As the second-largest state in the U.S, Texas is home to varying landscapes of deserts, beaches, forests, canyons, and valleys. Its state parks offer you plenty of opportunities to sightsee these natural wonders and admire their unique beauty. You can even consider it an excuse to tiptoe away from the crowds, noise, and rush of its cosmopolitan side! They are also much easier to explore than a national park, requiring less time and experience.
Hoping to visit a Texas state park for your upcoming vacation? Take a look at our top choices!
Big Bend Ranch State Park
The magnificent Big Bend Ranch State Park is for anyone from an adventurer to a hopeless romantic. Located to the west of Big Bend National Park, this 311,000-acre state park is the largest in Texas. It lies along the U.S-Mexico border, offering breath-taking scenery of towering hills, steep canyons, springs, and expansive desert areas. It is famed for backpacking, cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and many other adventures.
This state park is also renowned for stargazing, offering its visitors exceptional vistas of a starry night. In fact, it is declared as an International Dark Sky Park. So, if you are hoping to spend your next vacation camping, this state park might be the best place for it! The Closed Canyon, Rio Grande Viewpoint, and Dom Rock are some famous sights here. You can easily spend a day or half in the park, exploring its landmarks. The best time to visit it is during spring or fall when the weather is cooler.
Guadalupe River State Park
Looking for a nature retreat? Then, this state park is the ideal vacation spot for you. The park’s center of attention is the beautiful Guadalupe River, where people flock during summer to swim and refresh! You can also go fishing, canoeing, and tubing on the river and add a touch of adventure to your visit. As a word of advice, please be cautious of the water level and follow the safety precautions provided by the regulatory authorities.
The park also has many campsites equipped with all the necessary amenities and well-formed trails for hiking and cycling. In addition, there’s also a Discovery Center geared towards kids with interesting exhibits of natural elements found in this destination. Pets are allowed, but you have to keep them leashed at all times.
Mustang Island State Park
With a glorious coastline that spans five miles, Mustang Island State Park is a playground for a beach lover. You can sunbathe and work on the perfect tan, have a picnic enjoying the views of the sea, or just hang out with your friends! For those who chase adventure wherever they go, we are glad to say that this park is a top destination for surfing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing. You can also swim, kayak, sail, and fish in the bay nearby. Children can enjoy building sandcastles, beach-combing, bird-watching, and observing sea turtles here.
The state park is also popular for camping. There are both primitive campsites on the beach and sites equipped with water and electricity a bit further away. You can also take a paddling trail and enjoy the tranquil scenery alone or with your loved one. The fact that the beach is less crowded compared to other beaches is a plus too!
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Home to the second-largest canyon in the U.S.A, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located in the Texas Panhandle. If you love exploring unique landscapes, this is a destination you shouldn’t miss visiting. The canyon is 120 miles in length and 800 feet in depth, offering its admirers, not just a jaw-dropping sight but also plenty of adventure. You can go hiking, biking, horse-riding in the park, along the same trails that were once used by Native Americans, buffalo hunters, and other early inhabitants.
The park is also a hotspot for backpacking, camping, and even glamping - if you prefer a luxury stay with comfortable amenities. There’s also a Texas Outdoor Musical performance that takes place annually in early summer, featuring a fiesta of dancing, singing, and fireworks. For thrill-seekers, the Big Zip-Line Ride from Palo Duro Adventure Park is a great way to enjoy the stunning scenes of this state park.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Interested in paleontology or just passionate about Dinosaurs? This Texas park will quench it! Dinosaur Valley State Park is located to the northwest of Glen Rose in Somervell County and mostly encompasses the area around Paluxy River. The park’s iconic attraction is the million-year-old dinosaur tracks found along the Paluxy riverbed. There are five sites to observe, and you can get a clear view of them when the river’s water level is low. Make sure you grab a map of the park, so you can discover the tracks more easily.
Besides admiring these carefully preserved dinosaur prints, you can also go hiking, biking, camping, and fishing in the park. Kids will surely love a vacation spent here. There’s a natural pool at “The Blue Hole” that’s ideal for swimming. Then, you can head off to the picnic area and spend some time snacking and relaxing.
Colorado Bend State Park
Past visitors say this quaint state park in central Texas is a world of its own, and we wholeheartedly agree. Colorado Bend State Park is just a two-hour drive away from Austin and is an oasis of natural wonders. Home to the Colorado River, this destination is a scenic tapestry of limestone cliffs, caves, springs, waterfalls, canyon walls, and many other awe-inspiring elements. If this is your first time visiting the park (and you will come back again), it might be best to start off with a guided tour. It will not only help you see the prominent landmarks but also avoid you from getting mesmerized…and lost.
Treat yourself to a relaxing dip at one of the natural pools here, explore the maze of caves, pick a trail for hiking, cycling, or bird-watching, and journey towards the famous Gorman Falls. The park also offers many other activities like fishing, kayaking, and tubing – so you might as well sign up for camping!
Texas has many more state parks to feed the wanderlust in you. They are a paradise for a wilderness enthusiast, with many hidden gems waiting to be discovered! If you are looking for a great adventure, why not go camping or hiking at a State Park in Texas? The scenery and experience are so worth it!