The Texas Heritage Trails Program is the Texas Historical Commission's (THC) award-winning heritage tourism initiative. This economic development initiative encourages communities, heritage regions, and the state to partner and promote Texas' historic and cultural resources. These successful local preservation efforts, combined with statewide marketing of heritage regions as tourism destinations, increase visitation to cultural and historic sites, and bring more dollars to Texas communities. This, in turn, supports the THC's mission to protect and preserve the state's historic and prehistoric resources for the use, education economic benefit, and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Learn more in the video below or in our report, The Economic Impact of the Texas Heritage Trails Program (PDF).
Texas jobs created by heritage tourism (estimated annual average)
A Regional Tourism Initiative
The Texas Heritage Trails Program (THTP) is based around 10 scenic driving trails created in 1968 by Gov. John Connally and the Texas Highway Department (now the Texas Department of Transportation) as a marketing tool. The trails were established in conjunction with the HemisFair, an international exposition that commemorated the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio.
In 1997 the State Legislature charged the THC to create a statewide heritage tourism program. The THC responded with a program based on local, regional, and state partnerships, centered on the 10 scenic driving trails. These trails serve as the nucleus of 10 heritage regions, and include heritage tourism attractions and communities both on and off the trail.
The program began with the establishment of the Texas Forts Trail Region in 1998. Other heritage regions made a formal application to the program, demonstrating knowledge of area attractions and broad support from organizations and local government. The suite of heritage regions was completed in 2005 with the additions of the Texas Pecos and Hill Country Trail Regions.
The THTP received national recognition with the Preserve America Presidential Award in 2005. This award was given for exemplary accomplishment in the preservation and sustainable use of America's heritage assets, which has enhanced community life while honoring the nation's history. The following year, the program was awarded a Preserve America grant for developing the Heritage Tourism Guidebook (PDF)* and for providing heritage tourism training across the state. (*Note: This PDF may not open correctly in the Chrome browser. We recommend using another browser, or saving and opening in Adobe Reader.)
We envision Texas as a place where:
- The diverse places of the Lone Star State are preserved and promoted for present and future generations
- Visitors and residents delight in experiencing, firsthand, the real places telling the real stories of our state's heritage and cultures.
- The total visitor experience of Texas' diverse places stimulates local economies.
- Heritage tourism is a community-based enterprise that contributes to its livability and sense of place.