If you live in the southern part of the United States, chances are you’re familiar with the open carry policy many states uphold. If you’re from Texas specifically, you might’ve heard of a new state law that allows anybody who legally owns a gun to carry it in public without a permit. Even though this new law has passed, there are still places and areas in Texas that have restrictions regarding the possession and discharge of a firearm.
If you’re here, chances are you’re a nature enthusiast who may be making plans to take a hike somewhere in Texas. Maybe you’d like to know if you can carry your gun in certain parks or nature reserves. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place, and we’ll try to fill you in on the firearm policies of Texas state parks and hiking trails.
Is It Legal to Carry a Gun in A Texas Park?
Well, that depends on what kind of park you’re visiting. If you’re visiting a public park, any person who is 21 or older has the right to carry a handgun with or without a license in compliance with Texas State Law.
However, the discharge of firearms has a lot more restrictions in parks funded by the federal government. This applies to Texas National State Parks, such as Big Bend and Palo Duro Canyon, which prohibit the possession of firearms in any of its facilities. These Federal State parks also restrict the discharge of said firearms anywhere within the park.
The only time guns can be openly carried and discharged in these parks is when one has gotten a form of written authorization from the federal governing facility. To keep yourself out of trouble, make sure that you check with the park before your hiking with a gun in Texas to verify any rules or restrictions around your firearm.
Now that we have the legal part of this knocked out, let’s discuss why one might be thinking about carrying a firearm on a hike.
Why Should I Carry a Gun While Hiking?
The most obvious reason one might be thinking about doing this is to defend themselves. Yes, it is possible to have encounters with more dangerous wildlife such as bears, mountain lions, or coyotes, but the majority of times, they’ll just run away from you.
Does this mean that they never attack? Not at all; you could very well come across a very brave mountain lion who has the gall to approach you aggressively. It’s perfectly reasonable to want to defend oneself in a potentially hostile situation in the woods in the same way one might want to carry a gun on a dangerous city street.
Maybe you’re not even looking to defend yourself but instead are looking to actively hunt. If you are hiking during hunting season, it would probably be in your best interest to make sure you have a valid hunting license. You should also make sure that you are only hunting in parks and reserves where carrying and shooting a gun is legal.
Disadvantages of Hiking With A Gun In Texas
If you need a reason not to carry a firearm on a hiking trail, just consider its inconvenience.
If you’re hiking, a gun could add unnecessary weight to your pack or outfit. But if you really want to carry a firearm on your hike, consider carrying a lightweight handgun that is compact in size.
Although this alternative will reduce some of the weight from using a typical handheld firearm, it will still be extra weight carried on your hike at the end of the day. If you’re a more seasoned hiker, you already know that every pound carried is meaningful. Some people will scrap a toothbrush from their pack just to save the extra weight, so they feel more free and dynamic on their hike.
In general, it is discouraged to carry a firearm on any trail. On federal lands administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, possession of a firearm absolutely must be in compliance with the law of the state in which the park is located.
Many hikers have no issue with leaving their firearms at home, as a good chunk of them believe that carrying firearms is highly unnecessary and creates a hostile atmosphere. Many also believe that carrying a firearm on a hike isn’t at all conducive to the social nature of a hiking trail. I would have to agree with that sentiment.
In a worst-case scenario, firearms can be turned against you or result in an accidental shooting. So if you really are keen to carry, please be sure to get adequate training beforehand and mentally prepare yourself in the event that you use that firearm.
Because laws related to carrying and concealed carry vary by State, it’ll always be in your best interest to contact the park you’re planning to hike. This will ensure that you are 100% aware of the relevant laws and have acquired any necessary permits. This will also ensure that you contribute to a positive environment for yourself and your fellow hikers.