Texas has a number of gorgeous and scenic state parks spread out throughout the state.
These parks encompass a variety of landscapes from the cypress swamps of Caddo Lake to the Chihuahua desert landscape of Big Bend Ranch.
They sport seasonal beauty such as the beautiful fall colors at Lost Maples and Garner State Park or the bluebonnets at Stephen F. Austin.
Some of the parks are home to stunning beaches such as Mustang Island and Galveston Island.
Texas state parks are the perfect places to enjoy an outdoor holiday.
You can explore stunning natural areas and go hiking and camping within the parks.
Many of them are close to the metro areas of Houston, Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio and make the perfect escapes from the city.
Best State Parks in Texas
Here are our favorite Texas state parks including the kid’s favorite Dinosaur Valley and the famous Palo Duro Canyon.
Add them to your bucket list and explore them to your heart’s content while visiting the Lone Star State.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Did you know that the Palo Duro Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas?
This underrated natural attraction is the second largest canyon in the United States.
Its most defining characteristic is the bands of red and brown that stretch across the canyon walls and tell the story of the geological record.
Some of the popular hiking trails within the park are the Lower Comanche Trail and the Capital Peak Trail.
Both are under five miles and pretty easy for hiking.
Another highlight of the park is its famous Lighthouse rock formation which can be accessed by the 3-mile long Lighthouse trail.
You have a few options for how to explore the canyon: on foot, mountain bike, car, or even horse!
There are also campsites and cabins for camping within the state park or you can stay in the nearby city of Canyon.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Want to get far away from city life?
Well, you can’t get much more secluded than Big Bend Ranch State Park. It’s 287 miles from the nearest city of El Paso!
The park is located on the Mexican border and in the Big Bend region of Texas, one of the most spread out and remote parts of the United States.
Here you can find beautiful views of the Rio Grande river along with several hiking trails and mountains to climb for a better view of the valley below.
One of the best things you can do in the park is kayak, canoe, or raft down the Rio Grande.
It is said to be some of the best rafting in the United States and the scenery around the river makes every turn breathtaking.
There are 238 miles of hiking trails, one of the most famous is the Closed Canyon Trail.
It is about 1.4 miles long and some parts have you passing through two behemoth cliffs only an arm’s length apart.
Washington-on-Brazos State Historic Site
In the 1800s Texas was actually a part of Mexico and wanted to become independent.
This is the place where the founding fathers and the original settlers met to discuss the secession, sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, and also draft the first-ever Texas Constitution.
Today the site, located about an hour and fifteen minutes from Houston, is marked by authentic reconstructions of the building from that era.
Visitors can see museums, and other recreations like the Star of the Republic Museum, Independence Hall, and the Barrington Living History Farm.
The grounds of the state historic site are very large and offer great places for picnicking, sight-seeing, and bird watching.
In spring, you will find pretty bluebonnets in the park.
Stephen F. Austin State Park
Also very close to Houston, this park was named for one of Texas’ greatest forefathers.
It straddles the banks of the Brazos River and has an interactive visitor center where you can learn more about the story of Stephen F. Austin.
There are also several campgrounds, geocaches, picnic areas, wildlife viewing opportunities, and, of course, hiking trails.
This state park is one of the top spots for Houston area families to take a picture with the bluebonnets without leaving the city.
The amount of hiking is relatively small compared to some of the other parks on this list.
Almost all of them follow the riverside and are mostly flat.
One of the best is the Ironwood Trail to Barred Owl Trail which is almost three miles long and ends at the river’s edge.
Brazos Bend State Park
At just 40 miles from downtown Houston, this is one of the first stops for nature once you leave the big city.
Make sure you take your camera and binoculars with you because wildlife has top priority in this domain.
The terrain expands over 5,000 acres and is composed of coastal prairie, woodlands, swamps, marshes, and ponds.
You can find 25 different species of mammals here including bobcats and river otters, but be careful because some parts of the park are also home to alligators.
There are also 300 documented species of birds so get ready to do some bird watching.
Taking either the 40 Acre Lake Trail or the Spillway Trail is recommended because it takes you through the abundant wetlands and gives you the best chance for seeing some animals.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
Venture deep under the ground at this fascinating state park.
Longhorn cavern consists of a cave system that is one and a half hours northwest of Austin in Burnet, Texas.
The caverns were mostly formed by an underground river that left behind unique and interesting shapes, divots, and tunnels through mostly limestone rocks.
Today visitors can walk in the steps of the river on a guided tour.
The tour is 90 minutes long and the trail is 1.2 miles long.
On the tour, visitors can see different parts of the cavern and a variety of geological attractions like large mineral deposits, naturally formed sculptures and narrow pathways.
The park also has a lot of historical relevance as it was once a civil war mine, a nuclear fallout shelter, and even an underground dancing venue.
Another attraction is the CCC observation tower from where you can see stunning views of the Texas Hill Country.
Caprock Canyons State Park
Did you know that once bison roamed all over Texas?
The bison used to be the source of life for the Plains Native Americans.
It provided them with food, shelter, tools, and even clothes.
It might be hard for some to believe since these animals almost went extinct in the 1800s!
Today, you can come to Caprock Canyons to see these beautiful animals being conserved and flourishing.
There’s also a local bat population that you can observe here along with hiking trails, horseback riding, camping, biking, and swimming and fishing in Lake Theo.
Also Read: Best Places to see Bats in Texas
There are over 90 miles of hiking trails within the park.
One of the best is the Canyon Rim Trail.
It’s long and strenuous but you’ll get the chance to see wildflowers and awesome views from the top of the canyon.
Davis Mountains State Park
Davis Mountains State Park deep in West Texas is well worth the drive.
While it may be a few hours from the nearest city of El Paso, the fun trails and gorgeous night sky make it one of the best state parks in Texas.
If you’re not the hiking type, then there is a scenic drive through the mountains.
You can also opt for mountain biking on the 4.5 miles long Skyline Drive Trail or the shorter 1.8 miles long CCC trail.
The Skyline Drive Trail takes you up and down the many peaks of the park’s mountains.
The views from the trail are simply gorgeous, especially at sunrise or sunset.
The CCC trail links the state park with the National Historic Site at Fort Davis and is highly recommended.
Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site
Want to learn about teh indigenous people of Texas?
The residents of Seminole Canyon left their stories in the paintings on these rocks thousands of years ago.
Throw in a fabulous location on the Rio Grande near Del Rio and this is the perfect blend of history and scenic beauty.
At the park, you can take a tour of petroglyphs here or enjoy your time with some hiking, mountain biking, and camping.
There are more than 10 miles of hiking trails here with two options: hike the rim of Seminole Canyon or head over to the Rio Grande.
The Rio Grande Trail while long ends with a fantastic overlook of the river.
Garner State Park
The oak trees in Garner State Park make it one of the most colorful in Texas.
Travel about 1.5 hours from San Antonio into Hill Country in the autumn to see the leaves change color and reflect off the beautiful waters in the lakes and the river.
The river here is called the Frio and it is famous for its rafting because of the white water rapids abundant throughout the river.
In addition to rafting, you can go swimming at Garner as well as camping, canoeing, hiking, miniature golf, and fishing.
There are over 16 miles of scenic trails here to explore.
Crystal Cave Trail will take you past a natural cave and bring you to Painted Rock Overlook; a great place to watch the sunset.
Colorado Bend State Park
The Colorado Bend State Park is about one hour and fifty minutes from Austin.
The park has karst topography and is full of sinkholes, caves, and natural springs.
This park is awesome if you want to get wet and cool off in the hot summer months.
Visitors can enjoy a hike to the beautiful 65 feet long Gorman Falls, one of the best waterfalls in Texas.
Take a dip in the swimming holes located on the Spicewood Springs trail or just enjoy swimming, fishing, or canoeing in the Colorado River.
There are over 35 miles of biking and hiking trails here.
The most popular is the Gorman Falls trail which is of moderate difficulty and 1.5 miles long one way.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
This Texas state park is a favorite with our kids.
Millions of years ago, dinosaurs left their massive footsteps on this very ground.
Just a little over an hour from Fort Worth, this park is great for any dinosaur lover.
As you walk along the Paluxy River in Glenrose, keep an eye out for the enormous footprints!
Several of the tracks are located underwater and you need to walk in knee depth water to see them.
One of the best sites to see the tracks is the Ballroom area.
Beyond looking for tracks you can also spend your time here picnicking, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, or looking for a geocache.
There are over 20 miles of trails here varying in difficulty.
If you’re feeling energetic try the Cedar Brake Outer Loop; a 13.4 km trail with moderate difficulty that will take you up an elevation of 216 m.
Lost Maples State Natural Area
Another colorful fall paradise that is just two hours northwest of San Antonio.
The Uvalde Bigtooth Maples that the park protects change color in the autumn and decorate the forest in a sea of orange, yellow, and red.
We love taking our whole family here to enjoy the camping, picnicking, wildlife, and stargazing.
It is highly recommended to spend the night as the sky is extremely clear here and will offer you a full view of the cosmos from your tent.
The Lost Maples East Trail Loop is the most popular hiking trail here.
It starts at the Sabinal River.
From there it will take you past boulders, shallow rivers, natural springs, and plenty of maples.
Mustang Island State Park
Right outside of Corpus Christi you’ll find the secluded Mustang Island State Park.
It is our favorite place to enjoy the waves crashing off the Gulf of Mexico.
The park is located on one of the barrier islands that make up the majority of Texas’ gulf coast and is home to an interesting ecosystem given its role between the ocean and the mainland.
The island is about 18 miles long and 3,000 feet wide.
When you’re here you can enjoy any of the classic beach activities like building a sandcastle, surfing, swimming, or just taking a walk along the coast to see the sunset.
There’s also a number of coastal dunes here that can reach up to 30 feet high; climbing up the dunes is great fun.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Forty-five minutes from Fort Worth you can find a natural haven growing around a lake.
The park is decorated with a variety of wildflowers and trees in addition to local wildlife like foxes, squirrels, and raccoons.
The lake is 640 acres and you can rent a boat here if you want to explore it.
Beyond the usual activities of camping, hiking, and biking, this park is famous for rock climbing.
The rocks here are made from sandstone layers and accessible for climbers of all skill levels.
If you have to hike just one trail, then we recommend the Penitentiary Hollow trail.
This short trail has an elevation gain of 57 meters and ends with a great overview of the lake.
Guadalupe River State Park
Guadalupe River State Park is located a little over an hour outside of San Antonio.
While the river is the main attraction here, the park is more than just an awesome place for swimming.
Of course, you need to take a tube and float down the Guadalupe River to fully experience this amazing park.
The scenic bluffs around the river are breathtaking and the history behind the park makes it pretty fascinating.
You can learn more about the river at the visitor’s center or take advantage of the four miles of riverfront. Popular activities include swimming, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, and canoeing.
Bald Cypress trees line the river’s banks.
It also has four natural rapids and passes through two limestone bluffs within the park.
The accessible Bald Cypress Trail here will take you past these awesome trees for a closer look.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Another park based around a river, Pedernales Falls is only 30 miles west of Austin in Johnson City.
The Pedernales River flows over a giant slab of limestone in the park.
There are several tranquil sections of the river which are perfect for swimming.
The cascading falls give the river its name.
They are very beautiful to look at and one of the most photogenic sites in Texas.
The park has both civilized (water and electricity) and primitive campgrounds that you can either park in or hike to.
The Wolf Mountain trail is certainly the best here.
The trail is over 5 miles long and, while it can get pretty busy during nice weather, it has an awesome waterfall during the hike that makes it all worth it.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Towering over the valley below is a massive down of pink granite.
The behemoth is located in Central Texas – 1 hour 45 minutes from Austin – and has been frequented by hikers, thrill-seekers, and nature lovers for thousands of years.
Here you can hike, backpack, camp, rock climb, bird watch, and enjoy the great outdoors.
No visit to Enchanted Rock is complete without hiking up to the summit.
Venture up the Enchanted Rock Summit Trail for a quick trip up the mountain and admire the gorgeous views from here.
Monahans Sandhills State Park
Come and see the dunes of Texas.
The wind here can shift the ever-moving grains into a constantly changing landscape — sometimes as fast as overnight.
This park is in middle-of-nowhere! It is located in West Texas about 3 and a half hours from El Paso.
This means the stargazing here is pretty incredible.
Other than that you can walk up the dunes, explore the area on horseback, or even rent a sandboard and surf the dunes!
The Monahan Sandhills Nature trail is a really easy loop that takes you past some pretty wildflowers.
Try to visit this park early or later in the day as it becomes unbearably hot on the dunes.
We recommend combining a visit here with a road trip to the small town of Pecos or to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Caddo Lake State Park
Let’s hit the marsh for a unique and swampy experience.
Caddo Lake is really more of a wetland in the end and you can tell it by the scores of bald cypress trees with their roots emerging from the waters.
One of the best things to do in Caddo Lake State Park is rent a canoe so that you can explore close to these legendary trees and also get a glimpse at some of the local birds and wildlife in the wetlands.
The park is 2.5 hours from Dallas and located in the wet Piney Woods region of Texas.
The best trails here are actually canoe trails.
Try the Caddo Lake State Park Canoe Trail and either hike or canoe in this beautiful area.
Hueco Tanks State Historic Site
A Hueco is actually a natural basin where rainwater is collected.
These basins were vital to the native inhabitants of Texas as a resource for drinking water thousands of years ago.
Today you can climb and explore the rocks just like the Native Americans did all that time ago.
The park is only 45 minutes from El Paso and features hiking, picnicking, stargazing, and learning about the ancient history of the area.
The Chain Trail here is a fascinating trail that follows a series of chains that will take you up into the rocks.
Devil’s River State Natural Area
Despite its dark name, this is actually one of the cleanest rivers in Texas.
It is fed from natural springs and you can’t see the silt at its bottom due to the extremely clear waters.
The river is almost four hours west from San Antonio but definitely worth the trip.
Here you will find three different ecosystems and plenty of flora and fauna.
You can hike, go for a swim, kayak, or just rest in the natural surroundings of the river.
This hidden gem is located in a truly remote area of the Lone Star State.
The hike over the hills to the river is not easy but an amazing experience.
While the trail is hard for younger kids, older kids and teens enjoy the experience.
Inks Lake State Park
Located in the Texas Hill Country near Burnet is Inks Lake State Park.
It is about an hour northwest of Austin.
Inks Lake is a fantastic destination with deep blue waters and tons of wet and dry activities.
On the lake, you can expect boats, water skis, jet skis, swimming, and even scuba diving.
On land, you can go hiking, camping, cycling, and wildlife watching.
You can also play volleyball on the lakeside.
The Inks Lake State Park Loop trail will give you a full view of the lake and its surrounding wilderness and is easy enough for all difficulty levels.
McKinney Falls State Park
At McKinney Falls State Park, the sound of rushing water fills the nature around you.
If you came to Texas to see some waterfalls then this is the perfect park for you.
The falls are created as Onion creek splashes over limestone rocks into the pools below.
One of the most popular and unique activities in the park is bouldering.
Visitors and even kids can enjoy this freestyle rock climbing over the boulders.
If you take the Onion Creek and Homestead Trail Loop, you can see the falls in all their glory and it will keep you busy for better part of the day.
Huntsville State Park
Want to see Texas foliage in all of its beauty and glory?
Then you came to the right place.
Huntsville State Park, located 1 hour north of Houston, is literally filled with local pines and wildflowers which make it one of the most colorful parks in Texas.
Inside the park is a lake with several campgrounds based around it.
Within the park, you can rent canoes and paddleboats and explore the lake.
The Dogwood Trail takes you around the lake and has a very moderate elevation gain.
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Straddling the Mexican-American border and about 2.5 hours from Corpus Christi you will find a bird-watching paradise.
Over 360 unique species of birds have been reported to live here.
You will also have the chance to see native butterflies, bobcats, javelinas, and more.
The raised walkways will give you a neat perspective of the wetlands below and allow you to observe birds up close without startling them.
The Bentsen-Rio Grande Loop is your best bet to see some of these beautiful creatures – just make sure to bring a pair of binoculars.
Village Creek State Park
Another great park in Northeastern Texas for observing wildlife.
Village Creek is about 1.5 hours from Houston and is a great place to go and see river otters, beavers, fish, snakes, turtles, and frogs.
Like most of this region, this park is also located in a wetland and offers the awesome cypress trees, algae, and other things that come with this ecosystem.
Hike the Pioneer Trail to see most of the park in a short time.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Franklin Mountains State Park, located in the vibrant city of El Paso in West Texas, was extremely important to the native peoples who lived around it.
The mountains here provided shelter, space for collecting drinking water, and even an easily defendable position for the people who lived here.
Visitors come here to go camping, hiking, rock climbing, or biking.
Go along the El Paso Tin Mines trail if you want to see some wildflowers along with an abandoned mine that you can explore – but bring a flashlight).
The park is only 25 minutes from El Paso.
Which is your favorite state park in Texas? Let us know below!