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7 Best State Parks in Texas

7 Best State Parks in Texas

We’ve got a list of the best state parks in Texas for you right here! These state parks offer a variety of activities in different climates and areas.

From the beach to the piney woods to the canyon floor, you’ll get a great overview of the diverse geography in Texas.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Location: Interior District, 1900 Sauceda Ranch Road, Marfa, TX 79845; River District, 21800 FM 170, Terlingua, TX 79852

This remote park features rugged mountains, steep canyons, amazing views, unparalleled night skies, and solitude in a high desert setting. The park stretches along the Rio Grande in far west Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. Hike, mountain-bike, backpack, paddle, ride horses or explore by vehicle. The park is an International Dark Sky Park; stargazing is amazing here. This is Texas’ biggest state park, so there’s a lot to explore. 

The park has 238 miles of multiuse trails and 70 miles of unmaintained dirt roads for high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo area offers great day-use access. Float, fish and hike, or drive the scenic Camino del Rio (FM 170). 

Drive-up sites, hike-in primitive sites, or equestrian sites are available. All sites can be reached by vehicle, except backcountry. Some roads require four-wheel-drive or high clearance. All sites (except backcountry) offer some camp amenities. Lodging is also available at the Sauceda Bunkhouse. 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Location: 11450 Park Road 5, Canyon, TX 79015

Palo Duro Canyon is one of the most visually stunning state parks in Texas. Explore the canyon by foot, mountain bike, horse or car with more than 30 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Camp, geocache, study nature, or bird watch. During the summer, enjoy a performance of TEXAS Outdoor Musical. 

Horseback ride on trails through 1,500 acres set aside for horseback riding. Bring your own horses (original Coggins papers required). Park your trailer at the equestrian campground and bring a water bucket for your horse. The Old West Stables on the canyon floor leads tours for the whole family to Timber Creek Canyon. They also offer souvenirs and a snack bar. Reservations are required.

The TEXAS Outdoor Musical runs Tuesdays through Sundays in the summer at the Pioneer Amphitheater in the park. Watch the stories, struggles and triumphs of early settlers. The family-friendly show has singing, dancing, fireworks and lots of Texas humor! Arrive early to enjoy a barbecue dinner on the covered patio. 

Lodging options include campsites with water and electricity, tent sites, equestrian sites, or backpack camping areas. Stay in one of three cabins on the canyon’s rim or four Cow Camp cabins on the canyon floor.  

A quick note: During the summer months, the temperatures are up to 10 degrees hotter on the canyon floor. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and plan any hiking or strenuous activity for the morning hours.

Mustang Island State Park

Location: 9394 State Highway 361, Corpus Christi, TX 78418

Mustang Island State Park has it all. Swim, surf, build a sand castle, camp, picnic, fish, hike, mountain bike, kayak, bird watch, and geocache. If you’re looking for state parks in Texas with sand, water, and sun… this one is for you!

The Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail is 20 miles of trails through some of the best shallow-water fishing areas in Texas. The three segments of the trail follow the western shoreline of the island in Corpus Christi Bay. Enjoy close-up views of coastal birds.

Lodging options include water and electric campsites or drive-up primitive sites. The water and electric campsites are 1/3 mile from the beach. Water, cold-water rinse showers, and portable toilets are available along two miles of the beach. Full restrooms and showers with hot water are located near the water-electric campground.

Colorado Bend State Park

Location: P. O. Box 118, Bend, TX 76824

At Colorado Bend State Park, marvel at the beauty of Gorman Falls, cool off in Spicewood Springs, fish or paddle the river, take a cave tour, and test your limits on 35 miles of hike and bike trails.

Tour the caverns with an experienced guide on a speleo-adventure through caves where you crawl, slide and climb through small spaces and into large chambers. Be prepared to get dirty and maybe even soaked. Reservations are required for all cave tours. Wear sturdy shoes on tours.

All trails are open to hikers and bikers unless otherwise posted. The park’s trails vary in terrain and difficulty. Hike to Gorman Falls, a 70-foot spring-fed waterfall. The hike is 3 miles round trip, over rough and rocky terrain. The Spicewood Springs trail meanders along breathtaking pools and waterfalls fed by Spicewood Springs. Watch your footing as you go back and forth across the creek and as you hike up the canyon to take in gorgeous views. The River trail is easily navigable and offers river access.

If you’re into mountain biking, the park offers mostly single track trails, with a variety of trail difficulty and experience levels. 

For lodging options, Colorado Bend offers back-to-nature camping. Choose from drive-up sites, walk-in tent sites, or primitive hike-in sites. The drive-up and hike-in sites have water in the area, but no hookups. Composting toilets are near the main camping area and at one trailhead. An open-air, rinse-off shower is near the campground.

Caddo Lake State Park

Location: 245 Park Road 2, Karnack, TX 75661

About the Park: At Caddo Lake State Park, fish, paddle, hike, picnic, camp or stay in a cabin, look for a geocache, and go boating. Alligators live in the park, so follow all posted rules and guidelines.

Fish the 26,810-acre Caddo Lake, which harbors more than 70 species of fish. A fishing pier and a boat ramp are available.

Explore Caddo Lake’s twists and turns. Rent a canoe in the park or bring your own canoe or kayak and venture onto more than 50 miles of paddling trails in the Caddo Lake area. 

Hike the forest afoot. One-quarter mile of the Caddo Forest Trail is ADA accessible.

For lodging options, campsites range from water only to full hookup sites.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Location: 2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636

At Pedernales Falls State Park, camp, hike, mountain bike, picnic, geocache, bird watch, and ride horses. On the river, you can swim, wade, tube or fish. Look for local wildlife and plants at the bird blind and butterfly garden. If you’re looking for state parks in Texas where you can relax and cool off, Pedernales is for you.

The water in the river can rise from a placid stream to a raging torrent in a few minutes. If you are in the river area and notice the water rising or getting muddy, leave the river area immediately. Flash flooding is common in the Texas Hill Country.

Trails range from easy to challenging. The .5-mile Twin Falls Nature Trail route overlooks the falls. The challenging six-mile Wolf Mountain Trail wraps around Tobacco and Wolf mountains and winds along the small canyons created by Mescal and Tobacco creeks. Along the way, cool your heels at Arrowhead Pool, where Bee Creek spills into stair-stepped pools. For the adventurous cyclist, test your mountain biking skills on the new Juniper Ridge Trail, a 10-mile technical, single track trail with plenty of obstacles.

Tube, canoe or kayak the river. Put in at the swimming area or Trammell’s Crossing Trail. 

Ride your horse on 10 miles of rugged trail. The trail is very rocky with some steep slopes, and requires riding experience. Horses should have shoes. Water troughs are available at the trailer parking area and at the midway point of the trail. You must present current Coggins for your horse at the office. 

For lodging options, 30 amp campsites with water are available, or walk in 2 miles to primitive sites.

Brazos Bend State Park

Location: 21901 FM 762, Needville, TX 77461

Nature has top billing at this park. Be sure to bring your walking shoes, binoculars, and camera. Alligators are common in some areas of the park, so pay attention to posted rules and guidelines.

There are 37 miles of trails, some of which are wheelchair-friendly. The Creekfield Lake Nature Trail is a fully paved .5 mile tour of the wetland area. Exhibits with touchable bronzes of wildlife, an accessible boardwalk and observation deck, and rest areas with shaded benches. Hike and bike trails circle lakes, connecting with each other and heading into the hardwood forest. Pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet, and must not drink from or enter the lakes. There are 13 miles of multiuse trails, and primitive equestrian campsites at the trailhead. You must bring your own horse and show proof of negative Coggins.

Fish from shore at one of the lakes or fishing piers. The park has three lakes for fishing – Hale, Forty Acre and New Horseshoe. A fishing pier is located at Hale Lake. New Horseshoe Lake features ample shoreline access. Bank fishing is available along Big Creek at selected locations. When fishing from a pier or other man-made structure within a state park, there is a limit of two fishing poles per person.

For lodging options, stay overnight at a campsite, screened shelter, or cabin. 30 amp and 50 amp sites with water are available, as well as primitive walk in sites. Screened shelters have 20 amp service with water. One cabin is available, with 20 amp service and water outside.

These 7 state parks are a good way to get an overview of the various geographic areas in Texas. There’s something for everyone!

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