12 Perfect Fall Road Trips for When You Need to Escape Dallas

From gorgeous Hill Country wineries to cavernous backcountry adventures.

We’re often reminded that everything’s bigger in Texas, but that sometimes reductive mantra does hold true when it comes to landmass. The state spans 800 miles from north to south and nearly that many from east to west, which renders a lot of drivable destinations within its borders. Tack on its nearby neighbors, and there are countless road trip opportunities for anyone with an adventurous spirit and a valid driver’s license.

These 12 drivable destinations from Dallas are some of the best options for getting out of town, taking you to severely underrated cities, thriving wine regions, and pristine national forests that let you live large or get off the grid. So queue up a good playlist, buckle your seatbelt, and keep the snacks handy—you’re going for a drive.

Enoch's Stomp Winery and Vineyard
Enoch's Stomp Winery and Vineyard

Distance from Dallas: 70 miles, 1.5-hour drive
Unlike the well-known Hill Country, East Texas wine doesn’t have reputation or abundance on its side. But the under-the-radar Piney Woods Wine Trail counts 20 delicious operations among its ranks, all situated within the region’s lush landscape. Coming from Dallas, your first stop on this non-linear trail could be Tara in Athens (which has an inn, should you want to stay the night) or Cannon Creek in Canton. Make your way east, eventually ending at Enoch’s Stomp in Harleton, a winery with a South African pedigree, for tastings and lunch amid 90 acres of panoramic vineyard views.

Desert Door
Desert Door

Distance from Dallas: 217 miles, 3.5-hour drive
The Texas Hill Country is loaded with standout places to visit, but none are as well positioned as Dripping Springs. The town itself offers plenty of charm, good restaurants, and places to stay—from Airbnbs and cabins to a rustic camp resort—but you’re here for its proximity to dozens of wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Down clever beers at Jester King, sample an earthy sotol flight at Desert Door, and then fortify your resolve to push on with a plate of brisket at the famed Salt Lick BBQ.

Visit San Antonio
Visit San Antonio

Distance from Dallas: 275 miles, 4.5-hour drive
While Austin draws countless weekend roadtrippers, it’s well worth driving the extra 80 miles south to San Antonio, perhaps the Lone Star State’s most criminally underrated urban escape. And despite what you might have learned in fourth grade Texas history class, the city has so much more to offer than the Alamo and River Walk—though, by all means, you should swing through both if you’re visiting for the first time. But also check out Downtown, Southtown, the Pearl, and St. Mary’s Strip, neighborhoods buzzing with top-notch food and drinks, from tacos and beers to innovative Asian cuisine and craft cocktails.

Lake Texoma Association
Lake Texoma Association

Distance from Dallas: 89 miles, 1.5-hour drive
One of the largest lakes in the country created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this massive outdoor water feature straddles Texas and Oklahoma and spans 139-square-miles of sandy beaches, fishing piers, horseback riding trails, lakefront hiking paths, and boat launches—afterall, this time of year, it’s usually better to be on the water than in it. Among the many accommodations available, you can rest your head in tiny homes, lakefront cabins, or a sprawling resort with a full-service spa.

Possum Kingdom Lake
Possum Kingdom Lake

Distance from Dallas: 141 miles, 2.5-hour drive
Sadly, Possum Kingdom is not a mystical land run by marsupials, but it does have majestic vistas and cliffs jutting out of the water amid tree-lined hills. Canoeing, golfing, hiking, biking, and fishing will keep you active, if activity is what you seek. Otherwise, kick back for some unplugged relaxation time in a tent by a roaring campfire with marshmallows (and whiskey) at the ready.

Texas Parks and Wildlife
Texas Parks and Wildlife

Distance from Dallas: 168 miles, 2.5-hour drive
Fun fact: Nearly all the lakes in Texas are man-made—but not this one. Caddo Lake sports a tranquil yet mysterious vibe courtesy of cypress trees covered in Spanish moss that tower over the photogenic, alligator-welcoming waterways. The historic cabins on the lake, especially the romantic two-person units, make for an ideal way to destress. And if you want to get out and explore the area—and perhaps try your luck at the casinos in Shreveport—the Louisiana border is just 30 miles away.

Beavers Bend
Visit McCurtain County Oklahoma

Distance from Dallas: 181 miles, 3-hour drive
The moment you drive into the Ouachita National Forest, you’ll feel worlds away from Dallas. Towering pines provide a dramatic landscape change, offering much-needed shade in the summer and picture-perfect campsites come fall. Beavers Bend State Park, located on the shores of crystal-clear Broken Bow Lake, has a variety of activities, from boat rentals and fishing to the 16-mile David Boren Hiking Trail. Make the most of your stay with a luxury cabin rental that includes an outdoor jacuzzi for good measure.

Longhorn Cavern State Park
Longhorn Cavern State Park - Texas Parks and Wildlife

Distance from Dallas: 200 miles, 3.5-hour drive
Explore the subterranean side of Texas in this glorious labyrinth of river-made caves, with a natural thermostat set to 68-degrees year-round. Take a guided walking tour 130 feet below the surface and discover what took place in these dark spaces centuries ago while bats sleep peacefully overhead. Or tap into your inner Bear Grylls and hop on the adrenaline-pumping Wild Cave Tour, which is limited to 12 participants eager to crawl through tight spaces to see things few humans ever do. End your day with some well-deserved R&R and a hot shower in a legit log cabin at nearby Log Country Cove.

McKinney Falls State Park - Texas Parks and Wildlife
McKinney Falls State Park - Texas Parks and Wildlife

Distance from Dallas: 207 miles, 3.5-hour drive
Austin’s soundscape isn’t limited to bands playing in bars—there’s a natural symphony awaiting at the limestone waterfalls of free-flowing Onion Creek. Only 13 miles from the state capitol, you can make McKinney Falls an Austin-area day trip or the main reason to visit for hours of hiking, biking, and fishing. Pitch a tent at one of the park’s 81 campsites or indulge in some luxury at the secluded Sage Hill Inn & Spa—just 24 miles southwest of the park, it’s where you’ll find comfortable cottages and suites, massage treatments, and a restaurant featuring meat from local ranches.

Pedernales Falls State Park
Flickr/glg61

Distance from Dallas: 250 miles, 4-hour drive
Channel your inner Messiah, and walk right out into the river. Don’t worry—you’ll be supported by limestone slabs while traversing the usually calm waters of the Pedernales River. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing get you right in the thick of things to float or paddle away your worries. Nearby, saddle up with Texas Trail Rides and explore the area from a different, higher perspective. Camping options include sites with water and electricity (perfect if you’ve rented an RV for the trip) as well as secluded hike-in spots that can only be reached by foot.

Ozark-St Francis National Forests
US Forest Service - Ozark-St Francis National Forests

Distance from Dallas: 360 miles, 5.5-hour drive
You read that right—forests with an “s.” You’ll be rewarded for your drive here with not one, but two national forests, not to mention a variety of charmingly vintage 1930s-era cabins. Highlights include Mount Magazine, the state’s tallest mountain, which looms large over the 1.2-million-acre Ozark National Forest. There are also great places to picnic and scout for wildlife in the considerably smaller 22,600-acre St. Francis National Forest. If you’ve got the need for speed (or really bumpy rides), the stretch offers more than 1,000 miles of designated off-road trails.

El Cosmico
El Cosmico

Distance from Dallas: 520 miles, 7.5-hour drive
Home to a whopping 1,800 residents, this far-flung destination has way more going on than any town its size should. The Marfa Lights are one of the world’s most interesting unexplained phenomena, and they’re a heck of a lot closer to Dallas than the Northern Lights. During the day, putt and putter around Texas’ highest golf course, or go for a weightless glider ride high above the Marfa Plateau with just you and a pilot at the helm. Thanks to its popularity among the see-and-be-seen art crowd, the area offers several unique hotels, from the modern Hotel Saint George to El Cosmico, a property that’s dotted with safari tents, vintage trailers, teepees, and yurts. The West Texas destination is similarly stocked with a surprisingly good food and drink scene. Try the creative tasting menus at Cochineal, fill up on gut-busting barbecue at Convenience West, then cool off with a Ranch Water or Margarita at The Sentinel.

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Steven Lindsey and Kevin Gray are contributors to Thrillist.