You can visit each one of the Texas' state parks and it will take you over two years of weekends to cover them all! Over 120 state parks are in operation in Texas and each one is unique, offering a variety of activities from historical re-enactments and star gazing to multi-media nature walks and camping. Covering almost 270,000 square miles, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department breaks up the state into seven key areas to make searching for state park accommodations and activities easier, depending on your geographical area of choice. Each area is distinct and offers unique activities that you may not find anywhere else in the state.
The Panhandle Plains Area
Noted cities such as Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, and San Angelo are located in the Panhandle Plains and 12 Texas State Parks can be found in the region. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is particularly noted for its 16,000 acres of canyon land and scenic driving. An amphitheater onsite puts on historic re-enactments for visitors and the stables offers tours of the canyon on horseback in addition to wagon rides and campfire activities. There are campsites with water and electric for tent and RV camping as well as primitive tent-only sites that require hiking to reach.
Fort Richardson State Park is a historical site and was once a fort during the Civil War. Many of the original fort buildings have been restored and guided historical tours are often given. Military war re-enactments are common and the nature trails established here are top notch with some meandering around creeks and lakes that provide plenty of swimming and fishing opportunities. Many of the other Texas' state parks in the panhandle area have lakes and offer a variety of water activities.
Prairies and Lakes Area
The Dallas-Fort Worth area falls within the Texas State Parks Prairies and Lakes area and contains 32 park locations - nine are historic sites that are perfect for learning more about Texas history. Dinosaur Valley State Park is aptly named because of its many dinosaur tracks that can be found beautifully preserved along the riverbed bottoms. The camping facilities, river swimming, fishing, hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking options are excellent options to pursue during a visit.
Washington on the Brazos State Park may not have camping facilities onsite but the park grounds skirting along the Brazos River offers picnicking, bird watching, and intriguing glimpses into Texas' history with the Barrington Living Farm on the premises offering tours by guides dressed in period costume. Nearby Lake Somerville State Park offers camping, water sports such as swimming, boating, fishing, and water skiing and even equestrian and nature trails.
The Pineywoods and Gulf Coast Areas
The Pineywoods offers some wonderful Texas' state parks with lakes which means you can find plenty of swimming, boating, fishing, and waterskiing opportunities. Lake Livingston is a popular location nestled amidst towering pine trees and offers horseback riding opportunities in addition to its clean campsites and water sports. The Gulf Coast region encompasses a large stretch from the Galveston area down to Port Isabel, near the Mexico border. The Battleship Texas near the Houston area is a popular historical site with the museum and tours housed within an actual battleship. Nearby camping opportunities abound in Galveston and Sheldon Lake.
Brazos Bend State Park is perhaps one of the most unique Texas State Parks because of its abundance of wildlife, alligators in particular. It also has one of the largest telescopes open to the public in their George Observatory, in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science. On weekends, amateur astronomers have their telescopes pointed to the heavens and offer peeks to the general public. Mustang Island State Park near Corpus Christi has beachfront camping as well as many water activities such as fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking, and bird watching.
Hill Country, South Texas Plains and Big Bend Country
The Texas state parks in the Hill Country, South Texas Plains and Big Bend Country all offer unique perspectives of the state with the vast differences of terrain. The Hill Country is particularly interesting with several parks containing waterfalls and caverns just ripe for exploring while others are home to large populations of bats. Particular park favorites in this area include Pedernales Falls, Devil's Sinkhole, and Longhorn Cavern.
The South Texas Plains stretches from San Antonio to the tip of the state in Brownsville and holds a number of Texas State Parks with historic sites, perfect for educational tours. Goliad State Park is particularly notable with its nearby Fannin Battleground, restored missions, and presidios. Big Bend Country is rugged and stark with its open lands but is rich in ancient Texas history too. Hueco Tanks Historical site has many rocky climbs that are punctuated with pictographs, a legacy of the Native American Indians many years ago. Big Bend Ranch offers a real look at the old American West with guided horseback and wagon tours and even opportunities to watch longhorn round-ups.
From the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the rugged canyons of the Panhandle, every park location is like a jewel in the Texas' state parks crown. They shine in different ways so you can satisfy your thirst for outdoor adventure whether it is inner-tubing down a river, building a sandcastle, or exploring an old Spanish mission.