Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
Guide to the Best National Parks in Texas
If you are looking for a new adventure, then take a look at this list of the best National Parks in Texas to explore. There are the national parks and monuments (many of which are run by the National Park Service) that you can visit while in the Lone Star State! If you want to go on an epic trip, here is your guide.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is an iconic park in west Texas along the Rio Grande about 300 miles southeast of El Paso that encompasses more than 800,000 acres on the Mexican border. It was founded in 1944 to protect the Chihuahuan Desert and Big Bend Ranch State Park--which has been called one of America's last great wildernesses. The terrain ranges from the rugged Chisos Mountains to desert plains: it’s a place where you can see wildlife like javelinas, black bears, deer and coyotes! Hint: stay at the Chisos Mountain Lodge.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The Guadalupe Mountains are considered one of the most scenic mountain parks in Texas (if not the entire United States) and home to its highest peaks. Established as a national monument back in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt so people would be able to enjoy its natural beauty. Today there are plenty of trails for hiking and camping, as well as the Guadalupe Peak Trail--which is considered one of Texas' most difficult hikes and goes to its highest point, Guadalupe Peak!
Padre Island National Seashore
One of America's first national seashores, Padre Island was established in 1961. Near Corpus Christi, the park offers more than 130 miles of beachfront and tidal flats to explore: you can go on a day hike or birding expedition (with many bird species to explore); alligator watching tours are always popular too! You might also take some time out for fishing or surfing if you're into that kind of thing. If not then just relax with a book at the shoreline while listening to the waves crash against the sand. It'll be your own private paradise retreat. Sounds pretty good right? Well it is.
Guadalupe River State Park
The Guadalupe River is the second longest river in Texas and it’s also a state park near San Antonio! The beautiful scenic area offers plenty of hiking trails, fishing opportunities (there are trout!), kayaking on the calm waters, or just sitting back with a good book at one of their many picnic areas. You can camp out here too if you want to really get away from everything for awhile--and there's even an RV park nearby should you need one. This place has something for everyone: so don't miss this opportunity to explore all that it has to offer while visiting Texas!
Palo Duro Canyon State Historic Site
A beautiful canyon that was carved out by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River in the Texas Panhandle, this state park has been called one of the most scenic places in Texas. Established back in 1924--it's a serene and peaceful place to enjoy some quiet time with nature as you explore its beauty via horseback or hiking trails (there are 13 miles worth!). The old-fashioned town also offers plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining too: so bring your appetite!
Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park is a 90,000 acre park that was established back in 1974. It has plenty of hiking trails for all levels and it also offers opportunities to horseback or bike ride too (there are 12 miles worth!). You'll find many different areas along the Brazos River here: from lagoons to marshes--it's truly an amazing place with something for everyone!
Caddo Lake State Park
This is one of the oldest national parks in Texas and it's absolutely stunning. The area was first established back in 1937 as a wildlife refuge but today there are around 50,000 acres to explore! It has been designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve: which aims to ensure that human activities don't interfere with nature--and making sure this precious place remains untouched forever.
If you want an outdoor adventure then Caddo Lake offers plenty for everyone from biking; kayaking or hiking (the trails here offer beautiful views too). There's also fishing available on site if you fancy having a go at reeling something out of the water yourself! No matter what time of year it is, this park will not disappoint so get exploring while you still can.
Briscoe County Memorial Museum
This place is a must-see for historical buffs! Established in 1952, the museum tells all about life of those who live on the Texas frontier. You can explore their old fashioned buildings--including a general store and blacksmith shop; take part in living history demonstrations like quilting or butter churning too. A great way to learn more about what it was really like back then when people's lives were so hard but they still managed to survive against all odds.
Big Thicket National Preserve
The Big Thicket National Preserve is a mixed-use national park. It protects 26,000 acres of East Texas forest that includes bogs, bayous and piney woods: which are all home to more than 40 rare plant species! The preserve also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking; hunting or bird watching (there's even an owls nest!).
The Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park
Established by Congress in 1973, this national historical site tells about President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s life as well as his contribution to history during his time spent in public service. The ranch where he grew up is located on 200 acres within the park boundaries--and there you can see the places where he once played, learned and lived.
Balmorhea State Park
If you're looking for a park that has something to offer everyone then this is it! There are five different lakes here--and they range in size from small to large so there's plenty of opportunities for swimming or fishing too (the largest lake is around 160 acres). The area was first established as a state park back in 1934: but only became part of the National Historic Landmarks Program in 2007. Here people can enjoy camping; picnicking, horseback riding and more all year round.
The place also offers breathtaking views: especially if you take time out on some of the hiking trails like Lost Mine Trail or Red Canyon Fault Line Trail.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
If you're looking for a national park that's located close to home then this is the one. The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge was first established in 1919 and now it covers an area of more than 116,000 acres! It offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking; hunting or wildlife viewing (there are even places where people can camp). There's also some excellent bird watching here too: there are around 225 different species on display each year--so get ready for all kinds of amazing sights and sounds!
The Big Bend Area Outdoor Museum
Established back in 1968 by Texas artist Howard Cook: this museum showcases how life used to be before modern conveniences were invented. You'll find re-creations of buildings where people used to live; you'll also find replicas of the old general store and blacksmith's shop too. The museum offers a glimpse into how life was back in those days--and it's fascinating!
The Fort Davis National Historic Site
In 1854, US Army forces were ordered to establish two separate military posts: one near Wichita Falls and another at what is now Fort Davis (near Alpine). This area became part of the Chihuahuan desert ecosystem: which includes more than 20 different habitat types including deserts, savannahs, woodlands and grassland plains as well as some mountain ranges like Guadalupe Mountains. It's an incredible place with lots of interesting history behind its formation that should not be missed!
Fort Davis National Historic Site is also home to the Fort Davis Historical Museum: where you'll find plenty of information on life during this time period. You can learn about how army troops lived back then as well as what they did in their downtime too (like at the old cinema for example). There's a lot here so don't forget your camera!
Sea Rim State Park
Located in Southeast Texas just north of Beaumont and south of Sabine Pass: this park offers something for everyone. The coastal area includes a variety of habitats including sand dunes, maritime forests as well as freshwater marshes which makes it perfect for wildlife viewing. There are plenty of places to camp here too--and there's also opportunities for fishing; swimming or boating during the warmer months.
It was established back in 1987 on an old oil field that had been abandoned since 1923 so little by little nature is reclaiming its rightful place now! You can explore more than 500 acres over six trails here too: with lots going on from camping spots to scenic views (it really does have everything you need!).
Dinosaur Valley State Park
The park is home to some of the most well-preserved dinosaur tracks in North America--and it's also a great place for outdoor activities too. There are more than 12 miles worth of trails here over hilly terrain which means there's plenty of opportunities for hiking; horseback riding and biking (plus fishing during the warmer months).
You can go kayaking or canoeing on Paluxy River: as well as exploring part of Dinosaur Valley State Park Museum where you'll find all sorts of information about life back then including how local Native Americans survived with few resources available to them. If that sounds like your kind of thing then this is an excellent place to visit!
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
This place is an old quarry dating back to the early 1800's: and it was once one of the world's most productive sources for flint! You'll find 18 different pits here that offer some great opportunities to explore--and there are also plenty of exhibits about local Native American culture as well. It really has everything you need (plus stunning views across the surrounding prairies too).
There's a visitor center with lots of information on what life was like all those years ago including how people mined for flint, processed materials at home or sold their goods in town so be sure to check this out first before exploring pit areas. The park also includes several trails which means it should appeal equally to outdoor enthusiasts and historians alike. If you're looking for a fun and educational day out then this is well worth checking out!
City of Rocks National Reserve
This national reserve in central New Mexico has some incredible rock formations--and it's also home to the ruins of an early 1900s ghost town. The area was first inhabited by Native Americans back before European settlers arrived but that all changed when gold rush fever hit nearby communities (people started moving here from all across the region). It was abandoned after just one year though: with miners eventually giving up on their search once they found nothing so everyone left. Today, you can explore around 20 miles' worth of trails through these beautiful landscapes while listening to stories about what life used to be like during its heyday too.
Amistad National Recreation Area
This national recreation area is located in Del Rio, Texas--and it's a great place to explore during the warmer months. There are opportunities for swimming; fishing and picnicking as well as exploring around 800 acres of beautiful landscape including a big lake where you'll find all sorts of wildlife too (don't forget your camera!).
The park was established back in 1965 on land that had been donated by local rancher Joe Piela: so today there are plenty of hiking trails across this stunning natural environment which spans more than 80 miles' worth! It has something for everyone so don't miss out if you're passing through this region.
Presidential Park - Elkhorn Ranch State Historical Site
Located just off Highway 71 in Elkhorn, Nebraska this is home to what was once the country's largest cattle ranch. You can still explore some of the original buildings here including a restored 1890s farmhouse and barn: as well as checking out an authentic 1880s chuckwagon too (there are also plenty of tours that take place daily so be sure to check those timetables).
It has something for everyone with easy access from nearby towns--plus you'll find more than 15 miles worth of hiking trails across natural terrain where wildlife roam free. It really does have everything you need!
There are lots of opportunities for outdoor activities at Presidential Park - Elkhorn Ranch State Historical Site which means it should appeal equally to history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike: so it's a perfect day out for the whole family.
Waco Mammoth National Monument
This monument takes place within 150 acres of beautiful landscape in Waco, Texas and is home to the remains of at least 24 Columbian mammoths who were killed by mammoth hunters about 11,000 years ago. The area was first inhabited back before 12,500 BC when people hunted small game animals: but it's believed that a large ice-age event happened around this time which changed everything (it became too cold for most wildlife).
Today you can explore these fossilized bones while listening to stories from your expert guide--you'll also find some great opportunities for geology exploration across all those limestone hills as well so don't miss out! It really has something suitable for everyone with plenty of unique exhibits here and lots more besides.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
This national historical park in San Antonio, Texas is a great place to visit during the warm months and spans more than 20 acres of beautiful landscape. You'll find four different missions here from back before European settlers arrived--and they were founded by Spanish missionaries who wanted to convert Native Americans living on this land (they had been granted permission by King Philip II). It's pretty fascinating stuff!
Today you can explore these sites while listening to stories about what life was like for those early inhabitants too: with plenty of outdoor activities and exhibits that are suitable for everyone as well. There really has something for everyone at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park so don't miss out if you're passing through the region.
Final Thoughts on National Parks in Texas
These iconic parks are national landmarks and worth a trip if you happen to be in the area...
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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
— John Muir