Discover the 17 Most Breathtaking State Parks in Texas

Penned by Brad Lane, Updated as of Feb 10, 2023

During a recent expedition in Texas, author Brad Lane explored the state's varied landscapes on an extended camping trip.

Texas state parks showcase the Lone Star State's diversity of sceneries. From lofty mountains in the west to lush piney woods and prairies in the east, the state parks of Texas have it all. To discover these natural environments, visitors can hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride with ease. Many state parks also attract visitors to witness the awe-inspiring night skies and indulge in stargazing.

Garner State Park, Texas

Deep underground caverns, enchanted rocks, and waterfalls- these are just a portion of the attractions that highlight the rich biodiversity of the state. Big Bend Ranch State Park, spanning over 300,000 acres, is one of the largest state parks in Texas, where exploring its vastness is best done via camping.

Texas' best state parks for camping feature sites fit for tents, RVs, and campers willing to take camping supplies on a hiking adventure. For availability and booking purposes, check with the state parks beforehand.

Each Texas state park offers a unique experience. From the soaring canyons of Texas Panhandle to the roaring tides of the Southern Coast, the state has an extensive range of sceneries. Several state parks are within reach from the large Texas cities, namely Dallas, Houston, and Austin, enabling visitors to escape from city life effortlessly.

The Rio Grande and Big Bend Ranch State Park

Explore our list of the best state parks in Texas for more camping ideas.

1. Big Bend Ranch State Park

The largest state park in Texas, Big Bend Ranch, is situated on the U.S./Mexico border in West Texas and covers over 300,000 acres filled with high-desert terrains. The park offers endless opportunities for exploration via hiking, biking, horseback riding, and spending serene moments in nature.

The Rio Grande River is accessible in Big Bend Ranch State Park, making boating and fishing favorite activities in the area. Staying overnight at the park is possible through the available camping options, including basic bedding facilities at the Sauceda Bunkhouse. Big Bend Ranch has also been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, making it an ideal spot for stargazing enthusiasts post-sunset.

Big Bend Ranch State Park features a broad range of elevations. Summers are sweltering, while winters have milder temperatures with chilly nights. For more nature encounters, Big Bend Ranch State Park is adjacent to the even larger Big Bend National Park.

Lighthouse Formation, Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Address: 1900 South Saucedo, Presidio, Texas

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Big Bend Ranch State Park

2. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Located in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, is a mesmerizing state park. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a park road descends into the canyon, linking various campgrounds, hiking trails, and day-use areas. The park's popularity rises from the numerous activities available, including hiking, biking, and horseback riding. In this natural expanse, the canyon view stands out as one of the greatest Texan views.

Experience the one-of-a-kind TEXAS Outdoor Musical at Pioneer Amphitheater in the park throughout the summer season. This musical spectacle showcases singing, dancing, and fireworks that celebrate the challenges and victories of Texas pioneers. Photographers congregate at Palo Duro Canyon to capture the kaleidoscopic colors of the canyon's walls.

Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park

Location: 11450 State Highway Park Road 5, Canyon, Texas

3. Colorado Bend State Park

Explore Colorado Bend State Park and engage in an adventure of your choice. This lesser-known park is under two hours from Austin, spanning over 5,000 acres and featuring six miles of Colorado River shoreline. The park's activities include overland, aquatic, and subterranean explorations, with various camping options.

While exploring the caves, opt for guided tours for a safe and enjoyable journey. The park offers over 30 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, with the famed Gorman Falls being the favorite among visitors as it leads to one of the best waterfalls in Texas. The hike is moderately challenging, but the magnificent 70-foot spring-fed waterfall makes it all worthwhile.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Location: 2236 Park Hill Drive, Bend, Texas

4. Franklin Mountains State Park

Franklin Mountains State Park is an unconventional escapade located close to El Paso in West Texas, offering an area of elevated landscapes covering over 27,000 acres. The park is perfect for camping, rock-climbing, and exploring the 100 miles of trails, requiring visitors to be prepared for the natural terrain.

Guadalupe River State Park

The park's most accessible area is the Tom Mays Unit found at the northern El Paso border and boasts a dense concentration of developed campsites. Visitors can reach the unit's different entrances in 15 minutes by car from El Paso. The Tom Mays Unit also features various hiking trails, including the extensive Upper and Lower Foothills loops.

Location: Tom Mays Park Access Road, El Paso, Texas

5. Guadalupe River State Park

Located on the banks of Guadalupe River, this picturesque park is a short trip of 30 miles north of San Antonio. The river area is suitable for various recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, and tubing. Other activities include camping, hiking, and catching a glimpse of the local wildlife, such as the rare armadillo.

Longhorn Cavern State Park

Do not miss the glimpse of the beautiful sunset at Guadalupe River State Park, perfect for photography enthusiasts.

Location: Not provided.

The Guadalupe River State Park takes pride in its Discovery Center, a one-of-a-kind experience for kids who want to explore the outdoors. With eighty campsites available, ranging from RV hookups to primitive setups, there is an option for campers of all types. If you're looking for a hike, don't miss the Bald Cypress Trail, a popular half-mile trail that takes you along a significant portion of the Guadalupe River.

Pedernales Falls State Park

The Longhorn Cavern State Park offers an underground journey of geologic and cultural marvels. Guided tours take you deep beneath the Earth's surface, spotlighting the fun cultural history of the cavern. The park itself is home to various structures, including the iconic Observation Tower, offering delightful glimpses of the picturesque Texas Hill Country. Just a stone's throw away, the Inks Lake State Park provides several campsites and cabins for people looking to spend a night or two.

The Pedernales Falls State Park gets its name from the twisting and turning limestone steps that create a one-of-a-kind, adventurous landscape. The Pedernales River is an excellent place to cool off on a hot Texas summer afternoon, while the nearby Juniper Ridge Trail is perfect for hiking and biking. Visitors should keep their eyes open for warning signs about flash floods, which can happen even if it isn't raining at the park.

American alligator at Brazos Bend State Park

Finally, the Brazos Bend State Park reflects nature in its truest form. From the diverse mix of forest and prairie to the fascinating wetlands, you'll experience it all. And don't forget to take a look at the park's star attraction, the American alligator. Remember to keep your distance; the park has ample information for visitors to stay safe while observing these majestic creatures.

Embark on an adventure in Brazos Bend by first exploring the captivating Creekfield Nature Trail. Covering half a mile, this interpretive path will lead you through the area while providing information and ample opportunities to view wildlife. Plus, the 40 Acre Lake Trail is ideal for gator spotting. Stay overnight in style with a choice of electric campsites, screened shelters, or cozy cabins at Brazos Bend State Park.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Address: 21901 FM 762 Road, Needville, Texas

9. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural AreaIn the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area holds a special place within the Texas State Park system. A massive granite dome, visible from miles away, makes this natural area near the German town of Fredericksburg unique. Reach the top of Enchanted Rock with a rather steep hike of less than a mile. The top of the rock hosts vernal pools teeming with life. Visitors can indulge in camping, rock climbing or stargazing at night in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Pictograph at Hueco Tanks

Address: 16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg, Texas

10. Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Area

Pictograph at Hueco TanksIn West Texas, Hueco Tanks, located forty miles east of El Paso, dazzles visitors with its ethereal beauty and rich history. The natural park's namesake water deposits attracted indigenous peoples here for eons, and they left their pictographs and petroglyphs behind. Due to their fragile nature, visits to Hueco Tanks are limited to guided and self-guided tours. A visit at peak season between November and March is best before embarking on rock climbing activities, since permits are mandatory.

Bald cypress trees at Caddo Lake State Park

Address: 6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1, El Paso, Texas

11. Caddo Lake State Park

Bald cypress trees at Caddo Lake State ParkCaddo Lake State Park, located thirty miles west of Shreveport, is unlike any other Texas landscape. The Spanish moss hanging decoratively everywhere, the cypress swamps, and alligators offer a unique attraction. The Civilian Conservation Corps also left their mark here, with several historic stone structures. Kayaking or canoeing is the ideal way to explore the beauty of the area, covering over 50 miles of paddling trails and the park provides rentals by the hour. Don't miss the opportunity to fish in the park's convenient fishing pier.

Davis Mountains State Park

Address: Caddo Lake State Park, Texas

Located at 245 Park Road 2 in Karnack, Texas, the following state parks offer spectacular outdoor experiences that are sure to satisfy any nature enthusiasts.

12. Davis Mountains State Park

Nestled 100 miles north of Big Bend National Park, the Davis Mountains State Park is a haven for hikers and history buffs alike. The park's highly-regarded Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects highlight some of the earliest work in Texas, including the iconic 39-room Indian Lodge. Perfect for escaping the scorching Texas sun, Indian Lodge remains a focal point of the park.

Visitors can explore the park’s elevated landscapes and breathtaking views through the 4.5-mile Skyline Drive Trail, while the nearby Fort Davis National Historic Site is connected by another hiking trail. For a refreshing way to beat the heat, the nearby Balmorhea State Park boasts one of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pools. Bird enthusiasts will also enjoy the park's popular bird blind.

Pond at Lost Maples State Natural Area

Address: TX-118, Fort Davis, Texas

13. Lost Maples State Natural Area

Immerse yourself in a colorful fall adventure at the Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country. The expansive trail system offers stunning views of the sprawling foliage, and a steep hike leads to the top of a 2,200-foot cliff. Visitors can book one of the park's 30 electric campsites for overnight adventures.

Fishing, photography, and stargazing are among the popular activities, but it's the bigtooth maple that steals the show. The unique foliage adds vibrant colors to the natural area during the fall season. For more trails to explore, take a short drive to the Garner State Park, located 30 miles southeast of Lost Maples.

Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

Address: 37221 FM 187, Vanderpool, Texas

14. Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

The Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway is located 50 miles southeast of Palo Duro Canyon State Park and boasts stunning bluffs, roaming bison, and challenging multi-use trails. The water sports on the 120-acre Lake Theo are always a hit with visitors.

The park's rugged landscapes lend themselves well to seemingly endless hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing opportunities, all adding to the thrill. The park offers over 80 primitive walk-in campsites for eager campers. The trailway itself is a converted 64-mile railway that opens up access to a range of landscapes, and the Clarity Tunnel is among the most popular places to explore due to the formation's interesting Mexican free-tailed bats. Visitors are advised to exercise caution when exploring this deserted railroad tunnel.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

Address: 850 Caprock Canyon Park Road, Quitaque, Texas

15. Monahans Sandhills State Park

Located in West Texas, the Monahans Sandhills State Park is home to numerous active sand dunes that dramatically alter in shape and form overnight. Thus, the park does not maintain any trails, and visitors are free to explore in any direction they choose. The tallest dunes reach up to 50 feet in height, providing visitors with a sandboarding experience that they will not forget. Ensure you carry ample water and supplies as summers can be scorching. There are 26 campsites with electricity located within the park for visitors to experience this unique landscape for an extended period.

Frio River in Garner State Park

Address: 2500 E Interstate 20 Exit 86, Monahans, Texas

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Midland, TX

16. Garner State Park

Roughly 90 miles west of San Antonio, Garner State Park is commonly frequented for its three-mile-long Frio River. Visitors partake in numerous water-based activities like tubing, canoeing, and kayaking in the spring-fed and icy-cold water. The park offers one of the most mesmerizing Hill Country landscapes and 16 miles of woodland trails to ensure a range of adventures. Overnight stays are guaranteed with full hookup RV sites, primitive tent sites, and plentiful campsites readily available.

Dino tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park

17. Dinosaur Valley State Park

The Dinosaur Valley State Park is situated approximately 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth and offers a unique opportunity to partake in a prehistoric experience. The Paluxy River, found along the banks of the park, is home to the remains of a relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and provides a unique glimpse into the state's geologic history. The park's 44 campsites and hilly limestone landscape offer explorers a chance to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

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Other Outdoor Attractions in Texas: Many of the top places to camp in Texas and the best waterfalls in the state can be found within state parks. Additionally, underground exploration enthusiasts can venture to the depths of the Earth to revel in the state's loveliest caverns.

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Exploring Big Bend National Park: If you're looking for a more substantial challenge, the Big Bend National Park, located in West Texas, may be more to your liking. The sprawling public space comprises over 800,000 acres and features numerous top campgrounds and hiking trails for the determined explorer.

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