One of the most redeeming features about the Lone Star State is how close you are to nature and various outdoor activities.
You may need to drive to get to any one of the state’s stunning state parks yet they are well worth a visit.
Should you fit in a trip to San Antonio, there are several state parks to choose from, some for their great nature watching and others for their water-based activities, or perhaps even millions of bats emerging from a hole.
The state also prides itself on how clean and organized the state parks are for visitors to enjoy so take a trip to see for yourself.
For a quick getaway from a major city, check out one, or even a few, of these 14 stunning state parks near San Antonio.
- Pedernales Falls State Park
- Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) State Park & Historic Site
- Lockhart State Park
- Palmetto State Park
- Old Tunnel State Park
- Blanco State Park
- Guadalupe River State Park
- Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area
- Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site
- Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
- Lost Maples State Natural Area
- Choke Canyon State Park
- Garner State Park
- Goliad State Park & Historic Site
1. Pedernales Falls State Park
A lot of the state parks near San Antonio need to be seen to be believed and that certainly includes Pedernales Falls State Park.
East of Johnson City, the state park is renowned for the huge, smooth limestone slabs which the water flows over.
At times, it can feel like you have transported yourself to prehistoric times and you can swim in certain areas, though not the falls area due to how turbulent the water can get.
For those who prefer to walk rather than wade, there is a range of hiking trails to pick from.
Mountain bikes are also welcome and there is a somewhat technical and single-track 10-mile trail which may prove challenging.
A trail of the same length is also available for horseback riders.
Whatever activity you fancy, you can stay over as there are campsites to reserve with water and electricity hookups and some backcountry campsites too.
2. Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) State Park & Historic Site
There are many references to the 36th US President dotted around Texas and the town of Stonewall has its own too.
While LBJ Ranch lies across the Pedernales River, you can embark on a tour of his ranch, a self-guided one too as you can grab a map at the visitor center.
It is worth checking out as LBJ spent so much time there, the ranch eventually became known as the ‘Texas White House’.
Aside from the mentions of the former President, there is a living history farm. This is great for kids as it shows what life was like back in the late 19th century.
There is also a Nature Trail which should include bison and longhorn cattle, fishing in the river, and even swimming in their Olympic-sized pool.
3. Lockhart State Park
Few state parks offer the chance to play a round of golf, as well as go for a swim, catch a fish, or ride a bike.
But then that’s Lockhart State Park which was built during the Great Depression and offers many activities which may be ideal if you have a few things in mind.
That could be just for a few hours or a few days as it is only an hour-long drive away from San Antonio.
Grab some barbecue from town and make the most of it as evening draws in.
That’s after a full day of hiking and biking as you can make full use of the camping facilities with over 20 sites that offer either electricity or full hookups.
This is an ideal stop if you are heading to Austin from San Antonio, especially if you enjoy fishing as there are several fishing holes to try.
4. Palmetto State Park
The state park named after the dwarf plants that are dotted amongst it, this is one of the most natural areas that you can find in Central Texas.
Though it might feel like the Gulf Coast, the plants are indigenous to the area thanks to the park’s water sources and the San Marcos River.
The unique nature that is available in the area is one of the reasons why it remains so popular with many plants and animals to observe amidst its many trails.
Palmetto State Park is a state park where you can kayak along, in this case through the swamp area and down the waterway.
You can stay over too as there is available camping with 19 tent sites and 18 for RVs. This is one of the largest group camping sites in the state where you could bring along around 100 of your mates.
For something of a tropical oasis in the middle of the Lone Star State, you might have to make a visit to Palmetto State Park.
5. Old Tunnel State Park
For anyone with a fascination for bats, there are a couple of places to visit and one of them is Old Tunnel State Park.
There are millions of Mexican free-tailed bats that come out of an abandoned railroad tunnel there each night.
Make sure you camp between May and October which is bat season as it is an unforgettable experience.
As the bats emerge, they produce a column that could be as high as 10,000 feet and truly a sight to admire.
You will require a permit which you can order online as, without one, you cannot stay after 5pm so one is crucial if you want to see the bats.
Make sure that you bring your binoculars and choose between the lower visiting area and two upper ones.
The state park does look out for the bats so visitors are not allowed to bring pets, camp, approach the tunnel itself, or steer off the trail that is designated.
If bat sightings are your jam then there is another state park to visit near San Antonio which is Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area which is featured below.
6. Blanco State Park
It can get unbearably hot in the Texan heat which is why Blanco State Park becomes so inviting.
With tree-lined banks, you can bring a picnic and sit in the shade while still enjoying the wilderness of the outdoors.
For those who want to stay out a bit longer, the state park is well known for its trout, bass, and catfish fishing so make sure that you pack your pole and catching gear though you can rent rods and reels.
One of the most popular activities, even more popular than renting a tube, is to jump into the river at the Falls Dam which includes a shallow wading pool.
Though you could bring your own canoe or electric-motor boat too.
You can even enjoy a dip in the Blanco river with the chance for a swim and to get closer to nature. That may simply be watching the birds and the fish or kayaking and canoeing along the river.
The state park is also well equipped for those who want to stay a bit longer. There are around 30 campsites that have full hookups to electric-only ones, each with a fire ring and nearby restrooms.
7. Guadalupe River State Park
Guadalupe River State Park may be a little closer and it does have its own river to boast.
However, there is more to do than simply swim or go tubing in the Guadalupe River, though all four miles of it are certainly appealing.
There are also 13 miles of trails to wander along or ride along on a mountain bike.
You could go bird watching at the Bauer Unit, catch a fish or two, ride a horse, or simply bring a picnic and enjoy the camping facilities.
That includes around 85 electric hookup campsites as well as nine walk-in tent sites. The park even offers camping and fishing rentals if you forgot to bring your own gear.
8. Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area
There is another site to see a few bats and that’s Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area.
The name, unsurprisingly, relates to the 350 feet deep and 65 feet wide sinkhole through which around three million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from.
Similarly to Old Tunnel State Park, time your visit for between March and October then get there for dusk. Before that, enjoy a nature hike or see the bats return in the morning.
9. Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site
To some, Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site may appear barren, but to historians it is anything but. Sure, there are rugged stone cliffs, sweeping valleys, and deep canyons yet the land tells a story.
That of Native Americans from millennia ago as the area features some of their oldest rock art to be found in the country.
There are also over 10 miles of trails which include jaw-dropping views over the Rio Grande and you can embark on a guided tour of the canyons to see the pictograph sites.
10. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
There are several reasons to visit Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. One is the largest pink granite mountain in the country making it popular for bouldering and rock climbing.
There are some great hiking trails too and if you stay overnight, you may see the busiest, clearest night sky in the state.
The real reason people go there are the legends that surround the rock itself. Specifically, that Tonkawa Indians were of the belief that the natural area was inhabited by several spirits.
These spirits protected the land from intruders while some visitors have seen lights at nighttime and even heard weird, unexplainable sounds.
11. Lost Maples State Natural Area
If you time your visit to the area for fall then make a visit to Lost Maples which has some gorgeous foliage. Try to get there in October or November which should be busy.
The rest of the year proves a little quieter yet there are still wildflowers and ten miles of rugged terrain to enjoy. Even one trail with a loop that features an edge along a 2,200-foot cliff.
12. Choke Canyon State Park
If you have the time for the drive to Choke Canyon State Park then you may as well stay there overnight.
That’s fine, after the one-and-a-half-hour drive, you can use their full-service overnight park though you could enjoy the day-use section too if you are pressed for time.
The state park is situated south of the city and is the proud home of Choke Canyon Reservoir which is ideal for fishing and other water activities.
There is even a gymnasium and a group pavilion you can rent as well as sports complexes for basketball, tennis, and soccer.
Of course, you can hike some of the trails and camp there yet the 26,000-acre site is well worth it for some of the most renowned boating and swimming activities in the entire Lone Star State.
For those who do not fancy camping, there are about 20 cabins that are available to rent for those who prefer a bed rather than a swimming bag.
13. Garner State Park
Garner State Park is another that is a bit of a longer drive from downtown San Antonio (also at one and a half hours) but it is worth it.
The distance may make it difficult for a day trip yet if you need a camping trip then remember that there are hundreds of sites to pitch up.
Grab the fishing gear too as the Frio River runs through the park. Further activities include swimming in the river or kayaking across it while you can stay on land and walk some of several trails.
14. Goliad State Park & Historic Site
For those history-buffs, Goliad State Park is a great place to visit. From Native Americans to Texan soldiers, and even early Spanish explorers, the state park offers a glimpse into the past.
Mission Espiritu Santo has been restored to its original colonial-era state and you can marvel at the bright chapel while listening to its church bells.
There are also historical relics such as roads, statues, and other missions dotted throughout the state park.
The easiest way to see it all is on a hike, though you may want to cycle past them on the various trails.
Whether it is getting back to nature, going on a hike, or embarking on some water activities, there is so much to do at the state parks near San Antonio.
Try to make a list of the activities that you want to try and there may be a park where you can do each one. Even if you fail to have your own fishing gear, you can rent some at various parks.
There’s also two state parks where you can see millions of bats, that is if you time your visit for bat season.
Frequently Asked Questions
The title of the most visited state park in Texas typically goes to Garner State Park.
Little wonder with so many camping sites to choose from. You can also go fishing, kayaking, or swimming in the Frio River.
If you are looking out for the most popular state parks across the whole of the United States then you need to visit the states of North Caroline and Tennessee.
With over 12 million visits, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most-visited national park.
It also crosses state borders and is well-known for its waterfalls, wildlife, and mountains which are occasionally covered in fog.
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