Texas State Parks Activities For Outdoor Enthusiasts
Camping in Texas State Parks
The Lone Star State is a charming combination of urban jungle and beautiful countryside, making it one of the best places in the country to pitch a tent in. Thousands flock to Ray Roberts Lake State Park, situated on a 3,000-acre reservoir north of Dallas. Here, the stunning beach and easy access to the lake make it the perfect camping spot for outdoor enthusiasts.
If you want to camp at the renowned “Grand Canyon of Texas,” then head over to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, home of the Texas Panhandle. Wake up each morning to breathtaking panoramic views of this natural wonder and spend your afternoons exploring its towering rock formations. Camping here in the summertime also means you can catch a performance of the Texas Outdoor Musical, which is held from June to August.
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For glimpses of awesome wildlife, then Caprock Canyons State Park is your best bet. The Official Bison Herd of the State of Texas – a renowned herd descended from the bison owned by Charles Goodnight in 1878 is a magnificent sight that’s definitely worth seeing.
Located just outside of Austin, Colorado Bend State Park is a local favorite, featuring the 65-foot Gorman Falls that runs year-round, providing a great backdrop to your camping excursion. There is a whole slew of recreational activities here too, including biking and caving.
Hiking in Texas State Parks
The Gorman Falls Trail at Colorado Bend State Park is one of the most popular nature hikes in Texas, taking guests through to the beautiful cascading waterfalls. The route itself feels like a lush oasis in the middle of a rainforest – definitely something that you wouldn’t expect from central Texas! The last leg of the trail may be a bit challenging, featuring a chain to help with the steep descent to the falls, but the views are well worth it.
At Palo Duro Canyon State Park, visitors love going on the 3-mile Givens-Spicer-Lowry Trail, which allows them to explore the beautiful layers of exposed colored rock that historians say date back to 250 million years ago.
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Fishing in Texas State Parks
There are a great many fishing holes in Texas – thanks to its massive size and sprawling lands. One of the most popular ones is the 30,000-acre Lake Ray Roberts at Ray Roberts Lake State Park, which is filled to the brim with largemouth bass and white bass. Channel catfish are also plentiful in this incredible body of water.
Eisenhower State Park offers some of the best fishing opportunities in Texas too. Situated within it is Lake Texoma, which boasts of large populations of striped bass, blue catfish, and a number of varieties of bass. Fish from this lake have gone on to win state records; in 2004, a blue catfish weighing 121.5 lbs was caught from it.
Avid anglers should also cast their lines at Cooper Lake, located within Cooper Lake State Park, where tons of crappie and bass varieties may be found. The town of Cooper is also home to Miller’s Pharmacy, which many say make the best soda fountain ice cream in the United States. So even if the fish aren’t biting, you are!
Day Use Areas in Texas State Parks
Prime picnic spots are in abundance in Texas. Residents love heading over to Buescher State Park during the month of February when the Mexican plum blossoms are in season. The fragrance of these incredible flowers provides a sensory backdrop to your picnicking experience! After your meal, explore the many hiking trails that meander through the park.
Colorado Bend State Park is also a great picnicking destination, filled with native shrubs that will make for incredible views. Don’t pass up the opportunity to see the beautiful, cascading Gorman Falls – even if the trail leading to it is a bit challenging.
For those who want cool and comfortable picnics on the lakeshore, then Caddo Lake State Park is perfect for you. Spread your blanket on the fishing dock overlooking Saw Mill Pond and the Big Cypress Bayou. It may sound strange and a bit unconventional but the views will definitely be worth it!
Biking in Texas State Parks
The 311,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park has some of the best biking opportunities in Texas, featuring trails that are fun, steep, and technically challenging, as well as single-track ones perfect for those in need for speed. As you ride along these routes, you’ll be treated to stunning panoramic views of the surrounding natural landscape.
Brazos Bend State Park is another great biking destination, boasting over 21 miles of diverse trails that range from beginner-friendly and leisurely to challenging routes through a hardwood forest. Keep your eyes peeled for the river bobcats, bird species, and even alligators that have made their homes within this park.
For a scenic and unforgettable ride, head over to Cedar Hill State Park where 12 miles of biking trails can be found. Designed by the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association (DORBA), going for a ride here is definitely non-negotiable.
Those of you who want to take on challenging rugged terrain would do well to check out the trails found at Franklin Mountains State Park. Routes here will take you through the 27,000-acre park and feature some challenges, including rocky trails, exposed roots, and more.
Boating in Texas State Parks
An incredible boating destination, Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway is located an hour away from Fort Worth, making it highly sought after by families, especially those with young kids. A popular summer getaway, the recreational opportunities found at this park are plentiful, however, exploring Lake Mineral Wells on a watercraft vehicle is undoubtedly a must.
Inks Lake State Park, renowned for the Devil’s Waterhole, is another great boating destination. Situated an hour away from the city of Austin, this destination is ideal for relaxing weekend getaways.
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Bird watching in Texas State Parks
Located 30 miles southwest of Houston, Brazos Bend State Park has some of the best Bird watching opportunities in Texas. Its diverse habitats, which include towering oaks and other hardwoods, are home to hundreds of various bird species. Here, catch a glimpse of the Barred Owl, the Purple Gallinule, the Least Grebe, and the Neotropic Cormorant.
Avid Birders also love visiting Estero Llano Grande State Park, which is home to many rare species, like the Gray Hawk, the Elf Owl, the Hook-billed Kite, and the Green Kingfisher. Located near the park is the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is considered to be another great Bird-watching destination.
For those hoping to observe water birds, then Lake Tawakoni State Park is your best bet. Scanning the 376-acre Lake Tawakoni for wintering waterfowl, the American White Pelican, and the Bald Eagle will undoubtedly make for a great Birding experience.
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Beaches in Texas State Parks
The main swimming area along a dam at Blanco State Park is a favorite among residents and tourists alike, providing a great spot for cooling off from the scorching summertime heat. At this park, you can either choose to float on the rather chaotic river waters or enjoy the more peaceful, tamer man-made pool.
At Balmorhea State Park, take a refreshing dive into the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world. This swimming hole is incredibly clear, cool, and amazing – perfect for an afternoon excursion.
The Devil’s Watering Hole, situated within Inks Lake State Park, is the most popular swimming hole in Texas. Splash around in the river or enjoy a peaceful lounge on an inner tube. This well-known attraction is surrounded by the picturesque Colorado River, as well as pink granite walls, which makes it perfect for those looking to swim while taking in breathtaking views.
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Rock Climbing and Mountaineering in Texas State Parks
Located in El Paso, Franklin Mountains State Park is the premier destination for climbing enthusiasts visiting Texas. It offers designated climbing areas at Sneed’s Cory and McKelligon Canyon with routes ranging from beginner-friendly to intermediate and expert.
Other great climbing spots include those found at Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway, perfect for easy to moderate climbing routes. The area may be small but its excellent opportunities still draw in thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year.
The mix of sandstone and limestone at Eisenhower State Park make for incredible climbing opportunities. Routes here are perfect for all kinds of climbers, both beginner and advanced, although be sure to bring some crash pads with you.
Golf Courses in Texas State Parks
Those who want to practice their swing and play a round or two should stop by Lake Casa Blanca State Park and Stephen F. Austin State Park, both of which have renowned golf courses that are well-kept, well-maintained, and boast of incredible views.
Horseback Riding in Texas State Parks
At Brazos Bend State Park, over 13 miles of trails are perfect for horseback riding. The park also offers a few equestrian camping sites so you don’t have to worry about your mount after an exhausting day out.
Horseback riding may also be done at Caprock State Park whose trails meander through the beautiful scenery found within. Some of the routes may be challenging, however, and should only be taken on by the most experienced of riders and equestrians.
20 equestrian campsites are available at Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway although be advised that these are highly sought after so you would do well to book a spot in advance.
Recreational Equipment Rentals in Texas State Parks
Kayak, canoe, paddleboat, and other watercraft vehicle rentals are available at Caddo Lake State Park, Cleburne State Park, Cooper Lake State Park, Daingerfield State Park, and Eisenhower State Park.
Caving in Texas State Parks
Those of you wishing to explore some beautiful and fascinating caves should check out Longhorn Cavern State Park where guided tours of Longhorn Cavern, the National Cave of Texas, maybe availed of. This 11-mile route will take guests through this natural wonder, which contains breathtaking highlights like the Crystal City, the Hall of Marble, the Gallery of Formations, and more.
Museums in Texas State Parks
Explore what life was like on the frontier at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, where the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm can be found. A Texas-German family, the Sauers settled in Texas Hill County in the late 19th century, working on the farm and caring for their livestock. Today, guests can watch costumed interpreters create the life the Sauers, along with their ten children, lived.