Texas is a beautiful state, known for its stunning landscape and history. There are so many ways that you can spend your time in the Lone Star State. Texas is home to two large national parks, the Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but it also has some incredible state parks.
Often state parks are considerably smaller but the saying everything is bigger in Texas certainly applies to the state parks that the southern state has to offer.
If you look up how many state parks there are you will be shown an overwhelming amount of information and names so we took it upon ourselves to whittle down the list to 13 of the most popular and beautiful state parks that offer unique scenery and sites of historical importance.
Below we look at the 13 best state parks that you should consider visiting during your time in the state of Texas. They are listed in no particular order and each park holds its own beauty and reason to visit.
1. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is also known as the Grand Canyon of Texas because of its size and also for its steep mesa walls and multicolored layers of rock, similar to the geological features you would find in the Grand Canyon.
This massive state park is the second-largest canyon in the United States and was once home to giant bison and mammoths once roamed freely. Take in the views riding horseback or hike one of the many trails that weave around this famous canyon.
2. Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Area
40 miles east of El Paso you will find a state park bursting with history. Hueco Tanks State Park is home to rock caves that feature pictographs and petroglyphs from previous cultures that flocked to this area at different times in the past.
To see these historical markings you will need to go on a guided tour as personal access to the caves is off-limits to keep these historically important pieces safe from possible damage.
Rock climbing is another huge attraction in this state park but permits are required if you are planning to scale the sheer rock features at Hueco Tanks.
3. Pedernales Falls State Park
This park has been formed by the Pedernales River as it carved through ancient limestone steps.
Rock hop around to see the stunning falls but swimming is not allowed under the falls due to the turbulent waters that flow along the river but there are swim-friendly areas of the park if you do need to cool off and want to take a dip.
There are safety signs littered around the park due to the history of flash floods in this beautiful area. Pay attention to warnings even on sunny days to safely take in the beauty of this serene place.
4. Caddo Lake State Park
This state park offers a unique outdoor experience than other parks in Texas. Explore Caddo Lake State Park on a canoe, kayak, or boat.
Take to the water to get undisturbed views of the towering cypress trees and the Spanish moss to be found in this area.
By exploring this park on the water you will also get to see some of the local wildlife that you wouldn’t see if you were hiking, like the American alligator.
Another famous fact about this park is that Lake Caddo is the only natural lake in Texas meaning it is a must for your itinerary.
5. Brazos Bend State Park
If you want to visit somewhere to see local wildlife we recommend visiting Brazos Bend State Park. The vibrant wetlands are home to many species, including the American alligator.
The wetlands live serendipitously alongside tallgrass prairie and forest, three ecosystems flourishing alongside each other.
Take the Creekfield Nature Trail first to learn about the area and the wildlife you should see before moving onto the 40 Acre Lake Trail where you are sure to see an alligator or two come up to the surface of the algae and moss-covered lake looking for their dinner. Follow safety rules to ensure dinner is not you!
6. Davis Mountains State Park
Located in the west of Texas this area feels like a world of its own.
With spectacular mountain views and rolling green valleys, this open space will make you forget about your busy day-to-day life. Take time to enjoy the serenity and peacefulness of this remote space.
Davis Mountains State Park offers unobstructed views of the night sky as there are no cities nearby so the sky is always clear to showcase the stars, a great place for any stargazers or a romantic night of camping.
7. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
This site was formed billions of years ago when a pool of magma pushed up through the earth’s surface and hardened to form what is now called Enchanted Rock.
Enchanted Rock is bulbous in shape and is surrounded by amazing greenery, like dessert shrubs and a huge array of cacti and succulents.
As you take the walk up to the peak of the Enchanted Rock you pass vernal pools which are home to freshwater shrimp but you can also follow a separate trail that encompasses the giant rock feature.
Camping is a popular attraction at the primitive sites that are scattered around the park and often people claim to hear the mountain creak and groan during the night.
8. Longhorn Cavern State Park
The best cavern in all of Texas is housed within this state park and offers an interesting history both above and underground.
This cavern has been made more accessible with the addition of steps leading down into the cave added in the 1930s.
Take a guided tour to learn the wealth of history that surrounds this natural cave’s geography and the cultures that have links to this cavern. Take a short hike to see the stunning limestone hills that surround this park.
9. Monahans Sandhills State Park
If you love the beach you will feel at home in Monahans Sandhills State Park which is home to towering 70 feet sand dunes. If walking on the sand sounds like a struggle you can rent a sandboard and even go sand surfing or sledding to save your ankles.
This park is an open space so there is no need for hiking trails so you can roam and explore following your own path.
The summertime is not a great time to visit this state park as temperatures soar in Texas and these warm conditions are worsened when you are in the midst of a huge sandy area. Visit in the Spring for peak conditions.
10. Lost Maples State Natural Area
The Lost Maple State Natural Area comes into its own in Fall when it is painted in rich, autumnal colors across the vast amounts of foliage that flood this space.
This park is a photographer’s dream at this time of year but the park is gorgeous all year round, an oasis for hikers and recreational fishers.
The park is filled with bigtooth maple trees, which are unique to the state and add to the stunning views you will find when you visit this park. The park has over 30 electric campsites so it is the perfect place to spend a few days off the grid.
11. Dinosaur Valley State Park
Take time to walk in the footprints of dinosaurs, this park is perfect for history buffs and also a great place for the family.
Visit this state park during the summer months when the water in the Paluxy River runs low giving you the opportunity to see footprints in the limestone river bed from dinosaurs.
After all of the excitement of walking in the shadows of giants, take a relaxing dip in the pristine swimming hole, a perfect way to cool off at the end of the day or when the heat gets too much.
12. Guadalupe River State Park
On the banks of the Guadalupe River take the time to fish and swim or if you are feeling more adventurous go on a tubing adventure. The Guadalupe River State Park is known for its stunning sunsets and with beautiful scenery, it makes a great place for photographers.
If you are traveling with children make sure you take time to visit the Discovery Center where children can learn more about the area through fun activities.
If you want a more relaxed state park adventure this is the place for you as you can do as much or as little as you want to as well as having the choice of nearly 100 camping sites.
13. Colorado Bend State Park
Colorado Bend State Park looks like something out of an animation movie as the beautiful trails lead you to Gorman Falls. The sunlight percolates through the foliage above giving these falls a surreal, magical feel.
There are activities to be done on water, land and even below land making this park a winner for anyone. You could meet anyone and everyone and this park.
With over 5,000 acres to be explored, you could return to the park a number of times and go a different way or experience a different activity each time.
14. Garner State Park
We have certainly saved one of the best for last as Garner State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Texas. This park is not too far from the historic city of San Antonio and is worth the venture.
With stunning beauty points scattered throughout the park hiking trails, you can find plenty of places to sit and admire the beauty of this vast state. The park offers more than views and hikes, you can take a refreshing dip in the Frio River or go on an adventurous paddleboard adventure.
Plan a weekend getaway to ensure you get to make the most of your time in Garner State Park.
And so, that brings us to the end of our guide! Regardless of which park you choose to visit from the above list, you are sure to leave with a smile on your face and a newfound love for the state of Texas and all of its natural beauty.
Many of these state parks also have camping facilities so why not make a bigger trip out of your visit and spend the night under the starry night sky.