State and National Parks in Texas | Complete Guide

  • By: Joseph Benson
  • Time to read: 14 min.

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State and national parks in Texas, state and national parks in Texas, Texas is recognized for large sky, wide-open landscapes, and starry evenings. Parts of it are covered with cactus. Others shimmer with tea-colored marsh water.

Endangered sea turtles lay their eggs on sandy beaches, towering cypress trees lean over calm green rivers, and preserved dinosaur bones protrude from dry stream beds along the coast. From mountains to beaches, and everything in between, Texas landscape may be found in every part of the state.

There are some genuinely wonderful national parks in Texas, from the untamed west of the Chihuahuan Desert to the towering trees of the Piney Woods, and we’ve collected this entire TX national parks guide to encourage you to visit each one!

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Texas now has just two national “parks,” both in far west Texas: Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The National Park Service, on the other hand, oversees 16 national park holdings across the state, including national monuments, historic sites, national recreation areas, and even a national seashore!

Every single one of these places is included in our comprehensive list of Texas national parks. Texas’ national parks provide both economical and varied vacation options and no matter where you are in the Lone Star State, you’ll be able to visit at least one park within a day’s drive!

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State and National Parks in Texas

How many national parks are in the state of Texas?

In Texas, the National Park Service oversees 14 units, including the Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend National Parks.

Padre Island, the Big Thicket, a part of the Rio Grande, Lake Amistad, and Lake Meredith are among the other landscapes preserved; the rest of the preserves feature historical sites.

State and national parks in Texas

And just 5% of the land is held by the government. Across the state, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is responsible for almost 100 parks, historic sites, and natural regions.

National parks, monuments, recreation areas, preserves, trails, and memorials are among the 16 public places managed by the National Parks Service.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite state and national parks in Texas to help you plan your vacation.

Toyahvale’s Balmorhea state park

It’s difficult to image a gigantic blue-green swimming hole churning with fish in the midst of the desert, but that’s exactly what Balmorhea State Park offers.

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With more than 15 million gallons of water flowing daily from San Solomon springs into a 25-foot deep pool with a natural bottom.

The Civilian Conservation Corps transformed the desert marsh into the world’s biggest spring-fed swimming pool in the 1930s, attracting Native Americans, early explorers, and passing U.S. troops.

Scuba divers, swimmers, and anybody else wishing to take a flying jump off a 7-foot 3-inch-high diving board are now fans. The Comanche Springs pupfish and Pecos gambusia are two little endangered fish species that live there.

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State and National Parks in Texas

Big Bend national park is located in far western Texas

Big Bend National Park in far West Texas seems lonely and uninviting at first glance. But if you go out into its thorny folds equipped with plants that poke, scratch, and stab.

You’ll find stunning geologic structures and a varied spectrum of fauna, including javelina, tarantulas, black bears, snakes, and mountain lions.

Backpack the park’s South Rim, high in the Chisos Mountains, float the Rio Grande’s café-au-lait-colored waters, or explore the desert plain and its historic agricultural and ranching remnants.

Big Bend National Park, the biggest of Texas’ national parks, covers 801,100 acres, so you won’t find many people.

The best time to visit is from November to April, which is understandable given that summer temperatures may reach over 100 degrees.

Near Beaumont is the Big Thicket National Preserve

The Big Thicket is home to four different varieties of carnivorous plants, and if you go, you may be able to see one of them convert an unwary bug into a slow-cooked dinner.

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But first, visit the preserve’s visitor center to gain a sense of the park, which is made up of non-contiguous components that span 113,114 acres of land and water over seven counties.

There are areas of long leaf pine forest, marshy bayous, and wetland savannas, all of which are crisscrossed by around 40 miles of hiking routes, including a few wooden boardwalks that lead you past carnivorous pitcher plants.

Kayakers and canoeists may also explore the rivers. Just don’t forget to pack your insect spray.

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State and National Parks in Texas

Enchanted Rock state park

Half-buried in the Hill Country brush, Enchanted Rock rises like a huge pink onion. A lake of magma rose up through the earth’s surface a billion years ago, hardening into a granite batholith.

Most people rush to the summit of the 425-foot dome in 30 or 45 minutes, passing through delicate vernal pools, where water accumulates in shallow holes and provides a habitat for freshwater shrimp.

The circular route that encircles the main attraction, however, is not to be missed. Pitch a tent in one of the basic campsites near Moss Lake and watch the sun create a pink light on the rock and maybe hear the creepy creaking and groaning that some people claim to hear at night.

Concan state park, garner

Float or swim in the cool waters of the cypress-lined Frio River at Garner State Park throughout the day. By night, visitors to this iconic Texas Park have been dancing to the strains of a jukebox on the outdoor pavilion erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

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Much as they have done since the 1940s. The climb up to the summit of Old Baldy, where you can take in the vistas of the river below, is not to be missed.

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Salt Flats, Guadalupe mountains national park

When visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park, be sure to bring your hiking boots since the park is home to Texas’ highest peak, Guadalupe Peak, which stands at 8,751 feet.

The 8.4-mile round-trip quad-busting trek gains 3,000 feet in elevation, but the vistas of the surrounding mountains and desert bottom are breathtaking once you reach the Top of Texas. Also, don’t overlook the park’s other paths.

The remains of hardwood woods in McKittrick Canyon blaze with color in the autumn, and the Devil’s Hall Trail, which is steep and rough, will put your rock-scrambling abilities to the test.

Johnson City, Johnson B. Johnson National Historical Park, and Stonewall Jackson National Historic Site.

Consider Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park a two-in-one immersion into rural Texas life in the 1950s if you’re seeking for a history lesson on your next park visit.

Drive 14 miles to the LBJ Ranch and Texas White House, where you can see his birthplace, a show barn, a little schoolhouse, and the Texas White House (which is temporarily closed to indoor tours due to structural issues).

Imagine the previous president, who was infamous for playing practical jokes on his visitors, such as the time he put dignitaries into a car, rolled it down a hill, and into a pond, yelling that the brakes had failed.

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He didn’t tell them it was an amphibious vehicle, which could drive on roads as well as float on water. Early April is the best time to come to see the yearly bluebonnet show.

Corpus Christi’s Padre Island national seashore

Grab your bikini and go to Padre Island National Seashore, which hugs the Texas Gulf Coast for 70 miles on the world’s longest length of unspoiled barrier island.

Splash in the water, witness Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchlings race over the beach as scientists release them into the wild, and view birds (including the Pepto Bismol-colored Roseate spoonbill).

Many a Spanish ship has sunk off the shore, and guests who want to sleep on the sand may set up a tent directly on the sand.

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State and National Parks in Texas

Palo Duro Canyon state park

Palo Duro Canyon, a 120-mile ravine that runs across Texas’ panhandle and is the country’s second-largest canyon, was carved out by water from the Red River’s Prairie Dog Town Fork.

The Texas Outdoor Musical, an al fresco show combining people and horses that takes place in the park’s amphitheater each summer, is set against the craggy red and yellow-tinged rocks.

Climb the park’s famed Lighthouse formation, a 310-foot pinnacle that appears like it belongs on a seashore peninsula, for a six-mile roundtrip hike.

This terrain is hardscrabble and baked, and it will remind you of the harsh circumstances that its first settlers faced. Visit the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in neighboring Canyon for more information.

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Seminole Canyon state park

Around Val Verde County, there are around 300 pictograph sites hidden in natural rock shelters. The public may take a ranger-led trip to Fate Bell Shelter in Seminole Canyon State Park.

40 miles west of Del Rio, where ancient hunter-gatherers created magnificent murals using crushed minerals, animal fat, and urine paint.

The murals, according to researchers, may explain the ancient peoples’ cultural beliefs systems and recount legends about their voyages to the underworld.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

In 1978, two guys were trekking near Waco, Texas, looking for arrowheads when they came upon a big bone jutting out of a gully.

They transported it to Baylor University, where they discovered bone was from a Columbian mammoth, a giant cousin of contemporary elephants.

Researchers eventually discovered the remains of more than two dozen additional people, including a herd of adult females and their young thought to have been stranded in rising floods approximately 65,000 years ago.

In 2010, the site was designated as a municipal park, and five years later, it was designated as a national monument.

The “nursery herd’s” bones are now on exhibit at the Mayborn Museum in Waco, but visitors to the monument may walk along an elevated boardwalk and gaze down on other adult mammoths that are still in the earth.

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State and National Parks in Texas

What is the most visited state park in Texas?

In my opinion, a state park an hour and a half west of San Antonio offers the best walks with breathtaking vistas of the classic Texas Hill Country.

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According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Garner State Park near Concan is Texas’ most visited park. Over 317,000 individuals visited the park between September 2020 and May 2021.

Palo Duro Canyon is the second most popular, with 306,000 visitors in the same time period.

It’s so popular that reservations for the $8 day-pass sell out every weekend. After seeing practically every Saturday and Sunday in August booked, I had to wait a month to come.

Only after 5:30 p.m. were permits available, and no serious hiker starts an adventure at that time unless they want to remain overnight.

The park draws visitors for a variety of reasons, including 16 miles of picturesque trails, a 2.9-mile length of Frio River access, and 1,774 acres of overnight campsites.

The journey from San Antonio to Garner is also not unpleasant, and I observed some great scenery during my visit on Saturday, September 11.

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State and National Parks in Texas

What is the smallest state park in Texas?

The smallest state park in Texas is Acton State Historic Site, which is situated in Hood County. .01 acres total In 1911, the Monument was constructed in Acton Cemetery thanks to a legislative allocation.

The property was passed from the State Board of Control to the State Parks Board, which is now the Parks and Wildlife Department, by Legislative Act in 1949.

Elizabeth Crockett, Davy Crockett’s second wife, is buried at the park. She married him in Tennessee in 1815. She passed away on January 31, 1860.

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Crockett’s heirs were entitled for a land grant since he fought for Texas and died at the Alamo, but Mrs. Elizabeth Crockett did not claim hers until 1853.

By that time, all of the good property had been taken, and she was forced to give the surveyor half of her acreage in exchange for finding a tract worth claiming. This property was located in northeast Hood County, close to Acton.

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State and National Parks in Texas

What is the largest Texas state park?

The Lone Star State’s parks showcase the state’s diverse landscapes. Texas State Parks span the state, from the high mountains of West Texas to the piney woodlands and grasslands of the east.

Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular ways to experience Texas state parks’ diverse surroundings. Because of the amazing night sky, several of these are also popular for stargazing.

A few of the main attractions are waterfalls, enchanted rocks, and deep subterranean tunnels. Big Bend Ranch State Park, which spans over 300,000 acres, is one of the largest state parks in the country. Camping is the finest way to explore the diversity of nature in these large state parks.

Tents, RVs, and those willing to trek in their supplies are all welcome in Texas’ top state parks for camping. Check with the state parks to see if they have any openings and to make reservations.

Each Texas state park provides a distinct experience to appreciate. The state is as diverse as it is big, with canyons in the Texas Panhandle and churning surf on the Southern Coast.

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Several state parks in Texas are easily accessible from major cities such as Houston, Dallas, and Austin. These easily accessible state parks make getting away from the city a breeze.

Big Bend Ranch is Texas’ biggest state park, located on the US/Mexico border in West Texas. The park spans over 300,000 acres of high-desert environment, providing unlimited options for adventure.

Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and seeking quiet in nature are all popular activities at the state park. In addition, Big Bend Ranch has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Park.

Following dazzling sunsets, this celestial designation allows for magnificent stargazing. Big Bend Ranch State Park has access to the Rio Grande, making activities like boating and fishing enjoyable.

Big Bend Ranch offers a range of camping alternatives, including simple lodging options at the Sauceda Bunkhouse. Big Bend Ranch State Park has a diverse variety of terrain.

Summers in Big Bend are hot, while winters are gentler, with freezing temperatures at night. Big Bend Ranch State Park is next to the larger Big Bend National Park, which offers considerably more opportunities for exploration.

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State and National Parks in Texas

Is part of the Grand Canyon in Texas?

Second largest state part in Texas, in the Texas Panhandle, you’ll find the country’s second-largest canyon. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a great place to visit if you want to see the canyon’s rough beauty and learn about its fascinating history.

The canyon may be explored on foot, by mountain bike, horseback, or by automobile. More than 30 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian paths are available.

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Camp, geocache, learn about wildlife, or go bird watching. Enjoy a performance of TEXAS Outdoor Musical over the summer. Choose from water and electricity-equipped campsites, tent sites, horse sites, and backpack camping spaces.

Stay in one of the three rim cabins or the four Cow Camp cottages on the canyon floor. For a wedding, reunion, or gathering, rent one of our pavilions.

Glamping (luxury camping) is new to Palo Duro Canyon. Air conditioning, luxury rustic furniture, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee machines, games, bicycles, gas grills and gas fire pits.

Covered porches with rockers, porch swings, and much more are all included in each glamping site. Palo Duro Canyon glamping information may be found here.

Learn more about the park by visiting the Visitor Center on the canyon rim. Books, ceramics, jewelry, and other items are available for purchase in the Visitor Center’s park shop. On the canyon bottom, The Trading Post sells souvenirs, snacks, and meals.

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State and National Parks in Texas

Is Palo Duro Canyon a desert?

Palo Duro Canyon, a large, barren, and gorgeous canyon that stretches 120 miles across the Panhandle, is one of the most breathtaking escapes in the Lone Star state. Palo Duro gets similarities to the famed world wonder in Arizona since it is the country’s second biggest canyon.

In addition to its enormous geological size, “the second Grand Canyon,” as the New York Times describes it, “comes very near in lonely, rough, Butch-and-Sundance splendor, too, but with an entirely different appearance.”

Palo Duro Canyon State Park has been attracting travelers to its trails meandering through a location where gigantic bison and mammoths once roamed for more than 80 years. Cowboys and campers sleep in cottages on the lip of an 800-foot drop beneath a spectacular star-filled sky.

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Palo Duro, one of the final refuges for the Comanches and Kiowas during the Red River War, was the location of a bloody fight that drove American Indians out of Texas. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Panhandle gave way to the ruling cow ranch period.

Are there bears in Palo Duro canyon?

They have interesting animals, such as roadrunners. You won’t see bears or mountain lions, which may be a good thing if you’re afraid of such animals attacking you.

The fauna of Palo Duro Canyon is extensive, including Texas horned lizards, Palo Duro mice, wild turkeys, and white-tailed and mule deer.

Coyotes, bobcats, and a variety of birds, including roadrunners, our particular favorite. If you’ve ever seen a roadrunner run, you know how adorable they are!

How long does it take to drive through Palo Duro Canyon?

The trip takes roughly 20 minutes to finish. The canyon is exited in the same manner that it was entered. As a result, getting into and out of the canyon may take anything from 40 minutes to an hour. The entrance cost to the canyon is minimal.

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State and National Parks in Texas

Final Verdict

Many users enjoy exploring the great outdoors and traveling to visit state and national parks in Texas. Whether it is an RV trip or a comfortable weekend getaway, you can find the perfect spot to settle into and enjoy the beautiful scenery that is available.

What you find depends on which park you plan on visiting. Want to explore the state of Texas? Then consider visiting one of these five state and national parks, as well as a few “locals” for good measure.

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Readers can benefit by learning about the best-known parks in the state of Texas, and those who are visiting or hoping to visit the state soon can find what they want with ease.

Texas has a diverse terrain, including beaches, swamps, deserts, and forests. The many state and national parks in the state protect these natural resources while offering beautiful views and hiking trails.

So get out there and start exploring. Texas offers a wealth of state and national parks to keep you busy on these hot summer days. And with the freedom to travel less than an hour away, families can make a weekend getaway feel like a vacation.

If that isn’t enough, there’s plenty of room to pitch a tent or pull up at an RV park and make a longer vacation out of it. Take advantage of the gorgeous weather and all that Mother Nature has to offer, even in the middle of the state.

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State and National Parks in Texas | Complete Guide

Joseph Benson

Hi, my name is Joseph Benson, and I am a traveler who is always on the go. I love to try new things and see different places. Never miss an adventure follow me.

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