getaway

5. Ruidoso, New Mexico

road trips from el paso - Ruidoso
Photo: Daniel Ray

Situated next to the Sierra Blanca mountain range, Ruidoso is popular among ski bums who come in droves to visit the Ski Apache resort for some warm-weather powder skiing. But Ski Apache isn’t just fun during the wintertime. During the summer season, the resort opens up mountain biking trails, ziplining, and a gondola. Another local place for some family-friendly activities is Ruidoso Winter Park, which offers tubing year-round.

For more to do in Ruidoso, learn about the area’s early residents at The Hubbard Museum of the American West, swim at Grindstone Lake, go on a trail ride from Grindstone Stables, and hike around the Lincoln National Forest or Two Rivers Park. With all these options at your fingertips, you won’t have any time to get bored.

  • Distance from El Paso: 139 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Related Read: 10 Relaxing Cabin Rentals Near Taos, New Mexico

6. Marfa

road trips from el paso - marfa
Photo: Shutterstock

​​If there’s one town that seems to embody the magic of West Texas then it’s Marfa. Despite its small size and relative remoteness, Marfa has continued to attract more and more tourists with its eclectic charm and unique attractions.

For starters, there’s all the incredible art including at the Chinati Foundation, Ballroom Marfa, Judd Foundation, and Ayn Foundation. Then there’s the whole mystery of the Marfa Lights that lures people in. Come out to the Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Area at night and see if you too can spot the mysterious, far-off glowing orbs that have puzzled people for over a century. As you make your way back to El Paso, you have to stop by Prada Marfa, the famous installation built to resemble a Prada store in the middle of the desert.

  • Distance from El Paso: 194 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours

Related Read: 10 Best Hikes in Texas for Top-Notch Lone Star State Scenery

7. Monahans Sandhills State Park

road trips from el paso - Monahans Sandhills
Photo: Travis LaCoss

No, Monahans Sandhills State Park isn’t as big as White Sands, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. As you stand among dunes of soft sand that stretch to the horizon, you may find yourself in disbelief that you’re still in Texas. To fully enjoy the unique environment, rent a sand disk from the headquarters and slide on down. Otherwise, you’re free to roam wherever you want since there are no designated trails.

Monahans Sandhills State Park does have campsites with electricity, and you can make a reservation for one of them online. Otherwise, you’ll find some affordable hotels in the city of Monahans. While in the city proper, you might want to check out the Million Barrel Museum, where you can see a giant oil tank that matches the size of three football fields.

  • Distance from El Paso: 253 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Related Read: 10 Places to See Native American Pictographs & Petroglyphs in the West

8. Big Bend National Park

road trips from el paso - big bend np
Photo: Shutterstock

Big Bend National Park may not be one of the most well-visited parks in the country, but that says more about its remoteness than it does about the wonders it has to offer. And there’s really a lot considering the park is larger than the whole state of Rhode Island.

Here, you can hike up mountains, along the river, and across the desert. You can kayak, canoe, or raft through river canyons. You can see an astonishing amount of stars in the night sky. You can go for a drive along one the scenic roads, some paved and some not. Basically, you’ll realize early on in your visit that one weekend just isn’t enough to experience Big Bend. But two days is certainly better nothing, and there’s camping within the park so you can spend more time adventuring and less time traveling back and forth from your accommodations.

  • Distance from El Paso: 318 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 4 hours, 45 minutes

Related Read: 12 Awe-Inspiring Airbnbs Near Big Bend National Park

9. Tucson, Arizona

road trips from el paso - tucson
Photo: Sean Pavone

About the same amount of time it would take you to drive from El Paso to Big Bend National Park, you can head in the other direction and get to Tucson. This large city is chock full of attractions for all ages. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Air & Space Museum, and Tucson Botanical Gardens are just some of the popular destinations for visitors and locals alike.

If you’re craving some more rugged nature amid all that big city action, take the short trip up to Saguaro National Park where you can say hello to the nation’s largest cacti: the giant saguaro. Another option would be to visit Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which has great opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing (try to spot a Gila monster!).

  • Distance from El Paso: 318 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 4 hours, 45 minutes

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