Generally, the weather in Texas varies from humid and muggy in the east to arid in the west. The sun shines year-round in the Lone Star State, which is lovely—until the stifling heat of June, July, and August (and, let’s be honest, most of September) hits. And speaking of heat, it’s important to be aware that Texas’ climate is changing; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the state has warmed between one-half and one degree Fahrenheit in the past century.
If you’re planning a trip to Texas, it’s helpful to look at the specific weather patterns and climate for the region you’ll be visiting. Here’s what you should keep in mind, weather-wise, so you know exactly what to pack and what to expect.
The Regions of Texas
The second-biggest state in the U.S. is home to several distinct geographical regions: the Panhandle Plains, Piney Woods, Prairies and Lakes, Hill Country, Big Bend Country, Gulf Coast, and South Texas Plains. These diverse regions encompass a variety of landscapes, from the swamps and pine forests of East Texas to the mountainous desert of West Texas; as such, you can expect different weather patterns depending on the region you're in.
The Panhandle Plains region of Texas includes the northernmost area of the state and stretches downward to meet the Hill Country, Prairies and Lakes, and the Big Bend. The region is mostly flat grassland or plains, with some gently rolling hills that give way to canyons. Two of the state’s best parks are located here: Caprock Canyons and Palo Duro, the latter of which is the second-biggest canyon in the country. The Panhandle sees some of the most extreme temperatures in the state—highs that exceed 90 degrees in the summer and an average low of 19 degrees in January.
Though a thick forest of towering pine trees may not spring to mind when you picture Texas, that’s exactly what you’ll find in the aptly named Piney Woods region. Four national forests alone can be found in this part of the state: Davy Crocket, Sam Houston, Sabine, and Angelina. Big Thicket National Preserve can be found here as well; spread across 15 park units in seven counties, it features an otherworldly mix of ecosystems, including sand hills and swamps. The wettest part of the state, the Piney Woods region is in the humid subtropical climate zone, and thus the climate is very temperate year-round.
Prairies and Lakes
In central and north-central Texas, the diverse Prairies and Lakes region of Texas includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Waco, and College Station. Dozens of other small towns and cities are situated in the region as well, in addition to abundant lakes and prairie land. Here, the summers are hot and oppressive and the winters are cold but fairly short.
Smack-dab in the middle of the state, the Hill Country is characterized by rolling green hills, spring-fed swimming holes, rivers, and canyons. Some of the most popular towns include Wimberley, Gruene, New Braunfels, and Fredericksburg, although there’s no shortage of charming small towns and things to do in the Hill Country. This picturesque region has a semi-arid climate, with mild winters and extremely hot summers.
Big Bend Country
West Texas, or Big Bend Country, is home to some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery in the country, much less the state. Visitors come from all over to experience the grandeur of Big Bend National Park and (to a lesser extent, considering its remoteness) Guadalupe Mountains National Park. West Texas contains the Chihuahuan Desert, and as you might imagine, this region is extremely arid, dusty, and prone to wildfires. The Trans-Pecos region is the driest in the state, with an average annual precipitation of just over 11 inches. That being said, snow certainly isn’t uncommon in the mountainous areas of West Texas, and heavy snows (of five inches or more) come at least every two to three years.
Stretching along the Gulf of Mexico, all the way from the Mexican border to Louisiana, the Gulf Coast region is where you’ll find the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world (Padre Island National Seashore) and popular coastal towns like Galveston and South Padre Island. The bustling metropolis of Houston is also located here, as is Corpus Christi. Due to the currents of the Gulf, this region has a warm, damp climate, with hot, humid summers and very mild winters. The Gulf Coast is also susceptible to tornadoes and hurricanes.
South Texas Plains
Running from the lower edges of the Hill Country and into the subtropical regions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the South Texas Plains region is mostly dry and grassy, aside from the wetter Rio Grande Valley. Average monthly rainfall is lowest during winter and highest during spring and fall, and summer temperatures are very high. The most popular destination in the South Texas Plains region is San Antonio; here you'll find countless tourist attractions, including the Alamo, the Riverwalk, Pearl District, and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
Spring in Texas
Spring (March through May) is a peak travel season in Texas. Although the state sees an uptick in rain, daytime temperatures are in the 60s and 70s. The famous bluebonnets are in full swing by mid-March, meaning that spring is an especially great time to explore the lush, wildflower-choked hills of the Hill Country. Thunderstorms and tornadoes are common in Texas this time of year, especially in the eastern and northern parts of the state.
What to Pack: Rain gear.
Summer in Texas
Visiting Texas is a recipe for heat exhaustion. Summer is incredibly hot and muggy in Texas, especially along the Gulf Coast and in the lowlands. Depending on where you go, expect temperatures to hover between 85 and 90 degrees during the daytime (and in July and August, those sweltering temps routinely top out at over 100 degrees). Unless you'll be on the Gulf Coast (in which case, you'll be taking frequent dips in the Gulf), plan on spending every day at a swimming pool, lake, or river.
What to Pack: In the summer, shorts and breezy T-shirts are essential, as is a bathing suit.
Fall in Texas
Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Texas. September through December sees plenty of sunshine and chilly yet beautiful weather. In October, average highs reach upwards of 70 to 75 degrees; this is a great time to visit the Piney Woods or the Hill Country, when the foliage begins to explode in color. November is temperate in most places, and while it begins to get chilly in December (with average lows dipping well into the 30s and 40s across the state), it’s the off-season in Texas. Expect cheaper lodging and activity rates then.
What to Pack: Plenty of layers.
Winter in Texas
Winter in Texas tends to be tolerable and fairly mild (or very mild, if you’ll be in the Piney Woods region or on the Gulf Coast), especially when compared to the northeastern United States. That being said, January is the coldest month of the year, with average low temperatures plummeting well below freezing in some places. February starts to see milder temperatures—the average high in the state is around 60 degrees.
What to Pack: Cold-weather gear in the form of a coat, sweater, gloves, hat, and sturdy shoes.