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Stunning State Parks in Texas to Explore

Texas might seem barren and deserted like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Rather, it mostly looks like rivers, creeks, hills, and dense vegetation covering scenic walking trails, wildlife, and history!

Essentially, travelling to one of these state parks enhances the cloudy image of Texas in people’s minds. Furthermore, it enhances their sense of well-being. These state parks boast their focus on wellness, family travel, pet-friendly facilities and education.

GPS systems like geocaching, ranger programmes and wildlife education centres make it easy for you to enjoy these parks from all over the world. In essence, every state park has something unique to explore. However, all of them have one thing in common: adventure! With that said, let us look at some of the most stunning state parks in Texas that guide you into a total state of awe.

Garner State Park, 2023
Image: Garner State Park, 2023

Garner State Park

Located on the southern edge of the Hill Country, the Garner State Park is any traveller’s dream. Opened in 1941, spending summers here become one of the most popular activities in Texas. Travel up to Baldy Hill during fall to see the entire outline of the river. Due to the season, the Bald Cypress trees lining the river bank turn warm in colour and highlight the beauty of the river. The Frio River is 4.6 kilometres long, winding through 1,774 acres of scenic Hill Country terrain.

Garner State Park offers you 25 kilometres of scenic trails to hike or bike. You also have the opportunity to canoe, fish, play miniature golf, study nature, camp, and geocache. Geocaching is a popular modern-day treasure hunt that is done using a GPS unit or an app downloaded on your phone. Enjoy this activity during the day whilst dancing alongside 400 people on the dancefloor during the evenings.

If you want to extend your day pass into a weekend getaway, Garner State Park has screened shelters, cabins, campsites and group campsites available for booking.

Inks Lake State Park 2023
Image: Inks Lake State Park (2023)

Inks Lake State Park

This is the park where you can scuba dive, water ski, fish and swim. Certainly, Inks Lake State Park holds bucketloads of adventure! Located just an hour northwest of Austin, this natural water park provides the perfect wellness pastime. The large, no-wake zone for paddling offers swimmers a relaxing and meditative ascension into escapism. Shimmering blue water, vibrant rock boulders, and striking sunsets sound like a tropical paradise. But it’s only Inks Lake State Park!

Perhaps a little cliff-jumping sounds worth trying?  At Inks Lake State Park, the Devil’s Water Hole awaits. This is where mediocre daredevils congregate for the ultimate jump. Paddle boats are also up for 24-hour rentals and you can park them right across your campsite!

Not a water freak? No problem. How about volleyball, backpacking, nature observations, or geocaching? In addition to camping, there are 14 kilometres of hiking and biking trails available.

The best time to visit this park is during July, with an average high of 36 degrees Celsius. If you want to stay longer than a day, Inks Lake State Park offers you two accommodation options. They have 200 campsites as well as 22 cabins available for booking.

Guadalupe River State Park 2023
Image: Guadalupe River State Park, 2023

Guadalupe River State Park

Close to San Antonio and Austin, the Guadalupe River State Park gives wellness travellers a run for their money! The 4-mile river attracts not only wildlife, birds, and fish, but also many tourists. This time travelling landscape offers a much-needed break from reality.

It has never been easier to re-centre. One of Guadalupe’s main attractions is the birdlife. Photographers from across the world assemble to capture the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler that only nests in the Hill Country. It cannot be found anywhere else on earth! Indeed, if birdwatching is another form of meditation, sign me up!

Come hike and bike the 4.6-kilometre Painted Bunting Trail to the 480-metre River Overlook Trail. Additionally, you can picnic, geocache, canoe, fish and swim. This is usual at Texan parks at this point. However, Guadalupe also offers horseback riding, something which is not that common for other state parks in Texas. They also have a Discovery Centre which is focused on nature and biology.

Want to stay longer? Guadalupe has 85 water and electric campsites, along with nine walk-in tent sites.

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Dinosaur Valley State Park 2023
Image: Dinosaur Valley State Park, 2023

Dinosaur Valley State Park

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The Dinosaur Valley State Park, located in Glen Rose, is known as the dinosaur capital of Texas. This park is a mere hour’s drive from Dallas. Tracks in this area were first made famous by a paleontologist named Ronald T. Bird. Moreover, the Paluxy River encapsulates ancient, pre-human times within its banks.

Gigantic footprints are impressed into hard stone that was once the rim of an ancient ocean. These footprints of meat-eating creatures attract many tourists every year. Furthermore, the clear blue water gliding through the Hill Country is swoon-worthy.

The park offers activities like swimming, mountain biking, picnicking, wildlife observation, and more. 32-kilometre hiking trails could also be a great pastime for the wellness traveller. Kids could visit the interpretive centre or go on dinosaur discovery tracks. You can even bring your own horse to Dinosaur Valley State Park to explore the 100-acre South Primitive Area! Additionally, camping is available for overnight stays.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Image: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (2023)

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Designated as a global dark sky park, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a go-to park for wishing upon shooting stars! Interestingly, native Americans thought that the Enchanted Rock was inhabited by spirits. Thus, the state park is described as magical and mythical.

The rock was formed billions of years ago. Its form, caused by a volcano’s inability to erupt, attracts many tourists every year. Climbing this dome gives you 360-degree views of the Hill Country. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, giant rock formations and many legends, it’s easy to see why people call this place magical.

Activities include rock climbing, bird study, stargazing, hiking, geocaching and camping. Unfortunately, no biking nor swimming is allowed at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. However, what the park lacks in swimming it makes up for in stargazing. The Loop Trail is open to you after sunset, whence the Enchanted rock invites you to touch the milky way. Return to the campsite after an evening of stargazing to end your day perfectly.

Cedar Hill State Park (2023)
Image: Cedar Hill State Park, 2023

Cedar Hill State Park

Less than 30 minutes from Dallas and Fort Worth, Cedar Hill State Park is known as the ultimate urban oasis. This 1800 acres of property gives you a chance to break away from the hustle and bustle of city life. For the wellness traveller, it’s the best of both worlds!

Relax at the lake or tour an old Texas farm. Take a trip through the rocky limestone hills or peruse the unique prairie pockets. Cedar Hill is the ultimate wellness experience. The park features the Penn Farm, an old homestead with original buildings dating back to 1859. There are also annual events such as the ‘Days of Old Celebration’ which give you a taste of times past.

Staying over is also easy with the park’s 350 developed campsites, all of which have restrooms with hot showers nearby. Cedar Hill State Park sits on the shore of the Joe Pool Lake where you can swim, fish, boat or paddle. Hikers are also accommodated with the Dorba trail which intersects 1 200 acres of land. If this sounds good, be sure to check out 5 epic water parks in Texas to put on your bucket list.

Lower McKinney Falls State Park 2023
Image: McKinney Falls State Park, 2023

McKinney Falls State Park

Featuring the spectacular Onion Creek, McKinney Falls State Park offers you an unforgettable experience. With the sound of water flowing over limestone ledges and splashing into pools, relaxation has never been easier. Just 20 kilometres away from Austin, this urban oasis offers activities such as hiking, camping, mountain and road biking, geocaching, bouldering and picnicking.

Additionally, historical sites are open to exploration. Remains of an early Texas homestead and an ancient rock shelter await. You can swim and fish in Onion Creek, or hike 14 kilometres of trails. McKinney Park is truly the Mediterranean in the middle of the lone star state! They also have cabins for an easygoing stay.

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McKinney Falls State Park, 2023
Image: McKinney Falls State Park, 2023

Just Relax Y’all

Life’s short! Why not explore some of the most stunning state parks in Texas while you still can? Everything’s bigger in Texas and so is the opportunity to explore, relax and learn. It’s good for the soul, so just do it already!

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Hi there! I’m Megan, an absolute lover of words, literature, books, stories, anything that has to do with writing, reading, imagining. Because of my passion, I decided to make writing my life, and with that, I decided to study BA Languages at the University of Pretoria and am happy to report that I made my dream come true by graduating and becoming a travel writer. During my final year I wrote for my campus newspaper, the PDBY, where I learned to trust my writing voice. Now, as I sit here writing my petit little bio, I feel more in love with writing than I’ve ever been. Turns out, like much of my personality, my writing can equally showcase both the calm and put-together, as well as the crazy.