Texas offers a variety of unique parks, and some are within close reach of Waco, guaranteed to give you peace and solitude.
With tons of water, rocks, and beautiful scenery, you can find options for everyone from camping to hiking or just enjoying time outside soaking up vitamin D. Add adventure with a park filled with dinosaur tracks and so much more!
Find out how much diversity Texas parks offer on your next vacation. Then, when you are done exploring the parks, make sure to visit Waco, too, as the town offers incredible sights and scenery.
But first, take a look at the closest parks worthy of a visit for adults and children alike. For seventy dollars a year, you can buy a Texas State Parks Pass to use for unlimited visits to any Texas State Park and discounted camping prices.
Map of State Parks Near Houston TX
Here is a map of the Texas state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Waco
Below are each of those state parks with their distance from Waco and a few of the attractions they offer.
1. Mother Neff State Park
Location: 1921 State Park Rd 14, Moody, TX 76557
A little over half an hour from Waco, you will find Mother Neff State Park, a unique park with unique rock structures. For just two dollars a day per person over twelve years old, the park offers a scenic view of the Leon River. Enjoy unique native prairies and grasslands in this diverse ecosystem filled with birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians among the limestone and canyons.
There are beginner-friendly campsites, playgrounds, and simple walks through woodland stream bottoms and wildflower prairie in Texas’ oldest state park. Wash Pond, limestone ledges, and a stone tower built by CCC workers during the Great Depression are among the attractions. The old camping ground and stone houses near the Leon River are historically significant; however, they have been closed due to floods.
Find campsites with water, full hookups, showers, dishwashing stations, and much more. With 35 campsites with room for up to eight people per site, you can enjoy nature for days or even weeks! When not at the campsite, enjoy hiking on over three miles of trails up to a cave used by the Tonkawa Indian tribes in the 1800s. Finally, stop at the park store for supplies and gifts.
2. Meridian State Park
Location: 173 Park Road #7, Meridian, TX 76665
Meridian State Park is one of the most accessible and appealing sites in the Texas Hill Country for RV enthusiasts of all ages looking for a rural getaway. Meridian State Park, fifty miles north of Waco, is a favorite destination for Texans and visitors from all over the country due to its diverse range of recreational opportunities and excellent camping facilities. While a smaller park makes for a great getaway for the entire family.
The park offers a variety of campsites, including options with electricity, group, primitive, and even a youth group camp. Spots are limited, so reserve your spot as soon as possible. Beyond camping, the most popular activities include hiking, a tiny 72-acre lake, nice camping, fishing, and bird watching. The golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered species, migrates to the park around March 9 to dwell in the cedar trees – this is one of just a few public sites in Texas along the migration line.
Find a variety of campsites, including full hookup, campsites with electricity, primitive, group campsites, and a youth group camp. People over thirteen cost five dollars a day and under are free. Enjoy a forested area filled with juniper and oak trees and various other plant life such as wildflowers.
3. Lake Whitney State Park
Location: 433 FM1244, Whitney, TX 76692
Lake Whitney sits just forty-five minutes away from Waco in the town of Whitney, next to the Brazos River that turns into a lake. In the early 1800s, Native Americans resided beside the river, and the pioneers arrived in the 1850s. As a result, archeologists have discovered prehistoric artifacts dating over 12,000 years. Now the park offers refuge to tons of wildlife and plants with beautiful flora all year, along with warm weather perfect for exploring a park.
Bring swimsuits to enjoy the lake with its own beach, perfect for day use, along with some beach toys. After enjoying other aquatic sports such as water skiing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. You can take the family geocaching, hiking, biking, and fishing on land. The park also features a plethora of animals with wooded areas and prairie. You might catch sight of birds, deers, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, turkeys, and even bald eagles.
At Lake Whitney, you can enjoy camping too with full hookup sites, campsites with electricity, and options with water, but they do not offer group camping. With over one hundred sites, you can enjoy nature and solitude. The park offers a boat ramp, a fish cleaning shelter, and an annual youth fishing tournament making this a unique site for families.
4. Fort Parker State Park
Location: 194 Park Rd, Mexia, TX 76667
About forty-five miles away from Waco, you will find Fort Parker State Park, a gorgeous location on the banks of Navasota with two ecosystems. The park makes a fabulous family getaway with various animals, mainly birds, including waterfowl, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels, and raccoons. In addition, anglers can hope to catch catfish, trout, and bass when in season.
Learn some history and culture in the park, too, as it’s filled with both as it’s been used by Native Americans and settlers. From swimming to paddling, Fort Parker Lake offers a variety of water activities for the whole family to enjoy. You can also have a relaxing picnic while watching the sunset over the lake. Attend one of the park’s regularly planned ranger programs, such as nature hikes and fishing clinics, to learn everything there is to know about the park’s ecosystem and the history of the area.
The campsites are tucked among the trees and provide plenty of shade and beautiful views of the water. There are 24 sites with water and electricity hookups and a group campsite. You can enjoy a campfire in the fire ring and meals at the picnic tables while staying here. Bathrooms and hot showers are only a short distance away. Enjoy a hike, and you might be rewarded with a bubbling spring or even blue herons.
5. Dinosaur Valley State Park
Location: 1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043
While Dinosaur Valley State Park is almost an hour and a half away from Waco, it’s well worth the visit to see well-preserved dinosaur tracks. Kids will enjoy standing in dinosaur prints and imagining what the giant beasts were like. There are four major track sites in the park with footprints as long as three feet. Late summer is the best time to witness these tracks because water levels are low and conditions are dry.
Do not worry, the park offers much more to see and do beyond the tracks. To begin with, there are over twenty miles of hiking and mountain bike paths to explore. Swimming and fishing in the Paluxy River, which runs directly through the heart of the park, are two other opportunities to make the most of your visit. Also, towards the park’s south end, there is a 100-acre primitive area for individuals who want to go on a horseback riding tour.
Add in sixty campsites including group, primitive, and sites with electricity to keep the adventure going for several days. The fee to enter is just seven dollars a day for anyone over the age of twelve and free for those under. Visit in the summer when the water runs low and leaves isolated pools children will love, and they may even see some unique animals and plants too.