The 8 Best State Parks in Texas: From Canyons to the Coast
Texas is a big state, and there's plenty of room to explore! Texans are fortunate enough to have access to some of the most beautiful natural areas in the country without having to leave state lines.
State parks across Texas offer an escape from urban life where you can enjoy pristine beaches, rolling hills, mountain peaks, and much more. Whether you want to cool off at one of the many swimming spots or take a scenic hike through nature, these must-see state parks will make for an unforgettable experience.
1. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Address: 11450 State Highway Park Road 5, Canyon, Texas
The Palo Duro Canyon is one of the most scenic state parks in Texas. With miles and miles of lush canyon land, you'll feel like you're on an episode of "Lonesome Dove." The park has something for everyone: camping sites nestled among old-growth cedar trees, a fishing pond for those who want to cast their line into freshwater, horseback riding trails that lead up from the Brazos River to the top of the rim of the canyon--the list goes on. You won't find another spot quite as expansive or beautiful elsewhere!
2. Monahans Sandhills State Park
Address: Exit 86, 2500 I-20, Monahans, TX 79756
If you're looking for a state park that offers something different than the rest of them in Texas, try visiting Monahans Sandhills State Park. The sand dunes here reach more than 50 feet into the sky and are topped with white gypsum-sand crystals--the result is a stunning contrast against blue skies! Visitors often come to this area seeking out these unique Hill Country features.
3. Brazos Bend State Park
Address: 21901 Farm to Market Rd 762, Needville, TX 77461
This historic Brazos River property was established as an archaeological site back in 1936 (it's one of the oldest sites monitored by the National Register). Today it remains a natural place to view more than 5,000 acres of forest, tallgrass, and wetlands, along with viewing the American Alligator as they roam in this park. Visitors can learn about the area's history on a self-guided walking tour of Brazos Bend and enjoy camping and fishing
4. Big Bend Ranch State Park
Address: 1900 South Saucedo, Presidio, TX 79845
This remote park is a naturalist's paradise and the largest state park in Texas. Here you'll find more than 300,000 acres of rugged backcountry, in addition to bighorn sheep and antelope herds roaming freely across the expanse of the land. The region also boasts some fantastic geological formations and even boosts some spectacular stargazing after the sun has set. However, due to its various elevations, temperatures can dramatically fluctuate.
5. Garner State Park
Address: 234 RR 1050, Concan, TX 78838
This park is known for its beautiful freshwater swimming pool, which after a long day of hiking and exploring the stunning Texas Hill Country, might make you feel like royalty. Due to its proximity to San Antonio, this state park makes it easy to get away from city life but still enjoy all that's great about being close-ish to civilization. There are more than 11 miles of swimming holes, hiking, bike trails, and tubing to explore! Garner State Park is the perfect summertime activity for family and friends.
6. Franklin Mountains State Park
Address: Tom Mays Park Access Rd, El Paso, TX 79930
This state park offers stunning views of the nearby Franklin Mountains, which are part of a chain that runs through El Paso County. Within the park, visitors can access more than 100 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Nearby is also Sun City Texas State Park, with its man-made lake perfect for swimming or fishing (if you have bait).
The best time to visit this mountainous oasis in West Texas is during fall, when temperatures cool off after months of scorching heat waves. There's something about being surrounded by lush green tree cover enveloping you as you hike up one side and down another!
7. Dinosaur Valley State Park
Address: 1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043
Dinosaur Valley State Park is one of the very few places in North America where dinosaur tracks from millions of years ago are still intact! The best time to visit this site is during spring, when flowers and wildflowers bloom across the landscape or fall for a glimpse at how leaves turn colors before they drop off for winter. Visitors can go hiking on more than 20 miles of trails, enjoy fishing or boating on Lake Paluxy (weather dependent), explore an outdoor amphitheater that looks like it could be part of ancient Greece--and much more!
8. Longhorn Cavern State Park
Address: 1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043
Longhorn Cavern State Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Glen Rose, Texas. The cavern systems are not only beautiful to explore but also hold the distinction as one of the largest in North America. Visitors can go on a 1.5 hour guided tour that will take them deep inside chambers where they'll see formations like stalactites and stalagmites. This state park offers many different activities, from hiking trails to fishing spots!
Finding The Best Texas State Park Adventure
Each state park in Texas offers a unique experience to enjoy. From canyons in the Texas Panhandle to churning waves on the Southern Coast, the state is as varied as it is large. Several state parks are easy to reach from big cities in Texas, including Houston, Dallas, and Austin. These accessible state parks make escaping the city an easy thing to do.
Summertime is the perfect time to start packing for your next Texas state park adventure. Make sure to check the official Texas State Parks website to view park hours, gather camping permits, or find answers to any questions you may have.