Circuit of the Americas was built in a rural area near Austin, Texas with very little infrastructure around it. The access roads surrounding the circuit are mostly narrow, two-lane roads that simply cannot handle the huge volume of traffic seen on an F1 race weekend.
COTA is located just east of the SH 130 toll road. Most traffic heading to the circuit, whether coming from the north, south or west, will take this road to access COTA. From the 130, the only access to COTA is via two roads – exit 451 for Elroy Road or exit 453 for the FM 812. Getting on and off these roads is what causes the massive traffic jams.
The map below shows the access roads and official COTA parking lots around the circuit.
If you’re coming from the north, a better route is to use Kellam Road directly off Highway 71. This avoids the congested Elroy Road to the north of COTA.
In 2022, Elroy Road north of COTA was expanded to 5 lanes which has helped ease some traffic flow and provided more space for shuttle buses. But even with these expansions, the narrow access roads still struggle to cope with the huge crowds on race weekends.
The intersection at Elroy Road and FM 812 is a major choke point for traffic trying to access or leave the circuit. Most traffic leaving the circuit gets directed south east down the FM 812 after the event. So if that’s the direction you need to head, parking close to the FM 812 is best.
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Booking parking passes in advance
You can purchase official COTA parking passes online through the COTA website, which then directs you to Ticketmaster. There are several official parking lots surrounding the perimeter of COTA, shown on the map above.
There are spectator entrances at the Main Grandstand, Grand Plaza, Turn 1, Turn 3, Turn 11 and the Premium RV zone. It’s best to choose a parking lot close to where your seats are and use the nearest entrance gate.
If you have reserved grandstand at COTA or bleacher seats, aim to park as close as possible. Suggested nearest parking lots for each grandstand area:
- Turn 1 – Lots T, N, A (Turn 1 entrance)
- Turn 2 – Lots N, T (Turn 3 or Turn 1 entrance)
- Turn 4 – Lots N, T (Turn 3 entrance)
- Turn 6 infield – Lot E (Grand Plaza), Lot N (Turn 3 entrance)
- Turn 9 – Lots L, M (Turn 11) or Lot N (Turn 3)
- Turn 11 – Lots L, M, J (Turn 11 entrance)
- Turn 12 – Lot E, F, G, H, G, J (Grand Plaza)
- Turn 15 – Lots E, F, G, H, J (Grand Plaza)
- Turn 19 – Lots A, E, F, G, H, J (Grand Plaza)
The F1 parking passes sell out every year, so booking early gives you the best chance of getting your preferred lot. Expect to pay a premium price – parking passes start around $275 for the 3-day weekend in the further out lots, ranging up to $500 for the closest premium lots.
Parking options for people with disabilities
ADA accessible parking is available in Lot N and Lot T at COTA, with shuttle transport from the lots to the track entrances if required. Be sure to contact COTA ahead of time if you need disabled parking or shuttle services, and book early as availability is limited.
Allow extra time in your travel plans, as shuttle rides from the outer parking lots to the entrances can be painfully slow due to the crowds. Bring plenty of food, drinks and entertainment for the potential delays.
Tips for smooth parking experience
To make your F1 weekend parking experience as smooth as possible, be sure to arrive early at the circuit each day. With over 140,000 fans expected on Sunday, you’ll want to beat the rush.
When leaving, you should also be prepared for extremely long wait times to exit the parking lots, especially on Saturday and Sunday. Avoid parking in the biggest lots like F and Q which have a reputation for getting gridlocked when thousands of people try and leave at once.
If you’re coming from the north, consider parking in lots R or S. These are a bit further from the track entrances – about a 15 minute walk – but you can exit directly onto Kellam Road and head north, completely avoiding the congested Elroy Road.
Lot T is well located close to the FM 812 exit route, but is notoriously slow for vehicles to exit after the sessions end. Horror stories of 3+ hour waits are not uncommon for this lot. Approach with caution!
unofficial private parking lots
To save time and money compared to the official COTA parking lots, many fans opt for the unofficial private parking lots scattered around the area.
During major events, local homeowners and businesses rent out their yards, fields and parking lots to offer cheaper parking than COTA. The majority of these unofficial lots are located at the south end of Elroy Road near the intersection with FM 812 – perfectly positioned for a quick exit onto the FM 812.
The private lots are pretty makeshift – some are just grass fields! A few have online listings but most just pop up on race weekends with handmade signs. Payment is usually cash on the day.
Prices vary but tend to range from $20 per day up to $225 for the whole 3-day weekend. That’s a huge saving compared to the $500+ for official parking.
As these private lots have fewer cars than the official COTA lots, are located right off the FM 812 exit route, and are given less priority by police, you’ll almost always have a much quicker exit compared to the official parking.
Some of the COTA private parking operators to look out for are Danny and Carmen’s Parking, Pat’s Public Parking, Ruiz Parking, WD 812 Parking and Austin Race Parking. Search for them on Facebook before the race to reserve a spot.
In previous years, ride shares like Uber and Lyft struggled to effectively pick up and drop off passengers at COTA due to traffic jams, insufficient infrastructure and lack of organization.
For 2023, a major change has been made – no Uber/Lyft pickups or dropoffs will be allowed at the COTA complex itself. Instead, a designated rideshare area has been set up at the parking lot of Del Valle High School, around 3.5 miles from COTA.
Free COTA shuttle buses will operate between Del Valle High School and the circuit. However, you should expect extremely long wait times for these shuttles due to high demand. Don’t rely on ride shares being a quick option for getting in and out of COTA.
COTA operates official shuttle buses from parking lots both on-site and off-site. The on-site lots are closer to the track entrances but more expensive. The off-site lots with shuttle service are cheaper but more hassle.
The official shuttles help avoid traffic, but the queues after sessions end are notoriously long. Horror stories abound of 2+ hour waits just to board a shuttle bus from the outer lots. Bring supplies and be prepared for delays.
COTA parking – a summary
To enjoy a smoother parking experience at COTA, avoid the expensive and congested official lots if possible. Use the cheaper unofficial private lots and reserve a spot near the FM 812 in advance.
No matter where you park, prepare for huge crowds and delays entering and exiting. Arrive early each day and bring food, drinks and entertainment in case of traffic jams.
If you want to avoid parking completely, stay late after the race to miss the rush, or consider camping at the circuit so you can walk to the track each day.
Navigating parking at COTA for the US Grand Prix can be a challenge, but with careful planning you can save money and have a much less stressful race weekend!