Austin is bordered by some of the best parks and outdoor leisure locations in the country. In addition, central Texas boasts some of the most diverse landscapes and ecosystems in the state, with rolling green meadows, vast open spaces, enormous cypress, and oak trees across the countryside and along creeks, limestone cliffs, rocky riverbeds, rivers, lakes, and caverns. Add in festivals, music, and great nearby food for a fun trip ready to impress the entire family.
From waterfalls to enchanted rocks and canyons, you can find the perfect park to suit your family. Central Texas offers multiple parks, all in about a seventy-mile radius from Austin. Find the ideal option to enjoy the outdoors, and the best part is you do not need a fishing license in Texas for state parks! Also, in Texas state parks, you will always find that children under twelve are always free, and the prices are almost always six dollars per person.
Map of State Parks Near Austin TX
Here is a map of the Texas state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Austin
Here is more information about each of those state parks, including their distance from Austin as well as notable features they offer.
1. McKinney Falls State Park
Location: 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744
Add rugged beauty to your next vacation at Mckinney Falls State Park. As you can tell by the name, the main attraction of this park is a waterfall. Following a spring rainstorm is the perfect time to explore McKinney Falls State Park to see stunning wildflowers and waterfalls. The best part is that this 745-acre haven is only 15 miles from Austin’s downtown district.
Onion Creek, with its running water over limestone walls and down into calm pools of water below, became the site of the lovely Mckinney Falls State Park. There are over 80 campsites (tent and RV) and six cabins to rent at the park. If you’re staying for the weekend, be sure to take advantage of the miles of hiking paths and the refreshing water for swimming.
McKinney Falls State Park, particularly Onion Creek, is noted for its breathtaking natural beauty. There are numerous hiking and cycling trails and geocaching, fishing, swimming, and relaxing opportunities. The Onion Creek Hike and Bike Path is by far the most popular trail in the area, and it may be walked with children and strollers. However, the Homestead Trail ranked as one of the top Austin trails is worth checking out.
2. Bastrop State Park
Location: 100 Park Road 1A, Bastrop, TX 78602
Go rustic at the Bastrop State Park with tons of history and wonder at the Lost Pines. Years ago, forest fires decimated the park along with floods that led to new plant life and an incredible recovery story. Moreover, the park is just a short thirty-two miles from Austin and only costs five dollars a day or three dollars for a driving tour. Keep an eye out for the Houston toad along with a mosaic of impressive plants focusing on the Lost Pines or loblolly trees.
Camp, stay at a historic cabin, take your RV for full hookup sites, or enjoy a group barracks. Once settled in, go hiking at seven months of trails before swimming at the pool. Take the bikes out for sin, too, between Bastrop and Buescher park on a gorgeous 12-mile forested road. When finished, enjoy some fishing or check out the gift shop for fun souvenirs.
3. Buescher State Park
Location: 100 Park Rd 1-C, Smithville, TX 78957
Not far away from Bastrop State Park sits Buescher State Park, about an hour away from Austin. You will find a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with options for hiking, biking, fishing, paddling, and geocaching. The park costs just three to five dollars a day and has extended hours. The beautiful trees are the focal point offering respite from the daily hustle.
Next, you can camp at the park at primitive walk-in spots or at the campsite with electricity and water. Groups can even stay by the lake and dam at the Civilian Conservation Corps. Grab gifts at the little shop before ending the visit. With six miles of wooded trails, you will find plenty of room to explore nature by the water.
4. Pedernales Falls State Park
Location: 2585 Park Rd 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636
Pedernales Falls State Parks makes planning a weekend adventure easy with various activities and land uses. An hour west of Austin, the Pedernales River flows through the Texas Hill Country. The river is one of the most scenics in the state, with limestone cliffs, large boulders, waterfalls, and a limestone river bed. Pedernales Falls State Park, which bears the park’s name, has miles and miles of hiking routes, ranging from short hikes to breathtaking overlooks to backcountry paths best suited to experienced hikers.
The park’s main attraction is its waterfalls, but visitors can also geocache, birdwatch, mountain bike, stargaze, camp, and swim. If you want to camp you can enjoy campsites with water and electricity or you can hike to a primitive site. Bring your horse to explore the wooded park in style for just six dollars a day.
Make sure to take the Twin Falls Natural Trail for the incredible scenic overlook by the falls, and check out the Wolf Mountain Trail, too, for some small canyons, creeks, and pools with air steps. Cyclists will love the ten-mile technical Juniper Ridge Trail with obstacles and challenges. Everyone can find something to love and relax away from normal life.
5. Lockhart State Park
Location: 2012 State Park Rd, Lockhart, TX 78644
Just forty minutes from downtown Austin sits Lockhart State Park, which offers a historic golf course. Take some time to swim in the onsite pool or, if you prefer, at Clear Fork Creek to enjoy a waterfall. Try out the Clear Fork Trail for a creek, wildlife, vegetation, and a dam perfect for fishing. More experienced hikers can try out the challenging Persimmon Trail.
Fish for sunfish, catfish, and bass before staying at a camp with water, electricity, and full hookups for just three dollars a day. The wildlife can steal the show with the chance of seeing beavers, turkeys, foxes, various birds, and even armadillos but beware of the snakes such as rattlesnakes and coral snakes. Choose this location to enjoy a relaxing vacation far from your responsibilities without leaving the city too far behind.
6. Palmetto State Park
Location: 78 Park Rd 11 S, Gonzales, TX 78629
Palmetto State Park appears like it belongs in the Deep South even though it’s only an hour away from Austin. Explore a world filled with tropical palmetto vegetation, towering trees, and verdant wetlands. Enjoy hours on land geocaching or watching birds before visiting the water for more fun. The environment and terrain are unique, and it is the only spot of its kind in Texas.
Water activities, such as tubing, canoeing, and fishing, are popular due to the abundance of marshes and wetlands. On-land, there are several miles of trails to explore on foot or by bike. Furthermore, paddlers with experience can reach Palmetto State Park via a seven-hour trek from Luling, Texas. Finally, the park offers several camping sites with water, electricity, and group camping for small fees, all with outdoor grills, fire rings, and restrooms nearby.
7. Longhorn Cavern State Park
Location: 6211 Park Road 4 S, Burnet, TX 78611
While a little farther out at an hour and twenty minutes, the Longhorn Cavern State Park will impress the entire family. The natural rock formations around the park, where an ancient river dug its way through its limestone, are flawlessly intertwined with the stone houses. However, keep in mind this is a day park with no options for camping.
Longhorn Cavern is particularly unique due to its geology. Geologists believe that around 300 million years ago, an upheaval known as the “Llano Uplift” occurred, causing fissures to emerge in the region’s flat limestone. Water rushed through the fractures, first dissolving the limestone and then slicing through the solid rock beneath it. This activity of the water eroding and cutting the cavern makes it one of the most unusual cave systems on the planet. You can learn more by taking a guided tour of the cavern.