20 Texas State Parks

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The Lone Star State is the second-largest state in the U.S. and there are plenty of wonderful Texas state parks to visit. Whether you are looking to explore the mountains, woodlands, or prairies, hike, mountain bike or horse ride there’s a Texas state park for you. From small parks to the whopping 300,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park, exploring these parks is a fun activity to do at the weekend or as a more extended trip. Here is our pick of state parks in Texas. 

Texas State Parks

20 State Parks In Texas

1- Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is around 1 hour 40 minutes outside of Austin and it’s an excellent destination for a vast array of activities.

This 5,000-acre (2023 ha) state park follows six miles of the Colorado River.

There are 35 miles (56 km) of hiking trails and a vast array of things to see.

One of the best parts of the park is the Gorman Falls Trail where you can see this impressive waterfall.

The hike is three miles and a little tricky in places, but well worth the sweat.


With overnight camping available, there’s no need for your trip to end just after one day of exploring.

Spend the night, rise early and start out on a fantastic hike.

Colorado Bend State Park is at 2236 Park Hill Dr, Bend, TX 76824.

2- Caprock Canyons State Park

Stunning red rock cliff in Caprock Canyons State Park Texas
Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas, has some stunning cliffs.

Caprock Canyons State Park is in northern Texas and it’s the go-to place in Texas if you want to see the wonderfully mysterious bison.

There is a herd of 150 bison in this Texas state park and the number of bison grew from an original 32 in 1996.

The park is also home to Lake Theo, where you can fish, swim and take out your boat (as long as it’s no wake).

There are nearly 90 miles that everyone can explore, no matter whether you are hiking or biking.

The stunning scenery will blow your mind and leave you thinking you’ve just visited the Grand Canyon.

Caprock Canyons State Park is at 1000 Caprock Canyons Park Rd, Quitaque, TX 79255.

3- Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas.

This Texas state park centres around the Pedernales River, which over time has carved a series of limestone steps.

While you cannot swim at the falls due to the strong currents, it’s still a wonderful place to visit, and there are other swimming opportunities in other parts of the park.

Just under an hour’s drive from Austin, it’s an excellent place to visit on the weekend or as part of a visit to the city.

Pedernales is also a popular spot for camping.

Pitch your tent and then head out on the 10-mile Juniper Ridge Trail, it’s a wonderful trail for walkers and mountain bikers.

Pedernales Falls State Park is at 2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636.

4- Inks Lake State Park

Inks Lake State Park is located in Hills Country, just over an hour northwest of Austin. The park is centered around the Colorado River close to Buchanan Lake.

You will feel instantly charmed by the area’s landscape. There’s the calming Colorado River, rocky outcrops, trees, and a ton of cacti.

There are 187 camping spots so you can spend a long weekend enjoying this beautifully tranquil state park. Travel to the park in spring for some of the most wonderful wildflowers. By summer time it will be warm enough to swim at Devil’s Waterhole, the perfect place for a refreshing dip.

As well as swimming the park’s activities include kayaking, fishing, hiking and even scuba diving.

Inks Lake State Park is at 3630 Park Rd 4 W, Burnet, TX 78611.

5- Big Bend Ranch State Park

aerial view of Big Bend Ranch
One of the best state parks in Texas to enjoy views is Big Bend Ranch.

The Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest in Texas. Located right on the border with Mexico, this park covers 300,000 acres.

The terrain is desert-like, rugged but effortlessly beautiful.

The Rio Grande meanders through the park making for a perfect oasis among an otherwise arid landscape.

The Rio Grande is not only enjoyable to look at, but it is a place where you can enjoy boating and fishing.

Camping is recommended in the park as it’s also an International Dark Sky Park meaning you will not be disappointed by the incredible stargazing opportunities.

It is also well worth visiting the Big Bend National Park next door to the state park.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is at 21800 FM170, Terlingua, TX 79852.

6- Balmorhea State Park

Balmorhea State Park is in southern Reeves County in Western Texas the high desert.

This park was constructed in the 1930s and the park’s main feature is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.

The pool is open daily, but there is no lifeguard on duty.

Head to Balmorhea State Park and you can swim, relax by the trees, you can even scuba dive.

There are opportunities to camp at the park so you can make the most of a long weekend.

If camping’s not your thing, you can stay at San Solomon Springs Courts, which is a motel-style lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Balmorhea State Park is at 9207 TX-17, Toyahvale, TX 79786.

7- Caddo Lake State Park

trees reflected in the water at dusk
Caddo Lake State Park is a stunning natural state park in Texas.

Caddo Lake State Park is an example of one of the most unique landscapes in Texas.

Located around 30 miles from Shreveport in Louisiana, this Texas state park is on the border.

The landscape is stunning, yet a little eerie.

The Cypress swamps that are home to alligators define much of this state park.

You can walk along many of the park’s hiking trails but arguably, the best way to see the park is on the water.

Grab your kayak and paddle along the 50 miles of water trails that the park has to offer.

If you are into fishing, you can also pop to the admired Caddo Lake, where there is a handy fishing pier to catch from.

Caddo Lake State Park is at 245 Park Rd 2, Karnack, TX 75661.

8- Lost Maples State Natural Area

This natural area is a really beautiful place to visit in Texas at any time of year. This being said, the park’s trees light up during autumn for a breathtaking trip.

If you love hiking, this is the park for you. One of the best trails to explore is one that leads to the top of a 2,200-foot cliff, providing you with the reward of incredible views.

The park gets its name and its main attraction from the bigtooth maple tree, which is unique in the state of Texas.

Lost Maples State Natural Area is at 37221 RM 187, Vanderpool, TX 78885.

9- Palo Duro Canyon State Park

view of the canyon from a distance
Of all the state parks in Texas, Palo Duro has got to be one of the most stunning.

The stunningly impressive Palo Duro Canyon State Park is colloquially known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’.

It’s not just because of its looks that the canyon has this nickname, it is also the second-largest canyon in the country.

The colourful, rugged beauty and vastness make this one of the best parks to visit in Texas.

You can move around the park on foot, mountain bike, on horseback or by car.

There are more than 30 miles (48 km) of wonderful trails to enjoy where you can bird watch and take in your impressive surroundings.

As well as traditional campsites Palo Duro Canyon State Park also offers cabins on the rim and canyon floor.

If you fancy taking things to the next luxury level, you can go glamping too.

It’s good to start your journey to the park at the visitor centre, where you can gather vast information about the park.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park 11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015.

10- Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

Right on the border with Mexico, around three hour’s drive from San Antonio, is the Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site.

Another of Texas’ parks along the Rio Grande, this is a tranquil place to connect with nature.

One of the highlights of a visit to Seminole Canyon is the ancient rock art believed to date back to 4200 – 2500 BCE.

These pictographs are otherworldly, and it’s hard to imagine people drawing them on the rock so long ago.

Some of the rock art on these walls are some of the oldest pictographs in North America.

Besides the pictographs, there are 10 miles (16 km) of trails and hiking in the park can be done alone but as soon as you reach the canyon area, you must be accompanied by a guide.

If you want to educate yourself more on the area, why not attend one of the park’s ranger programs?

There are tours and day hikes, all providing you with an encompassing history and geology of the area whilst viewing the stunning landscape.

Seminole Canyon State Park is at US-90, Comstock, TX 78837.

11- Davis Mountains State Park

Around 100 miles (161 km) from Big Bend National Park is Davis Mountains State Park. If you are looking for great places in Texas to hike, this park is for you.

The 4.5-mile (7.2 km) Skyline Drive Trail offers the park’s best, most expansive views.

You can head to Davis Mountain and take the nearby trail that connects with Fort Davis National Historic Site, another excellent Texas site.

The Davis Mountains State Park has a significant connection with the Civilian Conservation Corps and many of the projects they started in the park can still be viewed today.

For example, there’s a 39-roomed Indian Lodge right inside the park that is still operational today.

Davis Mountains State Park is at Park Rd 3, Fort Davis, TX 79734.

12- Brazos Bend State Park

alligator on a river bank
One of the best state parks in Texas to see alligators is Brazos Bend State Park.

Brazo Bend State Park is just under an hour’s drive from Houston.

This state park offers visitors 5,000 acres (2023 ha) of lively wetland, forest and tallgrass to explore.

This state park is ideal for wildlife enthusiasts and Brazo Bend’s most famous animal is the alligator.

There are plenty of places where you can try and spot alligators from a safe distance.

It is also advisable to read all of the information boards around the park so you can be alert for alligators.

As well as wildlife viewing, there is also a lovely half-mile Creekfield Nature Trail.

The best trail for spotting alligators is the 40 Acre Lake Trail.

There is also the opportunity to camp or stay in cabins at Brazo Bend State Park.

Brazos Bend State Park is at 21901 Farm to Market Rd 762, Needville, TX 77461.

13- Franklin Mountains State Park

Just 20 minutes outside of El Paso, Franklin Mountains State Park is elevated, providing visitors with impressive and expansive views.

The landscape at Franklin Mountains has a real ruggedness and covers more than 27,000 acres.

For one of the most accessible parts of the park, you will want to head to the Tom Mays Unit on the northern edge of El Paso.

Visitors can drive to different parts of the park or hike the park’s trails, two of the most extensive of which include the Upper and Lower Foothills circulars.

Franklin Mountains State Park is at Tom Mays Park Access Rd, El Paso.

14- Hueco Tanks State Park

The Hueco Tanks State Park is a place to visit for history and picturesque landscapes.

A variety of native cultural groups used to visit the area for thousands of years.

This was because they wanted to make use of the park’s rainwater deposits (the tanks).

As a result of this historic migration to the area, the park is filled with pictographs and petroglyphs.

Because of the delicate history of the area, the park limits the number of visitors it receives each day.

You must either register for a permitted self-guided tour, or you can take a guided tour with a ranger.

Between November and March, it is considered peak season; therefore, it is advisable to call ahead before you head to Hueco Tanks State Park.

Hueco Tanks State Park is at 6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1, El Paso, TX 79938.

15- Monahans Sandhills State Park

white flowers and shrubs growing in the sand
One of the best state parks in Texas to explore the desert is Monahans Sandhills state park.

Monahan Sandhills State Park is in west Texas, around 30 minutes from Odessa.

There’s nothing more exciting than exploring sand dunes.

The landscape of sand dunes at Monahans is constantly changing as winds shift and the night looms.

Because of this, there are no trails in the park and visitors are encouraged to explore the dunes in any direction they want.

One of the best things to do at Monahans Sandhills is to surf down the dunes.

You can rent a sand disc at the visitor centre and spend hours sliding down these enthralling hills.

Monahans Sandhills State Park is at Exit 86, 2500 I-20, Monahans, TX 79756.

16- Longhorn Cavern State Park

Texas state parks Longhorn Cavern
Longhorn Cavern State Park in Texas has some incredible natural wonders.

Arguably some of the best caverns in Texas can be found at Longhorn Cavern State Park.

The highlight of visiting this park is taking an underground tour of the caverns and learning about the area’s geology and history.

You should also head up to the observation tower, which offers superb views of Texas Hill Country.

Longhorn Cavern State Park is at 6211 Park Road 4 S, Burnet, TX 78611.

17- Dinosaur Valley State Park

Now this park just immediately sounds exciting. Dinosaur Valley State Park is around an hour and a half southwest of Fort Worth.

The main part of the park is along the banks of the Paluxy River.

Here you can see the 100 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex left footprint.

It’s mighty impressive!

You can only see the footprint when the river levels are low, so keep an eye on the weather conditions in the area.

It’s not just the dinosaur footprint at this state park, there are also a lot of hilly limestone landscapes.

Popular activities in the park include horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, and 44 campsites.

Dinosaur Valley State Park is at 1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043.

18- Guadalupe River State Park

autumn trees and river
Guadalupe River State Park in Texas.

The Guadalupe River State Park is just 30 miles north of San Antonio, and yes, you guessed it, the park’s focus is the Guadalupe River.

The river offers fun water activities like swimming, fishing and tubing.

The park is also a wonderful place to hike, camp and view wildlife.

One of the park’s best animals to try and spot is the armadillo.

If you are travelling with kids, head to the park’s discovery centre where they can learn all about the local environment and how to take care of the places around them.

Guadalupe River State Park is at 3350 Park Rd 31, Texas 78070.

19- Garner State Park

clear aqua water, rocks and mountainous background
The Frio River in Garner State Park in Texas.

Around 90 miles west of San Antonio in Uvalde County, Garner State Park’s biggest attraction is the beautiful Frio River.

The park is home to around three miles of meandering river that attracts many visitors who want to enjoy excellent tubing, canoeing and kayaking.

If hitting the water isn’t your thing, how about enjoying 16 miles (26 km) of woodland trails that showcase Hill Country in all its glory?

If you are visiting in summer, then be sure to stay for the evening.

Since the 1940’s people have been gathering at the park’s concession building with a jukebox and dancing.

They still do this today and it’s the perfect way to round off a day spent in the park.

Garner State Park is at Concan, TX, 78838.

20- Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

This state park is close to the border with Mexico and its main focus is the Rio Grande.

The park’s main attraction is the birds and it’s a birder’s paradise, with around 360 species reported in the park.

There are also butterflies, bobcats, and javelinas (or peccaries).

For the environment’s protection, no cars are allowed inside the park. Instead, you can move around on foot, bike or on a tram tour.

There are plenty of trails to view the birds, along with wooden walkways and one of the best viewing stations is Hawk Observation Tower.

Some of the migratory birds you might expect to see include the plain chachalaca, the great kiskadee and the altamira oriole, all of which are species from Mexico.

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is at 2800 S Bentsen Palm Dr, Mission, TX 78572.

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!