21 Best State Parks in Texas

Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

Texas may be known for cattle ranches, barbecue, and the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s also home to diverse landscapes and terrains perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. With 89 state parks in the Lone Star State, Texas is a must-stop destination any time of the year.

The natural beauty found in Texas will take you through mountainous hikes to scenic rivers and stunning deserts. There’s no limit to what you can get up to in Texas — from hiking and camping, mountain biking, kayaking, and even white water rafting.

If you’re in the area, explore some of these state parks on your next trip.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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Located in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo and Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park features a canyon system over 120 miles long with an average width of six miles. Paolo Duro offers breathtaking vistas, tranquil riverbeds, and dramatic cliffsides and plateaus.

Visitors can go hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and zip lining.

The main gate opens at 7 am and closes at 10 pm, and there are multiple areas for camping, either by tent or in an RV with hookup stations. 

Garner State Park

Fall foliage on the crystal clear Frio River in Texas.

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Texans love summers at Garner State Park. It is one of the most popular parks in the state.

Located in Concan in Uvalde County — the hometown of Matthew McConaughey — Garner State Park is ideal for summer activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing along the Frio River.

Aside from 16 miles of trails, 3 miles of river, and a miniature golf course, Garner Park has hosted summer dances since the 1940s. This tradition is a highlight still loved and a perfect date night event for you and your sweetheart.

Caprock Canyon State Park & Trailway

Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

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For the avid hiker, you’ll want to stop by Caprock Canyon State Park and Trailway in the Texas Panhandle, which offers almost 90 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Along the way, you might glimpse herds of bison that roam the plains.

Besides exploring the park on foot, by bike, or on horseback, visitors can enjoy a modern-day treasure hunt by participating in geocaching activities. Or you can sunbathe on the banks of Lake Theo while you and your family swim in the lake.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park

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At Big Bend Ranch State Park, there’s a little of everything — horseback riding, hiking and biking trails, and camping sites for overnight stays.

Visitors can also try lodging at the Sauceda Bunkhouse for $35 per night — a single-bed bunkhouse-style lodge at the historic Sauceda Ranch House, a.k.a the Big House.

One of the best scenic drives in the park is the El Camino del Rio drive along the Rio Grande with views of the river and remote desert terrain. Check out the nearby McDonald Observatory for evening star parties, or stop by Fort Davis, a National Historic Site and one of the last remaining frontier military posts in the Southwest.

Pedernales Falls State Park

A landscape of the Pedernales Falls State Park under a blue cloudy sky and sunlight in Texas

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Thirty miles west of Austin, Texas, is Pedernales Falls State Park. It is known for the Pedernales River, which has cut through and around giant slabs of limestone.

Getting to the designated swimming area entails a quarter-mile hike. The route includes some steep rock terrain, so be careful if you decide to make the trek there.

If you’re only visiting for the day, enjoy activities like paddling in a kayak or canoe on the river, biking and hiking through various trails. Plus, there are 10 miles of horseback trails to explore.

Mustang Island State Park

Under the Port Aransas Pier Mustang Island Texas

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Mustang Island State Park covers 3,954 acres. It has hiking trails, camping sites, and half a mile of beachfront. Located south of Port Aransas, campers can choose from 48 different campsites with water and electricity or stay at one of 50 primitive sites.

One of the highlights of a stay at this park is to paddle the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail. With 20 miles of waterways, the trail follows the shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay and is great for birdwatching. 

Caddo Lake State Park

Cypress trees at Caddo Lake, Texas

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Calling all Bigfoot believers!

Caddo Lake State Park’s swampy setting is known to be a hot spot for Bigfoot sightings. Enjoy a picnic with friends or geocaching in the Piney Woods, and keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Bigfoot.

Paddling across Caddo Lake is also fun, especially under the impressive cypress trees covered in Spanish moss that extend several stories above the water. Be cautious of the alligators that live in the park.

Palmetto State Park

Palmetto State Park boardwalk trail

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For city slickers near San Antonio or Austin looking for outdoor adventures, make the hour-long trip to nearby Palmetto State Park. Its namesake, the palmetto palm, provides a tropical atmosphere for hiking, biking, and geocaching despite being in the middle of Texas!

Visitors can stay at tent or RV sites from $12 to $18 per night. For a more luxurious experience, you can rent the cabin near the San Marcos River for $65 a night, complete with air conditioning, electricity, nearby restrooms, and a water spigot.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, TX

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The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is 20 miles from Fredericksburg and features a huge, pink granite dome. The rock was formed 1.1 billion years ago due to a geological phenomenon known as a batholith. This feature draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Enchanted Rock offers opportunities for birdwatching and studying local wildlife like fox squirrels, armadillos, and white-tailed deer. If you choose to rock climb in the park, make sure you check in with the park headquarters for updated climbing rules and maps.

Inks Lake State Park

Inks Lake State Park, Paintbrush Flowers Cover a Hillside by Inks Lake State Park in Texas

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Bobcats, raccoons, and white-tailed deer — oh my. The Inks Lake State Park near Burnet, Texas, is a wonderful place to experience wildlife in its natural habitat. There are more than 200 species of birds in the park, including the rare golden-cheeked warbler.

You can go water skiing, fishing, and scuba diving, but remember that there aren’t any lifeguards on duty. Practice water safety and always check the weather and lake conditions beforehand.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Lost Maples State Natural Area

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Autumn is the perfect season to visit the Lost Maples State Natural Area and experience the vibrant fall colors of the bigtooth maple trees. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities all year, like hiking around the Sabinal River, birding, and fishing along the Can Creek.

The park is open year-round, though October and November are the busiest times. Expect to pay a $6 entrance fee and check the fall foliage report for updates on the changing leaves during the fall.

Government Canyon State Natural Area

Dinosaur track

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If you’re in the San Antonio area, check out the nearby 12,244-acre preserve that protects the city’s drinking water. Government Canyon State Natural Area offers 40 miles of hiking trails for all experience levels.

Another highlight of Government Canyon is to explore the 110-million-year-old dinosaur tracks. Yes, dinosaurs!

According to scientists, these tracks may have been left by Sauroposeidon and Acrocanthosaurus dinosaurs.

Bastrop State Park

Sunset Bastrop State Park

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Bastrop State Park is located in the Lost Pines region, about 32 miles east of Austin. While the park has recently suffered from floods and forest fires, efforts are being made to plant more trees and revive this natural gem for visitors to enjoy.

Enjoy hiking, geocaching, or staying overnight at campsites or one of the historic cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Nightly rates vary depending on the cabin. If you’re visiting in summer, it’s recommended that you bring extra fans.

Guadalupe River State Park

Guadalupe River State Park

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The Guadalupe River is the main attraction at the Guadalupe River State Park. Spend time kayaking, tubing, or canoeing down the Guadalupe River. Remember to read through the park’s swimming safety tips before your trip. 

On land, check out the various species of birds in the park, ride mountain bikes across 13 miles of trails, or go horseback riding before settling down for an afternoon picnic.

San Angelo State Park

A tranquil landscape of a cloud-filled sky over an expansive dam, tree-lined roads and plants in San Angelo State Park, Texas.

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The San Angelo State Park provides 7,677 acres of trails, wildlife habitats, and recreational areas leased by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The park includes the Concho River and the O.C. Fisher Reservoir, where outdoor lovers can fish from the shore, pier, or by boat.

Dinosaur Trail leads you to fossilized dinosaur tracks, and kids can also join the Junior Ranger program with activities to earn ranger badges. Avid hikers will appreciate the 50 miles of trails throughout the park, separated between the North and South Units.  

Blanco State Park

One of the dams on the Blanco River inside the Blanco State Park

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Take an hour’s drive from Austin or San Antonio for a camping trip along the Blanco River at the Blanco State Park. There are full hookup campsites with access to electricity and water, or reserve a screened shelter that overlooks the river for $30 per night.

Visitors can enjoy the day fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing down the 1-mile stretch of river. The shallow pools near Falls Dam are another fun area for folks to swim or groups to rent tubes and enjoy a lazy day on the water.

Davis Mountains State Park

Fort Davis National Historic Site

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Located in West Texas near Fort Davis, Davis Mountains State Park combines picturesque landscapes with sweeping desert plains. The park consists of 2,709 acres and 11 miles of trails.

There is an impressive 700-foot ascent along the Limpia Creek Trail if you like hiking.

BYOH — bring your own horse. The rugged terrain throughout the park may best be explored on horseback, and you can choose from six equestrian campsites, with rates ranging from $10 to $25 per night.

Brazos Bend State Park

Wide Angle View of the Observation Dock at Creekfield Lake. Beautiful Natural Wilderness Area.

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Less than an hour from downtown Houston is Brazos Bend State Park, a scenic park to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy fishing, hiking, and biking. With 37 miles of trails, you can explore lakes and wetland areas or travel on horseback.

Along with a nature center that includes exhibits of the park’s three different ecosystems, be sure to visit the George Observatory during your trip. The observatory is open Saturday nights all year round, and tickets can be purchased online.

Balmorhea State Park

Aerial drone photo of the world largest spring fed pool at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas

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Balmorhea State Park is known for the stunning turquoise water of San Solomon Springs. It’s the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world and offers a one-of-a-kind experience, whether you choose to snorkel, scuba dive, or swim in the pool.

You can enjoy bird watching, geocaching, and exploring the restored ciénegas (desert wetlands) unique to the American Southwest region. The park limits visitors to 650 per day to help preserve its natural resources, so purchase your day pass ahead of time.

Lockhart State Park

Road through Lockhart State Park

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Lockhart State Park is a small area of central Texas with 263 acres of nature and recreational areas. In addition to hiking trails and picnic pavilions, you will find access to a swimming pool and a nine-hole golf course built more than 80 years ago.

Campsites are available along the banks of Clear Fork Creek. Large groups can rent out the historic group recreation hall built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

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Are you eager to find the perfect fishing spot with an idyllic view? You can’t get any better than Onion Creek, surrounded by tall cypress trees at the McKinney Falls State Park. You will love taking a dip in the cooling pools of the upper and lower falls on hot summer days.

81 different campsites are located throughout the park, including six remodeled cabins with electricity and water hookups.

McKinney Falls also offers hiking trails, geocaching, and Junior Ranger programs. The best part is that you can find this little slice of heaven within Austin’s city limits. 

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Zaida Marston

Zaida Marston is a freelance content writer for B2C and B2B SaaS brands and organizations. With more than 10 years of creative writing experience and a background in theatre arts, she combines compelling storytelling with value-based content for audiences of all kinds. Aside from writing she's an avid reader, scrapbooker, and TV/movie junkie. You can find her professional work in her portfolio for her latest writing pieces.