Some of the best state parks in Texas are spread all across the state and in this post, I want to share 15 that I consider to be at the top of the list.
To my surprise when I started researching the best state parks in Texas, I was surprised to know there are less than 100 of them across such a giant state, but that’s in regards to places that are classified as state parks. There are obviously also national parks, local parks and national recreation areas all throughout the state as well, but this list (with the exception of 2 spots because they are absolutely stunning) only focuses on the state parks themselves. So what are they?
The 14 best state parks in Texas:
- Caprock Canyons State Park
- Colorado Bend State Park
- Lake Tawakoni State Park
- Garner State Park
- Enchanted Rock State Park and Natural Area
- Guadalupe River State Park
- Longhorn Cavern State Park
- Eisenhower State Park
- Kickapoo State Park
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park
- Seminole Canyon State Park
- Big Bend Ranch State Park
- Hamilton Pool Preserve (not a state park)
- Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center (not a state park)
Each state park (and the 2 places last on this list which are not state parks but nature gems in general) all have their own amazing combination of adventures to offer and I’ll share with you exactly the type of activities available with each spot.
Caprock Canyons State Park:
When I first discovered this amazing state park in Texas, I honestly thought there was some mistake with the map listings and that’s because this place looks a lot like Sedona, which is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited in the states (it’s in Arizona) and I would say it’s a great alternative to see this place if you can since it’s less crowded here.
But later I learned that this specific state park is in Texas, that it’s absolutely amazing and has a lot to offer which is:
- Amazing red rock terrain and mountains.
- Great hiking trails and off road vehicle adventures.
- Sightseeing adventures.
- And much more.
Given the parks I’ve seen in Texas, this one easily rates as one of the top 3 without question and it’s located in north western Texas.
Colorado Bend State Park:
While the name of this park says Colorado, it’s still in Texas and it’s a very beautiful park I would highly recommend you add to any list of state parks to see in this state. What makes Colorado Bend State Park so cool isn’t just that it has a lot of awesome hiking trails and amazing views, but one of the main features of the park is an amazing waterfall called Gorman Falls (and Gorman Cave) which is a very nice looking waterfall (not very large) that drops from green mossy areas.
It’s hard to describe it until you see it yourself (which I have added a picture of for reference but it’s much better to be there yourself), but this feature, plus the greater park area (it’s actually not that large) make it an awesome place to visit (you can also camp at Colorado Bend State Park too). If you are wondering about the hike to this waterfall, it’s easy for the most part (and short).
Lake Tawakoni State Park:
This park is located east of Dallas and has a lot of variety for adventuring (or just relaxing).
It has tons of amenities too including:
- Cliff jumping.
- Hiking trails.
- And all sorts of other activities to try (RV and camping also allowed).
Additionally showers, bathrooms, picnic tables and more are also provided in this park. Its one of the most convenient state parks in Texas to check out. There are also great spots in this park to witness sunsets. This picture I added isn’t very good, but believe me there is a lot of great things to see in this state park.
Garner State Park:
Garner State Park is a small but great place to visit especially for relaxing family day trips. It’s basically a river area for the most part where a lot of people gather for BBQ, picnics and boating (swimming as well). The area is also very scenic whether at the base of the park or in one of the hiking trails that takes you to the top.
One of the key gems in this park is a place called Crystal Cave you can hike to, something to consider if you don’t just want to sit around the river. It’s also considered the most popular park in Texas. Also do note how clear and beautiful the water is in this park. Another thing you may want to consider is visiting this state park during fall foliage which is usually around mid October. As nice as this area is, it’s always better when you add in autumn colors to it!
Enchanted Rock State Park:
The main feature of Enchanted Rock State Park (and natural area as it’s called) is the giant dome shaped mountain in the middle of it. Looking at, it reminds me a lot of the type of terrain/views I saw in places like Yosemite National Park (also has dome shaped mountains but to be fair most of them are much higher and even larger).
Enchanted Rock can be hiked up to with great views at the top. There are also other hiking trails around the area and overall, this park is also not very big, but there’s a lot to do in the area there in general. Obviously from the Enchanted Rock area, sunset views are going to be great and the trails in this park are simple to follow. Aside from this, there isn’t much else to do but you can easily spend a whole day in this park and have it be fulfilling.
Guadalupe River State Park:
Guadalupe River State Park is very similar in views and things to do as Garner State Park is in that:
It’s also a river area where a lot of people relax at, swim in and kayak on. At the same time, the views of the river, the hiking trails around it and the things to do are also awesome. One side of the river is a beach while the other is a canyon which you can hike to. I would even say that Guadalupe River State Park is more scenic than Garner State Park but if BBQ, picnicking with the family and having a relaxing day is your goal, then this is one of the best state parks in Texas for that. This park is located about 1 hour south east of Austin and like Garner State Park, I would highly recommend you visit when the autumn colors come around which is also around mid October.
Longhorn Cavern State Park:
This state park in Texas is very different than every other place you’ve seen so far on this list. The main feature of it (that makes it more unique) is that you are basically exploring the park underground, in literal caverns that are carved out and easy to walk on. This place makes for great, simple adventures and great views of caves, caverns and even museum/historic sites if you’re into that. It’s one of the most “neat” state parks in Texas as well as a good, simple and easy to explore area for tourists visiting the state. There are also a lot of photogenic areas in Longhorn State Park worth doing as you can probably tell. You may want to come here early in the morning or during afternoon hours when the sun is shining through one of the caves for better photogenic opportunities.
Eisenhower State Park:
This is a great state park for boating and kayaking in general and in terms of specifics things to do here:
- You can swim at one of the beaches at Eisenhower State Park.
- You can also kayak to areas around the lake there where you have caves carved in the rock. The views from there somewhat resemble sea caves you’d see on the west coast, in places like Cape Flattery, although I would say those areas look better.
However, if you like Easter Eggs of this nature, then Eisenhower State Park provides a lot of that. And just as well, if these kinds of adventures aren’t all you want to do, there’s way more activities available there in general. Location wise, Eisenhower State Park is north of Dallas and the river/lake there crosses into Oklahoma.
Kickapoo Cavern State Park:
If you like the type of scenery and adventures available in Longhorn Cavern State Park, you should add Kickapoo State Park to your list of state parks in Texas to visit too. Unlike Longhorn though, this state park is a bit more wild in terms of what you can see (and there are less crowds).
There are also the following things to see and do:
- Explore a bat cave (tours available).
- Do some hiking obviously and see the cave from a top.
- Mountain biking is also popular here.
The park isn’t large like many others on this list, but it’s still scenic with a lot to do inside. The closest major city to this park is east of it (San Antonio, 2 hours drive).
Palo Duro Canyon State Park:
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a must see and it absolutely needs to be on this list for a lot of reasons:
The scenery at Palo Duro Canyon State Park is incredible. It’s a lot of red rock areas but not the same as you’d see in Caprock Canyons. The scenery here reminds me a lot of the mountains and canyons you will see in Utah. Second, there are amazing hiking trails that lead you to amazing spots in the park. The most popular hike is called Lighthouse Rock and it’s the iconic area of this park that is most popular to check out. Other than these 2 things, there’s also more hiking trails available, horseback riding, and much more to see. This park is very close to Amarillo Texas and as for the hike, this area closely some cool hikes in Utah, specifically Fisher Towers trail.
Seminole Canyon State Park:
This is another awesome state park I recommend you check out in Texas. The main feature of Seminole Canyon State Park is the actual canyon hike which is also a large cave (there’s ladders, so it’s easy to walk) but inside the canyon/cave are petroglyphs and other cool things to see.
In addition to that, this park is right by the Rio Grande River and has great views, more hikes and things to see (lots of wildlife too). The hikes here are generally easy, good for most people and it’s just a nice spot to explore. Most of what there is to see and do in this park lies within the canyon itself (by the river). On top you will get more flat lands and views of the area but there are some trails by the canyon (on top of it that is) to go around to see into it.
Big Bend Ranch State Park:
This park may be mistaken with Big Bend National Park, but they are 2 entirely different places (but not far from one another). Anyway the main features of Big Bend State Park is the terrain itself and the things to do inside.
There are canyon hikes to explore on the same type of level you’d get in the national park alternative to it, as well as stuff you’d even be able to do in the Grand Canyon. There are also awesome rock formations, glamping available, kayak adventures and much more to explore here. This park is west of Big Bend National Park and is very close to the Mexico border. If you go here, I would strongly recommend doing the “slot canyon” type hikes because you will be able to experience some amazing adventures here.
Hamilton Pool Preserve:
When I first saw Hamilton Pool Preserve, I couldn’t not include it on this list. It is not a state park but how can you not look at this gem and not want to explore it? Well in 2023, I’ve set my sights to do that and I recommend you plan a trip here too.
It’s very close to Austin Texas and might be the top nature gem in the whole state in terms of views. It’s basically a giant sinkhole with a cave and waterfall and the view inside of it reminds me of the giant Ash Cave that is in Hocking Hills State Park (Ohio).
If you’re going to plan a trip to this place, know that you need to reserve for it weeks if not months ahead. Here is the Hamilton Pool reservation site for reference.
Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center:
The last place on this list is also not a state park, but it is beautiful, well worth visiting and that’s why I decided to include it. It’s basically a hike to the area known as Westcave and it is very beautiful to hike to it as well as stand underneath it. What’s even better is that if you are already planning to visit Hamilton Pool Preserve, then you may as well plan a visit here too on the same day since it is close by (and near Austin as well). I don’t have a good picture for this one yet but it will be added soon.
Other questions about these state parks in Texas:
What is the most popular state park in Texas?
There are several very popular state parks in Texas including Caprock Canyons, Garner State Park and Palo Duro Canyon.
How many state parks are in Texas?
There are officially 89 state parks across Texas.
Do Texas State Parks give senior discounts?
Yes there are 2 classes of senior discounts for Texas State Parks, partial and full depending on your age. 65 and older, you can get 50% off and if you are 90 years or older, you can get in for free.
How much does it cost to stay in a Texas state park?
Each state park in Texas has it’s own fee structure. Some are free, while others charge $8 to enter per person or vehicle. Staying in one of these parks, such as on a campsite may be over $20 a night.
Is Texas state park pass worth it?
That depends on which Texas State Parks you plan to visit throughout the year. If the number of parks you plan to visit and their total entry fees are over $70 (which is what it costs), then yes get a Texas State Park Pass.
If you are someone who has been to one or more of these amazing state parks in Texas and/or have suggestions on which other ones to add, let met know!