Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Situated in West Texas, East of El Paso. The park is situated in the same mountain range as Carlsbad Caverns National Park in NM.
This park has canyons, deserts, dunes, and beautiful landscapes.
McKittrick Canyon attracts many visitors specially during the Fall. Deciduous trees are not common in the area but thanks to the high elevation, beautiful reds, and oranges come alive.
Some of the vegetation changes color with the seasons, while the desert and the cacti keep the same colors.
The park protects the most extensive Permian Reef, which is located in McKittrick Canyon.
Guadalupe Mountains have the four highest peaks in Texas. The tallest is Guadalupe Peak with 8,751ft high.
The Salt Basin Dunes are the result of land movement over millions of years, that left a drained basin. All that is left is the gypsum grains as a sand deposit.
Besides all the incredible surrounding nature, it is also possible to see part of the native and pioneer history of West Texas. Guadalupe National Park
What Can You Do In A State Park
So what can you do in a state park? State parks are all about outdoor recreational activities. Here is a quick list of things you can do in state parks:
Camping, hiking, trekking, boating, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, sailing, skiing, snowshoeing, skating, snowboarding, snowmobiling, caving, water sports, water skiing, water jets, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, paddle boarding, wake board, surfing, windsurfing, spearfishing, running, rock climbing, mountaineering, fishing, RV park camping, resorts, golf courses, biking, ATV, hunting, backpacking, horseback riding, outdoor recreation, picnicking, bird watching, orienteering, and visiting museums.
Village Creek State Park
Village Creek is best-known for its paddling trails.
Lush Village Creek State Park lies on the southeastern edge of the Big Thicket, a once-vast wild area of East Texas known for its multitude of habitats. The terrain ranges from sandy hills with prickly pear cactus and pine trees to swampy cypress-tupelo sloughs. The park offers 25 RV campsites with partial hookups and 16 walk-in tent sites, plus a rental cabin. The intrepid can rent a canoe from nearby outfitters, paddle down Village Creek on the 21-mile canoe trail, and primitive-camp on sandbars with the clear, tea-colored creek waters lulling weary travelers to sleep. The canoe trail offers multiple access points allowing trips of a few hours to two or three days. The lowland creek doesnt have rapids, but its tannin-stained, flat water moves steadily, making travel easy. Although the park is best known for its paddling opportunities, it also has 8 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails that wind through dry sandylands and along swampy sloughs. Theres also a nice sandy swimming beach on the banks of Village Creek downstream from the main part of the park.
Much of the park was damaged by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, so it may be several months before the parks facilities are fully restored.
Wimberley-based writer and photographer Laurence Parent lives to hit the open road in search of Texas natural wonders. He specializes in landscape, travel, and nature photography.
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Caddo Lake State Park
Thirty miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana, near the state border, Caddo Lake State Park offers a unique Texas landscape. Cypress swamps, alligators, and Spanish moss define many of the views at Caddo Lake State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps also left their mark here, with several historic stone structures. While hiking trails meander throughout this diverse area, the best way to explore Caddo Lake is by kayak or canoe.
Visitors can bring their own canoe to Caddo Lake, and the state park also provides rentals by the hour. Big Cypress Bayou connects the state park to Caddo Lake, where over 50 miles of paddling trails encourage exploration. Fishing is also popular at Caddo Lake, and the state park provides a convenient fishing pier to cast a line.
Address: 245 Park Road 2, Karnack, Texas
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Area
Forty miles east of El Paso in West Texas, Hueco Tanks offers a beautiful landscape and bountiful history. Native cultures flocked to this natural area for thousands of years to use the park’s namesake natural rainwater deposits. Many cultures left their mark at Hueco Tanks in the form of pictographs and petroglyphs.
Due to the fragile nature of these ancient markings, park visits are limited each day by permitted self-guided and guided tours. It’s advised to call ahead before a visit, especially for the busy season between November and March. Rock climbing is another popular activity at the park, and permits are also required to scale the impressive rock features at Hueco Tanks.
Address: 6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1, El Paso, Texas
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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 Millers Pharmacy, which many say make the best soda fountain ice cream in the United States. So even if the fish arent biting, you are!
Check For Firewood Policies
Many state parks and state-managed forests have policies against bringing outside firewood in for campsites. There are many diseases that can be spread by transporting firewood from one area to another. Please check with your local state park regarding their firewood policy. Dont forget you are going to need a hatchet or ax for splitting your firewood. You can check out our best backpacking hatchet review to help choose the right one. If outside firewood is not allowed, you should be able to purchase bundles of wood from the park itself.
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State Parks In East Texas Where You Can Unplug And Enjoy Nature
Find fall bliss at these East Texas state parks
Mission Tejas State Park commemorates Spains 17th-century attempt to maintain its territory in East Texas
Despite my job as a Texas photographer and writer, I hadnt visited many of East Texas state parks in years. In 2016, when University of Texas Press asked me to revise my 2008 guidebook, Official Guide to Texas State Parks and Historic Sites, I seized my opportunity and hit the road. The experience was a bit like renewing old friendships I not only saw things I remembered from previous visits, but I also found new surprises. Here are some highlights from my East Texas favorites.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Near the city of El Paso in West Texas, Franklin Mountains State Park offers over 27,000 acres of elevated landscapes to explore. Popular activities at the state park include camping, rock climbing, and exploring the over 100 miles of trails that traverse the area. A rugged landscape defines the Franklin Mountains, and visitors should prepare for the wild environment.
The Tom Mays Unit is on the northern edge of El Paso and is the most accessible area of the park. The Tom Mays Unit contains the densest collection of developed campsites. Visitors from El Paso can reach the various entrances of the Tom Mays Unit by car in 15 minutes. Several hiking trails stretch from the Tom Mays Unit, including extensive Upper and Lower Foothills loops.
Address: Tom Mays Park Access Road, El Paso, Texas
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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 Sneeds 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.
Monahans Sandhills State Park
This state park in West Texas offers a unique landscape filled with many active sand dunes. These shifting landscapes can dramatically change overnight. The park doesn’t maintain any trails for this reason, and visitors are free to explore in any direction they choose. Dunes at the park reach up to 50 feet in height.
One of the fun activities at Monahans Sandhills State Park is surfing down the dunes. The state park rents out sand discs for interested visitors. Packing along extra water and supplies is essential when visiting Monahans Sandhills. Summers are blazing at the state park. Twenty-six campsites with electricity are at the state park, and each have shade structures and fire rings.
Address: 2500 E Interstate 20 Exit 86, Monahans, Texas
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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 Devils 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.
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.
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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 dont 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.
Texas National Parks State Parks And Public Lands Map
This map attempts to summarize the different natural areas present in Texas. Since parks, forests, and wildlife areas are managed by different agencies, there were no maps compiling all these parks.
This Texas map has 13 National Parks, 119 State Parks and 80 Wildlife Management Areas, 4 U.S. National Forests, and 6 National Grasslands.
The size and shape of the parks have been exaggerated and slightly distorted to be more conspicuous, since many are very small.
The features of each park and natural area, display many of the characteristics of Texas regions and their geology.
Most of the forests are in the East Texas region. This is because the water resources are more common to the east.
Many of the State parks are in Hill Country. This area has water resources, the widest variety of landscapes, and the most diverse topography, ideal for recreation.
Only 5% of Texas lands is Public hence the importance of highlighting areas for the use of the general public.
Fortunately the most scenic and beautiful landscapes have been preserved for the enjoyment of all.
National Parks are managed by the Federal Government, the Department of Interior to be precise. A National Park must showcase the natural or cultural themes of our nations heritage. In essence they are of great natural importance.
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Cedar Hill State Park
A panoramic view of Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park
If you want to enjoy some nature, relax or explore a little, then this park is perfect for you! You can visit for the day or the weekend.
It is also an affordable option and is very cheap! However, you will still need to make reservations. Bring your tent along or your RV and truck camper. They also have showers on the camping spots.
This park is also quiet which is ideal for those who want to enjoy some peace. They also have picnic tables and grills.
Pack a picnic basket and relax by the lake! Or take a swim in it! Theres also a gravel swimming beach. But it is closed until 2022.
You can also enjoy the hiking trails on foot or on a bike. Explore 1200 acres of land! Please note that when the trails are wet, then it is closed. So, make sure to call the park in advance if you want to enjoy the trails.
Bring along your fishing equipment too! Enjoy fishing in the 7,500-acre Joe Pool Lake. Your kids can also enjoy some fishing in the perch pond.
This park also offers:
- guided hikes in which you can learn about history and nature
- outdoor skills workshops
Most Popular Texas State Parks
To find the most popular State Parks in Texas I looked into Google Trends as a proxy. I searched for the most Related Queries in the last year for ‘Texas State Parks’. These are the most common searches in order:
For more information about each park read below.
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Discover Camping In Texas
National Park Service
Near Big Bend National Park, Texas
There is a place in Far West Texas where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. Here, at the end of the road, hundreds of bird species take refuge in a solitary mountain range surrounded by weather-beaten desert. Tenacious cactus bloom in sublime sout…
National Park Service
Near Salt Flat, Texas
Come experience mountains and canyons, desert and dunes, night skies and spectacular vistas within a place unlike any other. Guadalupe Mountains National Park protects the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest peaks in Texas, an environmentally diverse collection of flora and …
USDA Forest Service
Near Lufkin, Texas
The National Forests in Texas provide a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities! There are dozens of developed recreation areas and trailheads, offering camping experiences ranging from highly developed to primitive. Camping is offered on a first-come, first-served basis in developed rec…
Lost Maples State Park Natural Area
This park is located 90 miles northwest of San Antonio, TX.
Situates in Texas Hill Country, this area has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times.
The park was opened in 1979 and currently has 2,900 acres for the enjoyment of its visitors.
The emphasis of the property is preservation, hence the addition ‘Natural Area’ to tis name.
The park has an incredible display of bird and plant species.
The landscape is characterized by Maple trees, and is a local favorite to watch the changing colors of fall foliage.
There are about 10 miles of rocky and challenging trails.
Besides hiking there is also fishing. Nevertheless, stargazing is one of the most unforgettable experiences in the park. Because it is in such a natural and secluded location, it makes it almost free of light pollution. Source: BackroadsTexas.net
In case you want to get the most of stargazing, you can check this telescope found on Amazon Celestron – AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Telescope. This is a beginner’s telescope, easy to carry and portable. Ideal to take to Lost Maples or other parks mentioned before. With this telescope you can observe Venus and Jupiter complete with four of its moons.
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Mission Tejas State Park
Mission Tejas, a sleepy spot tucked away deep in the Piney Woods, honors a nearby site where Spain attempted to maintain its territorial claims in East Texas. In 1690, in an effort to limit French incursions and to convert native tribes to Christianity, Captain Alonso de León led an expedition to establish the first mission in the province of Texas near the Neches River. Smallpox, drought, and cultural clashes led to the missions abandonment only four years later. The mission was re-established and abandoned two more times in the following years. By 1730, the Spanish had abandoned the mission for good.
This log cabin offered early 19th-century travelers a respite along El Camino Real, which connected San Antonio to Nacogdoches and points beyond.
In 1934, the CCC built the park, including a chapel to commemorate the Spaniards missionary efforts. The parks 1828 Rice Family Log Home is one of the oldest buildings in the area. The log cabinoriginally built 16 miles awayoffered early 19th-century travelers food and lodging on El Camino Real, which connected San Antonio to Nacogdoches and points beyond. In 1973, the log cabin was donated to the park and moved to its current site. Visitors can tour the two historic structures, camp in the small campground tucked away in a shady hollow, and walk several miles of trails. Highlights of the trails include a pond and the hilltop site of an old fire lookout tower.