Texas Heritage Trails
The Texas Heritage Trails Program (THTP) originated in 1968 as the “Texas Travel Trails,” 10 scenic driving routes developed under Governor John Connally and the Texas Highway Department. The trails were established in conjunction with HemisFair, an international exposition that commemorated the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio.
In 1997, the State Legislature charged the Texas Historical Commission (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. The “Heritage Trail Regions” were designed to embody the history and culture of the original trail routes, and encompass the historic highways, historic sites, hike and bike paths, natural beauty, and cultural attractions unique to the ten designated areas.
The official development of the program began with the establishment of 10 independent nonprofit organizations, led by a regional board and an executive director. Each region then filed a formal application to become a member of the program. The Forts Region was the first to be accepted in 1998 and the suite of heritage regions was completed in 2005.
Today, the heritage tourism regions work in concert with the THC to increase visitation to cultural and historic sites through education, historic preservation, and statewide and regional marketing. These efforts make a significant contribution to Texas’s $68.7 billion travel and tourism industry.
In 2005, the Texas Heritage Trails Program received the prestigious Preserve America Presidential Award for exemplary accomplishment in the preservation.