Texas is a vast state made up of whopping 268,581 square miles. The second largest state in the United States in terms of both population and size, everything really is bigger in Texas. There really is so much to do in the great lone star state. When it comes to Texas state parks, there is everything to do from river rafting, rock climbing, and bird watching to surfing and traversing caverns under the ground.
When it comes to Texas State Parks, there truly is something for everyone inside of the great state. Where you are in El Paso, Tyler, San Antonio or Amarillo, there is a state park to discover. From hosting the second largest canyon in the United States to having a massive pink granite rock with 360 degrees of Hill Country views, Texas state parks are surely a sight for sore eyes…or a hike for adventurous thighs.
Texas or Bust
Texas is known for a lot of characteristics but state parks usually are not the first one that pops into a person’s head. Besides the ridiculously huge portions, cowboys and conservative country vibe that Texas provides, Texas also provides nature beyond the norm. Because the state is so gigantic, there is so much to see and explore.
Discovery is at the fingertips of those in Texas and the state literally provides every sort of climate, geology and outdoor recreation for every single person’s specific interests. If you like to swim, surf, hike, bike, relax, run, fish, camp, play, observe, canoe, kayak, bird watch or whatever your activity of choice may be, there is a Texas state park for you.
Top 7 Texas State Parks
1. ENCHANTED ROCK STATE PARK
Enchanted Rock State Park is quite the Texas masterpiece. Located in Fredericksburg, Texas, it is one of the most frequented and used Texas state parks there is. It is located just north of the charming Texas town and features a pink granite dome that rises 425 feet above the ground.
In 1970, the rock was designated a National Natural Landmark and features some of the most magical and mystical land in the lone star state.
Enchanted Rock State Park offers amazing recreation, primarily rock climbing. Rock climbing is top notch here and is considered some of the only intensive and good granite in the entire state.
At Enchanted Rock State Park, you will find slabs, steep slab faces and incredible 30-foot gaps for bouldering. The backside of the main-dome has a huge amount of long bolted routes with a large number of one-pitch slab climbs equipped for all levels of climbers.
The park offers some of the best climbing in the state and has numerous climbs for all levels of intensity. It also features eleven miles of hiking trails of all calibers. Camping, backpacking, picnicking, bird watching and stargazing are among other activities people love to partake in at this beautiful nature setting.
Enchanted Rock State Park does get extremely busy though so definitely check the website and make sure you are prepared for a trip to this popular park.
2. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Also known as the second largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one of the most important natural attractions in the state.
The “Grand Canyon of Texas” is 120 miles long, 20 miles wide and 800 feet deep. The oldest rock layer in the Palo Duro Canyon dates back to 250 million years ago.
The most well known structure inside the park is composed of the “Spanish Skirts,” where the Quartermaster Formation meets the Tecovas Formation.
The Quartermaster Formation is made up of red claystone, sandstone and white gypsum. The canyon itself was one of the earliest homes of people to live in Texas and use of the canyon dates back to some 12,000. It stands as a very historical landmark and served as a home to a number of Indian tribes, including the Apache and Comanche.
The Palo Duro Canyon was deeded to the state of Texas in 1933 after a series of horrific Native American battles and relocations. The famous Charles Goodnight owned a piece of the canyon before it became open as a state park on July 4, 1934.
Hiking and camping are among the most popular activities Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers. There are even “Old West Stables” where you can go on guided horseback tours and even wagon rides.
There are a few rare wildlife species that outdoor enthusiasts love to look for her, including the Texas Horned Lizard, Palo Duro Mouse, western diamondback rattlesnakes and Barbary sheep.
Staying overnight here can be done through traditional camping, cabins, primitive campsites and backpack campsites.
3. Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island State Park is located in the beautiful little beach town of Port Aransas, Texas. It features more than five miles of gorgeous coastline, camping, water activities and access to all that this area of the Texas coastline offers.
Visit Mustang Island and discover all that the wonderful Gulf of Mexico brings to the wonderful shorelines of Texas.
There is a plethora of recreation offered at this beach city state park. Stay at one of the state park’s forty-eight water and electric campsites or at one of the park’s fifty drive-up campsites. The park offers water, cold-water rinse beach showers and portable toilets along two miles of beach to make your camping experience the most comfortable and convenient it can be.
Mustang Island State Park features an amazing paddling trail with three segments that follow the western shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay. There are twenty miles of trails that are strung along through some of the state’s finest shallow-water fishing areas. This trail also makes for incredible bird watching, especially for those coastal native birds.
The warm waters off of the shores here are home to over six hundred fish for you to enjoy or fish if you would like. You can even take a chartered excursion into the sea for some epic deep-sea fishing. Hang out on the jetties, grab a yummy dinner at a local restaurant and spend lay days hanging with family and friends in the Texas sun.
Indeed, Mustang Island State Park makes for a wonderful beach vacation.
4. Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park is quite surely one of the most prized Texas possessions. Generous slabs of limestone make for an incredible site and the state park offer supreme camping, swimming, hiking, bird watching, and many more recreational activities.
Located in Johnson City around an hour from the state’s capitol, Pedernales Falls is definitely a state park you do not want to miss.
The flowing river rises rapidly over the massive slabs of limestone that create the beauty of this amazing natural feature. The park offers geocaching, biking, picnicking, bird watching, horseback riding, tubing and many other impressive perks.
Johnson City is located just ten miles west of the park and offers a plethora of exploratory feats, home to the Lyndon B. Johnson memorial site and other historic attractions.
The hiking at Pedernales Falls State Park ranges everywhere from easy half miles hikes to viewpoints of the rolling Texas hill country to six mile trails made for more experienced hikers. This Texas state park even offers amazing trails for cyclists including a ten-mile technical, single track with plenty of obstacles for advanced cyclists.
For those who prefer to take their trails by horse, Pedernales Falls features ten miles of rugged trails. Some offer rock steep slopes provided for more experienced riders and some are easier, less technical trails.
For those who love spending their time in the water, Pedernales Falls allows for swimming in the chilly and refreshing river waters.
One thing to note about swimming here is that within minutes, flash floods can occur and provide for a very dangerous situation. Definitely plan your trip by taking in the weather precautions.
5. Caddo Lake State Park
Located in Caddo, Texas, Caddo Lake State Park is located just a few miles from the Louisiana Texas borderline. In a small town called Karnack, Texas, this Texas state park offers imaginable opportunities to immerse in the beauty of the Spanish moss and cypress trees.
Out of all the Texas state parks, this state park truly feels like you are in Florida, Louisiana or somewhere other than the Lone Star State.
Caddo Lake State Park offers fishing, paddling, hiking, picnicking, camping, cabin rentals and lots more. The 26,000+-acre Caddo Lake harbors more than seventy species of fish and the state park features a fishing pier as well as a boat ramp to make these waters more accessible.
The lake offers a sprawling, swampy feel with a diverse animal population and breathtaking trees that help create an eerily beautiful sight to behold.
A favorite among visitors at Caddo Lake State Park is renting a canoe or kayak to explore the lands. Caddo Lake features more than fifty miles of twisted sprawling water trails to follow and discover.
Spend long days adventuring throughout the mysterious maze of sloughs, swamps and bayous for which this region is known for.
As far as staying overnight at Caddo Lake State Park goes, the park offers forty-six different campsites ranging from water only to full hookup sites. There is a screened shelter you can also rent as well as historic cabins sleeping two to six people. There are also many hiking trails for visitors of the park that prefer staying on land.
6. Colorado Bend State Park
Colorado Bend State Park is located in Bend, Texas. This park stands out as noteworthy among the Texas state parks for its epic views, Gorman Falls, hiking and camping opportunities.
This park is located a little over ninety miles from Austin, making it perfect for a weekend camping trip to escape from the city life.
The park features incredible unspoiled wilderness that is ideal for camping, hiking, swimming and spending time in the great outdoors. There are many different options for staying overnight at this frequented state park.
From drive-up sites to more primitive hike-in sites, there is a style of camping offered for every type of camper here at Colorado Bend State Park.
The park itself offers thirty-five miles of trails. A perk of these trails is that they drain very well, so even after heavy rains, they are usually never closed. The trails offer a wide variety of skill levels and are open to both hikers and bikers, allowing the visitor to choose exactly what type of excursion they are searching for.
Colorado Bend State Park offers excellent choices for popular hikes. Some of the most popular are the Spicewood Springs hike, the Gorman Falls hike and the River hike.
The Spicewood Springs hike takes you along incredible pools and waterfalls fed by the springs and offer some of the best swimming holes in the area.
Gorman Falls is one of the parks pride and joys and includes a steep descent as you near the popular waterfalls.
The River trail is easily navigable and offers dense canopy and river access along its beautiful banks.
7. Lost Maples State Natural Area
Lost Maples State Natural Area is quit the gem of the Texas hill country. This amazing state natural area is located ninety miles northeast of San Antonio, Texas. The park is especially brilliant in the fall and shows off its changing colors for all to see. The steep canyon walls, wild flower abundance and glorious Sabinal River offer some spectacular sights to behold.
Lost Maples protects a special strand of Uvalde bigtooth maples and these trees produce quite the site for visitors to spectate. There are over ten miles of hiking trails located in Lost Maples State Natural Area, including a loop that takes you along the top of a 2,000 plus high cliff serving as a very promising viewpoint.
Camping is a very popular activity here and the park offers thirty campsites with water and electricity. There are also six primitive campsites for the more adventurous camper.
Fishing is a must if you are spending time at Lost Maples and you can easily wet a hook in the Sabinal River or Can Creek. There is also access to a fishing pier to make fishing even more convenient.
For birding, Lost Maples offers a wonderful selection of opportunities to partake in these activities. There are two endangered species that can be found here including the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.
Plan a wonderful family weekend and escape to the amazing Lost Maples State Natural Area.
Texas State Parks
Texas offers a lot for outdoor enthusiasts. From surfing on the beaches of Mustang Island to exploring the swampy lands of Caddo Lake, Texas state parks definitely have something for everyone’s interest.
The state is so massive it can seem overwhelming to decide which state park to visit.
We hope this list helped to provide some more insight into what the specific state parks can offer its visitors.
Whether it’ a day trip or a week long camping trip, Texas state parks have something for you to enjoy.
Time to explore.