Affiliate Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if readers clicks through and make a purchase. See Affiliate Disclosure here.

13 Best Texas State Parks To Put On Your Bucket List

Texas has too many beautiful state parks to count so it can be a really difficult decision to choose which one to visit.

That’s where we come in!

We’ve done all the hard work for you and picked out the 13 best Texas state parks that absolutely deserve a spot on your bucket list.

From deep canyons and towering sand dunes to vast lakes filled with crocs, this list has it all.

Many of these epic state parks also feature on-site campsites so they are ideal for weekend getaways!

I promise you won’t be disappointed as every park on this list is truly breathtaking.

Let’s get exploring!

1. Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is a huge 311,000-acre park in Texas, located near the Mexico border.

It’s famous for its breathtaking landscapes which include vast deserts, rugged mountains and long, winding rivers. 

One of the coolest things about this park is its night sky. It’s so clear that you can see millions of stars meaning it’s perfect for stargazing. 

You can hike along various trails including the Closed Canyon which takes you through a narrow slot canyon or you could go rafting on the Rio Grande River. 

Mountain biking is also big here with miles of challenging trails that offer amazing views. It’s pretty exhilarating!

If you’re into photography then the park’s scenic vistas and wildlife are a dream come true. 

It’s actually the largest state park in the whole of Texas so there’s always something new to explore. 

Spring is a great time to visit as the desert comes alive with colorful wildflowers. It’s breathtaking.

2. Lost Maples State Natural Area

Lost Maples State Natural Area is a beautiful 2,906-acre park that is tucked away in the Hill Country near Vanderpool. 

It’s most famous for its stunning fall colors where the bigtooth maple trees turn to vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. 

Unlike other parts of Texas, this area gives you a real taste of autumn right here in the Lone Star State. 

Hiking is a big deal at Lost Maples. You’ll find trails that lead you through beautiful scenery and past clear, spring-fed streams. 

For those who like a bit of a challenge, there are paths that climb up to high cliffs, offering amazing views of the hills and valleys below. 

Birdwatching is another popular activity as there are so many different birds to spot. Fall and spring are especially good times for this.

Lost Maples is also home to some unique wildlife species including the rare golden-cheeked warbler!

Camping is also an option. There are several sites where you can set up your tent under the stars. It’s very relaxing.

An insider tip is to visit during the week if you can because weekends get pretty crowded especially in October and November. 

3. Garner State Park

Garner State Park is a beautiful park located in the Hill Country in the small town of Concan. 

It’s famous for the 2.9-mile long Frio River that runs through it. People come here to swim, paddle and even tube on hot summer days.

The park is also known for its fun summer tradition of nightly dances at the concession building. This tradition has been going on since the 1940s. 

Hiking is popular here with over 16 miles of trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding hills and the crystal-clear river. It’s remarkable.

For those who like to camp, Garner State Park has plenty of spots where you can pitch a tent or park an RV. It’s perfect for a weekend getaway. 

One of the coolest things about the park is Old Baldy which is a huge limestone hill that you can climb up for an amazing view of the Hill Country. 

Birdwatchers will also love it here too because there are lots of different bird species to see. 

4. Caprock Canyons State Park

Caprock Canyons State Park is a hidden gem in Texas. You’ll find it in the Panhandle region, not too far from the small town of Quitaque. 

This 15,314-acre park is famous for its dramatic red rock canyons and rugged landscape which makes you feel like you’re on an adventure in a wild, untouched part of the world. 

One of the coolest things about Caprock Canyons is that it’s home to the official Texas State Bison Herd which you’ll see roaming freely around the park. 

You can hike on trails that take you up close to these magnificent animals and explore more of the park’s beautiful scenery.

The park features more than 90 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and even horseback riding. There’s really something for everyone. 

For those who love to camp, there are spots where you can set up a tent under the stars or park your RV.

Fishing is another fun activity here with Lake Theo offering a peaceful spot to catch fish. 

5. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is an incredible spot in the Texas Panhandle, not too far from the city of Amarillo. 

It’s famous for being the second-largest canyon in the United States and is affectionately nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. It’s 120 miles long and 20 miles wide.

The canyon’s beautiful red and orange colors make sunrise and sunset views absolutely breathtaking. You need to see it for yourself, photos don’t do it justice.

Visitors love to hike and bike along the 30 miles of trails that wind through the canyon. You’ll be able to get up close views of the stunning rock formations. 

One of the most popular hikes leads to the Lighthouse peak which is a towering rock formation. It’s a must-see, for sure. 

During the summer, the park even hosts an outdoor musical drama called “Texas” that tells the story of early Texas settlers. It’s really fun to watch. 

Horseback riding is another cool way to explore the park. There are many guided tours available that take you along scenic paths. 

There’s also a chance to see the beautiful Texas longhorn cattle up close as they roam freely in parts of the park.

6. Monahans Sandhills State Park

Monahans Sandhills State Park is a unique 3,840-acre park located in West Texas, near the town of Monahans. 

It’s famous for its vast sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. It really makes you feel like you’re in a desert far away from Texas. 

One of the most popular activities here is sand surfing or sledding down the huge dunes on specially made boards. It’s super fun for people of all ages. 

Besides the thrill of sliding down sand dunes, you can also explore the park on foot or horseback and just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and the stunning scenery. 

The park isn’t just sand – it also has areas full of hardy desert plants and animals that have adapted to live in this tough environment. 

At night, the sky is so clear that stargazing is an unforgettable experience with millions of stars visible. It’s extraordinary.

An interesting fact is that the park’s dunes are always moving and changing shape because of the wind so the landscape never stays the same. 

For those who want to stay overnight, there are campsites available where you can sleep under the stars. 

7. Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is located about two hours northwest of Austin, right in the heart of the Hill Country. 

This park is most famous for Gorman Falls which is a stunning 70-foot waterfall that feels like a hidden jungle oasis in the middle of Texas. There’s nothing quite like it.

People come here to hike and explore over 35 miles of trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks with rewarding views. 

Lars Plougmann / Flickr

Besides hiking, you can also go kayaking or fishing on the Colorado River which actually flows right through the park. It’s a great place to cool down on a hot day. 

One unique thing about Colorado Bend is its caves. There are many guided tours available that take you underground to explore these mysterious spaces. 

Chris Vreeland / Flickr

For those who love a challenge, the park even offers some of the best wild cave tours in the state. These allow you to crawl and climb your way through an untouched cave system!

It’s not for the faint-hearted! 

Colorado Bend is also a great spot for birdwatching as many different bird species call the park home.

8. Davis Mountains State Park

Davis Mountains State Park is located in West Texas, near the town of Fort Davis. It offers a cool escape with its higher elevation and mountain scenery. 

This park is famous for its breathtaking views of the Davis Mountains which are often referred to as the “Texas Alps”. 

One of the best things to do here is to visit the historic Indian Lodge which is an old motel built in the 1930s that looks like something from an old movie. 

For those who love stargazing, the nearby McDonald Observatory offers star parties where you can gaze at the night sky through powerful telescopes. 

Hiking and mountain biking are also popular activities with trails like the Skyline Drive Trail offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. 

Birdwatching is another favorite activity as the park is home to a wide variety of bird species including the rare Montezuma quail. 

Fort Davis National Historic Site is just a short drive away. This is a great place where you can learn about the frontier military life in the 1800s. 

Another plus is that the cool mountain air makes it a great summer destination to beat the Texas heat.

9. Seminole Canyon State Park

Seminole Canyon State Park is a fascinating place located in West Texas, near the Rio Grande. 

It’s famous for its ancient rock art with paintings made by Native Americans over 4,000 years ago!

These incredible pieces of history can be seen on guided tours that take you into the canyon to explore the sites. It’s really fascinating.

Besides learning about the past, you can also hike along various trails that offer stunning views of the canyon and the desert landscape. 

One of the trails leads to the Rio Grande. You can see exactly where the river has carved its way through the land. 

The park is particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset with the colors of the rocks changing with the light. 

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer and bobcats, which you might spot during your visit. Mountain lions are even seen from time to time.

10. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is located in Central Texas, near Fredericksburg. 

It’s famous for its massive 424 ft pink granite dome that rises high above the ground. It’s a sight that’s both beautiful and mysterious. 

People come from all over to hike to the top of Enchanted Rock which offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Texas Hill Country. 

The rock is also known for its folklore as many Native American tribes claim it has spiritual powers. Some people even say that it’s haunted by a Native American princess!

Besides hiking, you can also take part in rock climbing. There are various routes available for both beginners and experienced climbers. 

At night, the park is an excellent spot for stargazing, thanks to its clear skies and minimal light pollution. 

An interesting fact is that Enchanted Rock is one of the largest rock formations of its kind in the United States. 

11. Inks Lake State Park

Inks Lake State Park is a refreshing area located in the Hill Country of Texas, not too far from Burnet. 

It’s famous for its beautiful, sparkling blue lake which always stays at a constant level. Therefore it’s perfect for all kinds of water activities year-round. 

People come here to swim, kayak and even scuba dive in the clear waters of Inks Lake. 

Fishing is another popular activity with plenty of spots to catch bass, catfish and sunfish. 

For those who prefer to stay on land, the park also offers miles of hiking trails that wind through rocky hills and shaded forests. 

One of the coolest features is Devil’s Waterhole which is a small extension of the lake that is surrounded by cliffs that people can jump off into the water below. Try it out if you dare!

Camping here is a real treat with sites right by the lake, offering stunning views and a peaceful atmosphere. 

The park is actually a part of the Highland Lakes chain which means there are lots of other waterways to explore nearby. 

12. Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a 5,212-acre natural area located in the Hill Country of Texas, just east of Johnson City. 

It’s famous for the stunning Pedernales River that flows over huge slabs of limestone, creating cascading waterfalls and cool, clear pools. 

One of the main attractions is the Pedernales Falls. You can stand by and watch the river tumble over and around massive rocks. It’s pretty impressive.

Hiking is very popular here. There are numerous trails that offer everything from easy walks to challenging treks with great views of the river and hills. 

Swimming isn’t allowed near the falls due to strong currents but there is a designated swimming area upstream where the water is calmer. 

For those who like to camp, the park has sites for tents and RVs so it’s the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. 

The park’s terrain can change dramatically with heavy rains so it’s always a new experience even if you’ve been before.

Plus, there are trails specifically for horseback riding which offers a unique way to explore the beautiful landscapes.

13. Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park is a wild and wonderful park located in Southeast Texas, not far from Houston. 

It’s famous for its large population of American alligators that live in the park’s lakes and marshes!

You can walk along trails that get really close to these amazing creatures, but don’t worry, there are plenty of signs and guidelines to keep everyone safe. 

Besides gator watching, the park also features many excellent fishing spots. The lakes are full of catfish, bass and crappie. 

Hiking and biking are popular too with over 37 miles of trails that wind through forests, prairies and wetlands. 

Bird watching is another big attraction as over 300 species of birds have been spotted in the park.

The George Observatory, which is also located within the park, offers various stargazing events throughout the year where you can look at stars and planets through their telescopes.

Tom Jackson

Tom was born in San Antonio but spent most of his childhood in Dallas, he has lived in several cities across Texas and joined the team in 2024 to create travel guides on Texas.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

Share to...