Texas has some of the best state parks to visit in the United States. The Lone Star State has varied land and includes lakes, woodland, marshes, canyons, and sand dunes. This is a list of Texas state parks you don’t want to miss. These are some of the best state parks in Texas for scenery, hiking, and camping.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something we have recommended. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details. Thank you for your support!
Table of Contents
What to know before you visit Texas State Parks
Texas state parks are open for day use and overnight camping. Summer months can be incredibly hot, and it may be best to visit in the spring and fall.
Finally, you must reserve a day pass ahead of time, even if you have a Texas Parks pass. Passes are available as timed entry or regular entry and are available for print or mobile use. Please note that some park services may be limited, so be sure and check the Texas parks website prior to heading out.
Before heading out, do a bit of research on the park. Bring proper footwear, water, and bug spray, and keep an eye out for snakes on and off-trail. These are some of the snakes in Texas to be concerned about.
How to make Texas State Park reservations
You may make reservations by calling (512) 389-8900 or through the website.
State Parks in Texas Map
This map will help you find the State Parks in Texas that are closest to where you live. Please note this does not include all Texas state parks, only the ones we are recommending on this list.
How to Find the Best Hiking Trails at Each Park
We are huge fans of the AllTrails app. Download it to your phone, and it will tell you everything from the best hiking trails nearby to the number of trails at each park, a trail map, dog-friendly hikes, and even share reviews of each trail. It is an invaluable tool when planning a hike with kids.
Best State Parks to Visit in Texas
Guadalupe River State Park
Adventure-loving families will enjoy every minute spent in this action-packed state park. The Guadalupe River runs through the park, offering plenty of water-based activities such as swimming, fishing, tubing, and canoeing.
If you’d rather stay on the ground, there are also 13 miles of trails and recreation areas to go mountain biking or horseback riding. There are over 80 campsites within the park, with rates starting at just $15 per night!
Not sure about camping out? Check out these tips for camping with kids!
Location: 30 miles from San Antonio
Caddo Lake State Park
This park is great for nature enthusiasts, larger families, and geocache hunters. The Bald cypress trees that sit in the many waterways of the park will make you feel like you are in another world, just watch out for alligators.
There are over 40 campsites ranging from water only to full hookup. However, if camping isn’t your thing, there are also screened shelters and historic cabins that accommodate 2-6 people. They are also ADA accessible, as are some of their hiking trails.
Location: 78 miles from Tyler in southeast Texas
Cedar Hill State Park
This is one of the best state parks to visit in Texas if you’re a hardcore camper. If you like your home comforts, there are over 300 campsites with maintained restrooms and showers. One hundred and fifty of them have sewer hookups, and all have water and electricity.
There are several ADA-accessible sites too. If you prefer to take it back to basics, with no running water, electricity, etc, then there are basic campsites that can be accessed via trails.
There are also activities for everyone, the DORBA trail covers 1,200 acres of land and is perfect for hiking and biking. There’s also a lake for swimming and picnic areas.
Joe Pool Lake is open for popular activities like boating and fishing (largemouth black bass, catfish, and crappie), and you don’t need a license to fish from the pier or the shore.
Location: 20 miles from Dallas
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Walk in the footprints of dinosaurs! I think you’ll agree that this makes it one of the best state parks near Dallas. The dinosaur tracks are easy to find but not always easy to see, as sometimes they are hidden in the river.
There are over 60 campsites, including primitive sites, so you can even live like you’re back in dinosaur times. Make sure to make a side trip to Glen Rose to see Dinosaur World and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
Location: 80 miles from Dallas
Lake Mineral Wells State Park
This is a great place to learn to rock climb, rent a boat or kayak, or take to the miles of hiking trails for spectacular views of the area. For those who love to hike, there are two main trails you can take.
Biking trails take you around the lake and beyond with varying difficulties, and there’s also the Trailway. This is a 20-mile, gentle route that is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. It’s perfect for young children who aren’t ready for a major hike.
Lake Mineral Wells also offers rock climbing at Penitentiary Hollow, but you must register with park headquarters before heading out. Groups looking to rock climb will need to use the park’s approved service provider, Rock-About Climbing Adventure.
Several campsites include hike-in and screened shelters, as well as equestrian-friendly sites too.
Location: 78 miles from Dallas
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
This is the second-largest canyon in the United States after the Grand Canyon, at 120 miles long and anywhere from 6 to 20 miles across, and up to 800 feet deep.
The canyon landscape makes this a great destination for photography and adventure, with over 30 miles of trail to explore. It’s located in the Texas panhandle, not far from Amarillo.
Visitors can cover the rocky terrain on foot, mountain bike, horse, or even car. This makes it highly accessible and a great option for families with members who may not be able to walk far or for very long. Guided horse tours are available to rent through Old West Stables.
As well as camping, there are three stone and timber cabins to rent on the rim of the canyon (Lighthouse, Sorenson, Goodnight) that sleep up to four people. There are also four cabins on the canyon floor at Cow Camp that sleep up to four as well.
Location: 25 miles from Amarillo
Colorado Bend State Park
This is one of the best parks and offers a unique experience of exploring local karst caves. Tours are run by CB Caves and are suitable for ages 4 and up, so the whole family can go!
That’s not all, though, the park is home to the stunning Gorman Falls, a 70-foot waterfall accessible on a 2.6-mile trail. Another trail to enjoy is Spicewood Springs, a 3.8-mile loop trail featuring spring-fed swimming holes and waterfalls.
The park has camping of all types, including drive-up, walk-in, or hike-in sites. Some campsites are next to the Colorado river, so you can take an early morning swim.
Location: 95 miles from Austin
Monahans Sandhills State Park
The best thing about Texas is how different the landscape can be. We’ve covered canyons, forests, caves, and lakes, and now we have dunes! Make sure you bring sunblock, a hat, and plenty of water when you visit Monahans, as it is hot and dry.
There are no trails in this park, you can go wherever you like. Make sure you only take photos and leave only footprints. It is essential to have a good park map to find your way back. The best thing about this park is you can rent sand disks for sliding and surfing down sand dunes!
This is one of the more unique places to camp in Texas, and each site comes with electricity, a picnic bench, and shade so you can enjoy the view.
Location: 30 miles from Odessa in far west Texas
Caprock Canyons State Park
This is one of the best state parks to visit in Texas if you love to hike and bike. There are almost 90 miles of trails suitable for different levels of experience, varying in length from one to 15 miles.
Don’t miss the Trailway, a former railroad tunnel, home to thousands of bats. Dramatic red rock bluffs provide stunning scenery throughout the park. It is one of the few places where bison roam free throughout the park, usually making their home near the visitor’s center. Remember to look and keep a safe distance from the animals.
Lake Theo Lodge is the perfect place for a large family to stay, it has a lake view and sits just 100 feet away from the shore. There are also campsites available with water, electricity and other basic services.
Location: 102 miles from Amarillo
Sea Rim State Park
This state park is mostly marshland and has 5 miles of coastline, so there is a nice mix of habitats here. Walkways sit just above the marshland, so keep your eyes open, and you may spot an alligator.
The park’s waterways are great for kayaking, or you can take walks along the beach. Those who want to fish can, but you can go crabbing instead. This would be a great interactive activity for young children.
Here they have boat-in campsites, yes that means you’ll need a boat to access them! You can stick to the land, but why not try something different? There’s also a six-person cabin and camping on the beach. Talk about a unique experience!
Location: 109 miles from Houston
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas, so there’s plenty to explore. It is not the same as Big Bend National Park, one of the most popular parks in Texas.
This is also an International Dark Sky Park, which means it’s a popular spot to go stargazing in Texas.
With over 238 miles of trails to take on foot, bike, or horse, choose a trail that suits your group. Cinco Tinajas trail is a mile-long loop with breathtaking views from an overlook.
Closed Canyon trail is another good option for families. The trail leads through a narrow canyon with “slides” kids will love and water pools that occur after rain.
The Sauceda Bunkhouse is an old hunting lodge where people can stay bunkhouse style with men on one side and women on the other. Note there is no heating or A/C in the bunkhouse. Camping at Big Bend Ranch is limited to primitive only, so no electricity or running water is available.
Location: 287 miles from El Paso
Garner State Park
The highlight of Garner State Park is the Frio River that runs through it. Adventurous families can swim or float 2.9 miles along the river. Bring an inner tube and hop in for a relaxing ride. The stunning Hill Country provides a beautiful backdrop no matter how you see the park.
Another thing the park is well known for is its summer dances. In warmer months, people gather at the concession building for a jukebox dance. If you’re visiting, it’s not something you don’t want to miss.
If you’re traveling with a group or you don’t want to camp, there are several cabins that come with or without a fireplace.
You can also rent out Cypress Springs, which can accommodate up to 40 people in five bunkhouses with a dining hall. Regular campsites have various services, from water to electrical hookups.
Location: 93 miles from San Antonio
McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls is one of the best state parks near Austin in the Texas hill country. The 2.8-mile Onion Creek Trail is very well maintained, with a surface ideal for road bikes and strollers. It’s the perfect day out of the city for a family with babies or toddlers.
There are two sets of natural areas with waterfalls in the park, both of which form pools for swimming and fishing. Visitors can take a tour to see where Native Americans used to live within the park and the 300-year-old trail, El Camino Real de Los Tejas, that was used by early settlers.
Accommodation varies from campsites with water and electricity to six newly renovated cabins.
Location: 9 miles from Austin
Pedernales Falls State Park
This is one of the best Texas state parks for nature lovers. You can explore the water in the designated swimming area or head to Trammell’s Crossing Trail and enter the water by tube, canoe, or kayak. Be aware of any sudden changes in the water or storm clouds, as this area is known for flash floods.
There is a five-mile nature trail that takes you right to the top of Pedernales Falls. It’s one of the best places for the more experienced hiking families, with a 6-mile Wolf Mountain trail that winds around the mountains and canyons.
Don’t miss a close-up of local bird species at the bird viewing station and wandering through the butterfly garden.
There are just over 60 campsites with access to electricity. For those who want to get even closer to nature, there’s a remote site that can be accessed via a two-mile hike.
Location: 42 miles from Austin
Palmetto State Park
Located on the San Marcos River, this park offers hiking, tubing, and even bike rentals. Bike trails wind through the native dwarf palmetto trees, providing a tropical experience in the heart of Texas.
There’s a ton of eco-diversity here, from swampy marshes to lush green forests, and animals ranging from armadillos and deer to over 240 species of birds.
There are nineteen tent sites, 18 RV sites, and even a cabin that sleeps up to 6 people.
Location: 57 miles from Austin and 64 miles from San Antonio
Inks Lake State Park
Our final park is the action-packed Inks Lake State Park. The park has everything, including hiking, scuba diving, kayaking, and fishing. Hikes take you through forests and hills, and on the water, there’s boating, fishing, and even water skiing!
At Devil’s Water Hole, you can swim and jump off the rocks into the water. Kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats are available to rent, so this is an easy place to spend the day or a weekend.
There are close to 200 campsites, most with lake access, and 22 different cabins. Those who want to pitch a tent will find plenty of places to do so.
Location: 66 miles from Austin
What is the Texas State Park Pass?
If you want to visit the parks regularly, I would recommend you buy a Texas State Park Pass. The Texas State Parks pass allows for free entry to the 89 state parks for one year, but activity and camping fees still apply.
This card allows you to visit with up to 14 guests, a discount in state park stores, camping discounts, and the ability to add a secondary card holder (at the same address) for a minimal fee. The initial cost is $70, and children under 12 are usually free (depending on the park). A second pass in the same household is $25. For current information, check HERE.