There’s no US state that is more ideal for adventuring than Texas, making up roughly 7% of the total land size of the US and being the home of over 30 million residents, there really is no end to what you can see and do in this expansive and very popular state.
While many people will visit the big cities such as Houston and Dallas, what many people don’t always realize is that there are actually over 80 state parks in Texas that are just as exciting to visit, whether they highlight the natural beauty of the state and its exotic wildlife, the historical significance of Texas, or even simply just offering plenty of outdoor activities to get involved with when the temperatures start to rise in the hotter months, each state park is unique in its own way.
Here are 18 of the best state parks in Texas that are all guaranteed to make your visit even more memorable and exciting.
1. Colorado Bend State Park
Location: 2236 Park Hill Drive, Bend, Texas
Tucked away in the Texas Hill Country region is the 5,000-acre long Colorado Bend State Park, an incredibly popular park that was first purchased by the state in 1984 and opened to the public 3 years later.
While the park is filled with exotic wildlife that can be spotted around every corner and is home to over 155 known species of birds including the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo, it’s the hiking trails that steal the show here with over 30 miles of climbing and biking trails which will lead you up and over the jaw-dropping Gorman Falls waterfall, making this the perfect park to visit if you’re looking to get active with a bit of climbing.
2. Pedernales Falls State Park
Location: 2585 Park Rd 6025, Johnson City, Texas
Located just 9 miles east of Johnson City is the Pedernales Falls State Park, a 5,212-acre park that offers such a varied amount of activities to get involved with, it can be hard to know where to even start.
Whether it’s camping, horseback riding, off-road bicycling, or bird spotting, these are just a handful of ways you can enjoy your time in this lush and beautiful park, and a lot of this beauty comes from the extravagant Pedernales waterfalls which lightly flow over the rocky limestone that surrounds them.
Kids that are aged 12 and under are able to access the park for free while adults will need to pay $6 each, however, do keep in mind that this park gets extremely lively and popular during the summer months, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you see it.
3. Longhorn Cavern State Park
Location: 6211 Park Rd, Burnet, Texas
A lot of state parks have been altered and edited in certain ways to make them more appealing to modern audiences, however this isn’t the case with the Longhorn State Park which has been virtually untouched, allowing visitors to take a mysterious and enticing journey through a few of the caves, granting an authentic insight into the geological formation of the lower levels of this park, and Texas in general.
The stone observation tower also grants an incredible view of the surrounding Texas Hill Country, making this an ideal park for all those lovers of geology and the natural formations of Texas.
4. Monahans Sandhills State Park
Location: Exit 86, 2500 I-20, Monahans, Texas
While the Monahans Sandhills State Park is a lot smaller than many other parks around Texas, it is the environment surrounding it that makes it so worth visiting since it is situated on an ocean of endless sand with the closest major town being Monahans.
Many people will visit this park to take part in the sand sledding and to admire the natural beauty, especially just before sunset when you can see the sand and sky turn a deep red color.
You are even able to camp in this park overnight so long as you register at the Park Headquarters by 9 am, making this an incredibly unique park that really makes you feel like you’re adventuring in the middle of nowhere.
5. Enchanted Rock State Park
Location: 16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg, Texas
Often advertised as a “425-foot pink granite batholith”, the Enchanted Rock State Park gets its name because of how many myths and legends have been attributed to the area over the years, and while it is certainly full of mystery and has a very unique geological formation since it is all based on a giant granite dome, there are also plenty of activities you and the entire family can participate in.
Whether you want to relax in the many picnic areas or take on the mile-long steep hiking trail to reach the very top of the Enchanted Rock where you can observe the many different species of fish that occupy the ponds, you can spend your day however you would like to when visiting this gorgeous state park.
6. Lost Maples State Natural Area
Location: 37221 RM 187, Vanderpool, Texas
If you want to gaze upon the natural beauty that Texas is so well known for, the Lost Maples State Park is the perfect place to do it being full of rivers, animals, and a whole range of unique plants scattered across 2,906 acres of land.
Alongside the dazzling maples which take on a red, orange, and yellow appearance depending on the season, the deep canyons are one of the biggest reasons why visitors love this park so much since you can easily hike over them while keeping an eye out for some of the rare and exotic wildlife that are commonly spotted around the park including the golden-cheeked warbler bird and the white-tailed deer.
7. Davis Mountains State Park
Location: TX-118, Fort Davis, Texas
There’s a reason this state park is one of the most popular camping sites in all of Texas, and a big reason for this is the astonishing views of the mountains surrounding the park which you can see clearly by embarking on the 4.5 mile Skyline Drive Trail.
There are plenty of other ways to spend your time at the Davis Mountains State Park too including taking a visit to the Indian Lodge which has been standing since the 1940s, along with the Fort Davis National Historic Site if you want to learn a little more about the surrounding area and how it was formed.
8. Galveston Island State Park
Location: 14901 FM3005, Galveston, Texas
Located on western Galveston Island, if you were looking for a coastal getaway for you and a few friends or family members, you won’t want to miss out on this state park which is open every single day and only requires an entrance fee of $5 per adult while children aged 12 and under are free.
While many people love to camp around the multiple quaint and peaceful beaches which are dotted around the park where you can admire the glistening waters as they gently crash against the shore, you can also take a guided tour if you want to learn even more about this beautiful and intriguing part of Texas.
9. Franklin Mountains State Park
Location: Tom Mays Park Access Road, El Paso, Texas
If you continue following the Tom Mays Park Access Road near the city of El Paso in West Texas, you will eventually turn into the Frank Mountains State Park which offers over 27,000 acres of mountains that you can freely hike around, along with plenty of lower foothills in case you don’t want to the journey to be too strenuous.
While the hiking trails are definitely the main draw to this park, the sheer amount of wildlife also helps it to stand out from the other state parks that can be found in Texas, with over 100 species of birds that frequently visit or live in the mountains along with mule deer, red-spotted toads, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot some mountain lions from afar.
10. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Location: 11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, Texas
Just outside of the cities of Amarillo and Canyon, you can find the Palo Duro Canyon, the nation’s second-largest canyon which is 800 feet deep and 6 miles long, and there’s certainly no shortage of activities around the park surrounding the canyon that you can jump into.
From hiking and bird watching, all the way to fishing and mountain biking, the team at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park is incredibly friendly and dedicated to providing you with the most enjoyable and memorable experience possible and will be able to help you find what activities you may be most interested in, along with providing guided tours where you can learn all about the history and formation of the enormous canyon for yourself.
11. Balmorhea State Park
Location: 9207 TX-17, Toyahvale, Texas
It may not be as big or flashy as many of the other state parks that can be found across Texas, however with that being said, the reason Balmorhea State Park still remains so popular is primarily due to its 15 million gallons of crystal clear spring water which you are able to swim, scuba and snorkel in for no extra charge.
The entrance fee is $7 for each person although it can often be worthwhile booking online in advance so that you can reserve a spot in this exotic getaway which is popular all year round.
12. Brazos Bend State Park
Location: 21901 FM 762 Road, Needville, Texas
While there are a huge number of exotic and unique animals that can be spotted when journeying across the state of Texas, you’ll struggle to find anywhere that contains more of them in one place than the Brazos Bend State Park, home to the white-tailed deer, feral pigs, raccoons, and the jaw-dropping American alligator which many visitors can’t get enough of.
There are plenty of ways you can see these animals, whether it’s from one of the multiple electric campsites dotted across the park, or while walking across the 40-acre lake trail which will give you a full view of the marshlands, if it’s exotic animals you’re looking for, the Brazos Bend State Park is the place to be.
13. Caddo Lake State Park
Location: 245 Park Rd, Karnak, Texas
Featuring one of the biggest natural lakes in Texas and plenty of swamp land with a whole range of unique animals swimming beneath the depths, the Caddo Lake State Park is a must-visit for anyone who wants to admire the quiet and majestic corners of Texas which are far away from the big and bustling cities.
The piny trees surrounding the entire park help to give it this isolated and adventurous feeling that you’ll struggle to find in any other Texas state park, and while it is open daily, keep in mind that it is only open from 8 am to 4:45 pm, so it can be better to plan a trip in advance rather than visiting spontaneously when you might not have as much time to explore.
14. Hueco Tanks State Park
Location: 6900 Hueco Tanks Road No.1, El Paso, Texas
If you consider yourself a lover of history and ancient civilizations, the state-protected park at Hueco Tanks is full of astonishing imagery and remnants left by natives who lived in the area centuries ago, making this one of the most fascinating parks in all of Texas.
If you look at the rocky walls surrounding the park and within its many caves, you can see petroglyphs and pictographs etched onto the walls by ancient civilizations which can be hard to decipher, but still fascinating to gaze upon and analyze for yourself.
Along with guided tours, the park also features rock climbing activities, however it is advised to book in advance when visiting Hueco Tanks since this park attracts history and archeological fanatics from around the world, making it very busy, especially during the summer.
15. Guadalupe State Park
Location: 3350 State Park Rd 31, Kendall, Texas
The Guadalupe River really is a sight to behold, and while you can get a closer view of this gigantic stream of water by visiting the state park that surrounds it, you are even free to swim, fish, tube, and canoe in the river if you want to.
There are plenty of other recreational activities you can also get involved with after taking a dip in the river such as bird watching, hiking among the many short trails, and guided tours where you can learn more about some of the highest peaks that tower over the state park, ensuring you leave with more knowledge on the area and its relevance within Texas.
16. Caprock Canyons State Park
Location: 850 Caprock Canyon Park Road, Quitaque, Texas
The rugged landscapes and wild bison that can regularly be seen roaming across the Caprock Canyons really make for an incredible sight, and the good news is this state park is very accessible and easy to get to, being just a few miles southeast of the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, so you could even fit it into an adventurous day trip.
The Caprock Canyons are really a sight to admire, and while the 64-mile railway will allow you to get a clear view of the canyon and the entire landscape surrounding it, if you want to take a break from all the exploring, you can even take a dip in Lake Theo which stretches 120 acres long.
Be sure to check out the Mexican free-tailed bats which occupy the caves around Caprock Canyons before you leave.
17. Big Bend Ranch State Park
Location: 21800 FM170, Terlingua, Texas
As one of the biggest state parks in all of Texas, it’s hard not to recommend the Big Bend Ranch State Park to anyone who wants to admire the natural beauty of West Texas for themselves, and while you can easily drive across the dirt roads in this park, if you really want to make the experience memorable, you can also try bike and horse riding across the lengthy 280 miles of multi-use trails that cover the entire area.
If you were hoping to do some paddling or fishing, there are also plenty of lakes around the park that give you the opportunity to do so, and considering there is so much to do for just $5 for each person, it is well worth the money, even if just to see the sheer size of this state park for yourself.
18. Garner State Park
Location: 234 RR 1050, Concan, Texas
Garner State Park is the most popular park in Texas when it comes to overnight camping, and it’s not hard to see why with the delicate Frio River running throughout the day and night, a full view of the endless night sky where you can spot the stars dancing, and a whole range of shelters and cabins that you can stay in or you can use to prepare meals, making the whole experience feel like a real adventure.
Since it was first built back in the 1940s, people have flocked to this park right at the heart of Concan to be as far away from the sights and sounds of the city as possible, giving it a very homely and sociable atmosphere, especially when everyone gets involved with the jukebox dances in the evenings.
Texas is filled with so much natural beauty and historical landmarks that it makes it the perfect place for a relaxing getaway or a fun day trip, and the state parks really are the areas where you can admire this enormous state in all of its glory.
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