| |

19 Must-See State Parks In Texas

best state parks in texas

Texas is home to some of America’s best state parks and natural areas. From Big Bend State Park to Seminole Canyon State Park, Texas has an abundance of nature to offer.

Whether you’re a Texan looking for a lovely weekend trip or an out-of-towner visiting the area, it’s no secret that there are many great state parks in Texas to enjoy. Below is a list of my favorite state parks in Texas to visit and stay at while on vacation as they offer beautiful scenery and relaxing amenities, including swimming pools, lakes, and walking or hiking trails, among many others.

Watch our video of the 10 best State Parks in Texas

The 19 Best State Parks In Texas

Angelina National Forest

best state parks in texas - angelina national forest

Nestled in the heart of East Texas, Angelina National Forest is a sweet little slice of paradise. With no shortage of recreational activities, there are hundreds of trails to hike and bike, boat ramps to launch your watercraft, and spots to fish, hunt, and bird watching. If you prefer to spend your days lounging around a campsite, Angelina has you covered with plenty of sites available for both RVers and tent campers.

Want to see some local wildlife? You’re in luck: Angelina is home to many native species, including alligators, coyotes, and bald eagles.


Big Bend Ranch State Park

best state parks in texas - big bend ranch
Image Credit: cmy23 (Flickr CC)

By far the largest state park in Texas, Big Bend Ranch is located on the Rio Grande River and offers plenty of outdoor activities. The park covers more than 300,000 acres and has a rugged landscape that’s perfect for day hikes and overnight backpacking trips. Visitors can also hike through some remarkable rock formations at Fresno Canyon or enjoy a scenic drive along River Road.

There are more than 300 miles of hiking trails within the park, making it an excellent destination for hikers.


Davis Mountains State Park

best state parks in texas - davis mountains
Image Credit: jefflynchphoto (Flickr CC)

This park will have you feeling like you’re on top of the world — literally. The highest point in Davis Mountains State Park is Mount Livermore at 8,382 feet, but if it’s just a beautiful view you’re after, try Indian Lodge or the scenic overlooks located at both ends of the park.

The park offers plenty of opportunities to camp and picnic and hiking trails that will take you around scenic vistas, through canyons, and past mountain streams. And don’t forget to check out one of the many stargazing events hosted by the park each year.


Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

best state parks in texas - enchanted rock
Image Credit: sbmeaper1 (Flickr CC)

It’s no secret that Texas is full of natural space. And Enchanted Rock, located about 90 miles northwest of Austin, is one of the best places to experience it. This iconic site is more than a massive dome of granite — it’s also home to bald eagles, golden-cheeked warblers, collared lizards, and other animals.

If you’re looking for a more active outdoor adventure, you can climb to the top of the dome or try your hand at rock climbing the 400-foot-tall dome.


Garner State Park

best state parks in texas - garner state park
Image Credit: joncutrer (Flickr CC)

The Frio River, which runs through Garner State Park, is the primary attraction. Many visitors come just to float down the river on an inner tube. If you’d like to rent a tube, you can do so at one of the many outfitters in the area. The river has a section just for kids, too.

But Garner State Park isn’t all about tubing — it’s also a great place to camp and hike. There are numerous hiking trails you can take through this beautiful state park, ranging from short and easy hikes to more strenuous ones that aren’t suitable for families with small children.


Guadalupe River State Park

best state parks in texas - guadalupe river
Image Credit: sbmeaper1 (Flickr CC)

One of the best-loved parks in the state, Guadalupe River State Park covers more than 4,000 acres along the Guadalupe River, just south of San Antonio. The park features hiking trails, cabins and campsites, two fishing ponds, and a popular tubing area. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department maintains a fish hatchery on-site that produces more than one million fish per year.

The Guadalupe River is one of the most popular whitewater runs in Texas and is known as the “Tubing Capital of Texas.” The river is dam controlled and does not depend on rainfall for flow. Water levels are usually good throughout most of the spring and summer, though there are occasional dry periods.

The Guadalupe River is an excellent river for beginning and intermediate kayakers to learn how to boat. While it has some class III rapids, these are mostly small ledges with no major hazards. Guadalupe’s water quality is generally high, making it an excellent choice for families.


Hill Country State Natural Area

best state parks in texas - hill country
Image Credit: myoldpostcards (Flickr CC)

It’s a landscape of rolling hills, wooded canyons, and spring-fed streams. And it’s a place where you can do all kinds of fun things — like ride a horse, camp under the stars, or catch a fish.

In fact, this place is so unique that it’s aptly called the Hill Country State Natural Area. Located in Bandera County, about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio, the park sits on 5,369 acres of rugged terrain.

It’s one of 20 state parks that make up the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Hill Country Cluster Project.

In addition to offering lots of things to do, these parks help protect endangered species and natural resources. And they showcase some of Texas’ most beautiful landscapes.


Palo Duro Canyon State Park

best state parks in texas - palo duro canyon
Image Credit: ritahogan (Flickr CC)

Palo Duro Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the United States, after the Grand Canyon. It’s also one of the most visited state parks in Texas.

The park covers more than 30,000 acres of scenic Texas canyon and prairie land. Palo Duro offers a variety of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, camping, horseback riding, and guided tours.

The beautiful mesas and canyons draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Palo Duro is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including bison, deer, coyotes, and roadrunners.

Visitors can enjoy a number of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Several trails are available for hikers of all skill levels. The panoramic views from Lighthouse Peak are definitely worth the trek!


Lake Livingston State Park

best state parks in texas - lake livingston
Image Credit: diannbayes (Flickr CC)

This 5,000-acre park is a nature lover’s paradise. It’s located in the Piney Woods, and the Sam Houston National Forest surrounds it. There are tons of activities to enjoy, with everything from hiking and swimming to fishing and boating. Visitors can even go bird watching on the hiking trails.

The park also accommodates RVs. There are campsites available, as well as all of the amenities you’ll need for a comfortable stay. You’ll be able to find water hookups, electricity hookups, and even access to a dump station for your RV.

The park is a short drive from Huntsville and Conroe, so there are plenty of things to do if you want to leave the park for a little while. However, with so many recreational activities available at Lake Livingston State Park, you may never want to leave!


Lost Maples State Natural Area

best state parks in texas - lost maples
Image Credit: geewhypics (Flickr CC)

Lost Maples State Natural Area is one of the most popular fall foliage destinations in Texas. The park is located just west of Vanderpool off Highway 187.

In mid to late October, the maple trees turn a brilliant shade of red and orange. Visitors can enjoy the fall color from a variety of hiking trails that wind through the park. A scenic overlook offers an elevated vantage point for viewing the color-splashed hillsides.

The highlight of Lost Maples State Natural Area is its Sabinal River. Though not known for canoeing and kayaking, it does offer some good fishing opportunities. The river offers a relaxing retreat from the crowds of leaf peepers who come to see the maples each year.

Camping is allowed in Lost Maples State Natural Area, though sites are primitive. A small camp store provides visitors with basic necessities and firewood.

Fall visitors should be aware that while the maples are on display, they attract countless visitors to Lost Maples each year, which can make finding parking difficult and camping sites hard to locate without reservations made months in advance.


McKinney Falls State Park

best state parks in texas - mckinney falls
Image Credit: porticodoric (Flickr CC)

McKinney Falls State Park, located in southeast Austin, sits on the banks of Onion Creek. The park is named after Thomas F. McKinney, who was a Texas Ranger and successful rancher along the Texas Gulf Coast. McKinney Falls’ most popular attractions include Onion Creek and two beautiful waterfalls: Upper Falls and Lower Falls. The park offers many activities, including camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, wildlife viewing, geocaching, and more.

The park boasts a large variety of wildlife to see. Visitors can spot everything from deer to armadillos to numerous bird species that make their home in the park’s forests and creeks. Because of this diverse wildlife population, the park is a great place for bird-watching enthusiasts. Bring your binoculars and keep your eyes out for hawks, kites, osprey, and eagles soaring overhead!

McKinney Falls is also a great destination for anglers. Onion Creek is well-stocked with bass, catfish, and sunfish waiting to be reeled in. Fishermen must have a valid fishing license to fish within McKinney Falls State Park.


Palmetto State Park

best state parks in texas - palmetto state park

Palmetto State Park, located in Gonzales County near Luling, is one of the newest additions to Texas state parks. The park opened in 2012 and lies about 80 miles east of San Antonio.

Palmetto State Park features a man-made lake that covers some 125 acres and is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. Its most popular attraction is an 80-year-old cypress treehouse built by a former owner of the land. The treehouse was preserved and is now open to visitors.

The park also features two hiking trails (the Palmetto Trail and the Cedar Brake Trail), seven screened shelters, and six primitive campsites along the San Marcos River.


Pedernales Falls State Park

best state parks in texas - pedernales falls
Image Credit: cleopold73 (Flickr CC)

The beauty of Pedernales Falls State Park is that it offers a little bit of everything for everyone. There are cliffs, waterfalls, swimming holes for the adrenaline junkies, and plenty of lazy rivers to float down for those who just want to relax.

You’d never know it from the name, but most visitors come to Pedernales Falls for the river. The falls themselves are just a series of rapids, but the deep pools, chutes, and boulders make this one of our favorite places to swim in Texas.

You can also fish, hike, go horseback riding or take a picnic in one of the park’s many areas. Kids will love the half-mile nature trail with signs describing some of the local plants and animals.


Possum Kingdom State Park

best state parks in texas - possum kingdom

Possum Kingdom State Park is an excellent place for outdoor recreation, but the feature that draws most people to the park is the cool water of Possum Kingdom Lake. This large reservoir on the Brazos River is famous for boating and fishing. The park offers a marina, boat ramp, and fishing pier for anglers. The lake is also a beautiful place for a relaxing swim or paddle in a canoe or kayak.

The park’s campgrounds offer an excellent base for your outdoor activities. There are 85 campsites with water and electricity and 12 walk-in tent sites. On the shore of Possum Kingdom Lake, there are 12 screened shelters, which are perfect for families or groups that want to be close to the water without dealing with insects. The park also has three group camps that organizations can reserve. Primitive camping is permitted at additional sites along the lakeshore.

Possum Kingdom State Park has extensive hiking trails and mountain bike trails and opportunities for picnicking and wildlife watching. In addition to its lake activities, the park also offers equestrian trails and a horse campground with facilities for people traveling with horses.


Sea Rim State Park

best state parks in texas - sea rim

Nestled in Southeast Texas, Sea Rim State Park is one of the most remote state parks in the system. Situated on the Gulf Coast, Sea Rim protects 15 miles of marshland and coastline, making it a great place to bird watch, hike, and mountain bike.

The park was originally established to protect the coastline from drilling, but with the development of wetlands restoration techniques and better drilling practices, drilling is no longer a threat to the park.

The park is also home to two fantastic beaches. The larger beach tends to be less crowded than Galveston Island beaches, while a smaller beach provides more privacy. Both are perfect for sunbathing or wading in the water. Sea Rim is a great escape when you want to get away from it all.


Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

best state parks in texas - seminole canyon
Image Credit: karmor (Flickr CC)

Seminole Canyon offers some of the best hiking in West Texas. Hike through the canyon to see ancient Native American rock art or relax along the banks of the Rio Grande.

The park has several hiking trails, but its most famous one is Fate Bell Shelter. It’s about a 2-mile walk to see rock art painted by hunter-gatherers more than 4,000 years ago. The red, black, and yellow colors are still vibrant on the rock walls. And you’ll also see some pictographs created by the ancestors of modern-day Apache and Comanche tribes.

You can also hike Seminole Canyon’s other trails, including Upper Canyon Trail and Rock Slide Trail. You’ll get a chance to see more stunning views of the canyon walls and the Pecos River and its tributaries.

Bring along your canoe or kayak if you’d like to spend some time on the water. The Rio Grande makes up part of the park boundaries and is perfect for paddling. You can even camp at one of Seminole Canyon’s river sites!


Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center

best state parks in texas - sheldon lake
Image Credit: bassbro (Flickr CC)

The Sheldon Lake State Park is one of the best state parks in Texas for nature lovers. The park opened in 1960 and is currently part of the Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center. The park features a 645-acre lake, which offers boating and fishing activities. There are also three miles of hiking trails and 4.5 miles of biking trails to enjoy.

Located just 20 minutes from downtown Houston is this beautiful state park that offers the perfect escape from the city’s urban setting. It is an excellent place for nature lovers as it has an abundance of bird species and other wildlife animals.

The Sheldon Lake State Park is also home to the Environmental Learning Center, which offers educational programs for visitors of all ages. The center has a visitor center, classrooms, an auditorium, and an outdoor amphitheater.


South Llano River State Park

best state parks in texas - soth llano river
Image Credit: texasbackroads (Flickr CC)

Sitting on 2,551 acres of hill country near Junction, South Llano River State Park offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and birding, with over 200 species spotted within the park boundaries.

In addition to guided bird walks, visitors can experience nature through outdoor theater performances and nightly astronomy programs during peak season (March – November). This park also features two miles of river frontage along the South Llano River and eight miles of mountain biking trails, with options for riders of all skill levels.

The park is also teeming with wildlife; keep an eye out for deer, beavers, armadillos, and bobcats. You might even spot a rare glimpse of an ocelot!


Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our rundown of Texas’s 20 best state parks. It wasn’t easy to narrow down the field to just 20 entries, but we think this list represents everything that’s great about the Lone Star State. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions About State Parks In Texas

What is the best time of year to visit state parks in Texas?

Spring and fall offer the most pleasant weather, but winter can also be a great time to visit, especially if you’re interested in outdoor activities like hiking and camping.

Are there entrance fees for Texas state parks?

Yes, most state parks charge an entrance fee. However, there are a few that do not, such as the Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center.

What other activities are available at Texas state parks?

In addition to hiking and camping, many state parks offer activities like biking, bird watching, fishing, canoeing/kayaking, and ranger-led programs.

How many state parks are in Texas?

There are a grand total of 95 state parks and natural areas in Texas, totaling over 585,000 beautiful acres of land to explore. We’ve only covered just a fraction of the magic that Texas has to offer.

What is the biggest state park in Texas?

Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas, covering more than 300,000 acres of terrain. The park offers a wide variety of activities, including hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, and bird watching.

What is the smallest state park in Texas?

Old Tunnel State Park, located just north of Fredericksburg, is the smallest state park in Texas. The park is home to a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats, which can be seen exiting the old railroad tunnel every evening at dusk from March to October.

Do seniors get discounts at Texas state parks?

Yes, seniors (62+) receive a discount on entrance fees at most state parks. Some parks also offer discounts on camping and other activities.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.