Texas is the second-largest state in the United States. Hence, It’s not a surprise that there are countless areas to visit and see for tourists and travelers. Also known as The Lone Star State, Texas is most typically associated with cowboys and the wild wild west. But there is more to this state than that. Nowadays, the state is considered the best place to be in if you are a fan of the great outdoors.
Texas is a whopping 268,820 square miles through and through. Its largest city is Houston but its capital is still Austin. It is roughly 10% larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany and Japan. Despite its massive landmass, Texas ranks only 27th globally when it comes to country subdivisions by size.
It is in the southern part of the U.S. and it is pretty easy to determine the borders of the state which is defined by three massive rivers. The Rio Grande creates a natural border between Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas. The Red River, on the other hand, creates a border with Oklahoma and Arkansas up north. Last, is the Sabine River which creates a border with Louisiana from the east.
Visiting Texas should be on every traveler’s list of things to do. But of course, there are a lot of things to consider first. The best step is to first determine when is the best time to visit the state of Texas.
- 1 What is the time zone in Texas?
- 2 When is the best time to visit Texas?
- 3 20 of The Top Texas State Parks
- 3.1 Palo Duro Canyon State Park
- 3.2 Davis Mountain State Park
- 3.3 Big Bend Ranch State Park
- 3.4 Seminole Canyon State Park
- 3.5 Garner State Park
- 3.6 Colorado Bend State Park
- 3.7 Lost Maples State Natural Area
- 3.8 Lake Mineral Wells State Park
- 3.9 Longhorn Cavern State Park
- 3.10 Pedernales Falls State Park
- 3.11 Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
- 3.12 Balmorhea State Park
- 3.13 Monahan Sandhills State Park
- 3.14 Caddo Lake State Park
- 3.15 Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
- 3.16 Big Spring State Park (Howard, Texas)
- 3.17 Eisenhower State Park
- 3.18 Kerrville-Schreiner Park
- 3.19 San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site (a.k.a San Jacinto State Park, TX)
- 3.20 Jim Hogg State Park
What is the time zone in Texas?
First off, travelers should first determine what is the time zone in Texas. In this way, they can plan their schedule ahead of time. If they are going to El Paso, the time zone is Mountain Standard Time (MST) which is approximately 7 hours behind the UTC. If they are going to Houston, then the time followed is the Central Standard Time (CST) which is 6 hours behind the UTC.
When is the best time to visit Texas?
The weather in Texas goes through dramatical changes throughout the year as it is a very large state. However, the climate boils down to continental, mountain and marine. In general, a lot of the areas in Texas have hot and humid summers and relatively mild winters. It is the perfect spot for people who enjoy the great outdoors.
The Perfect Climate
Seeing as it is in the southern region of the U.S., people shouldn’t expect to see any snowstorm in Texas. It does, however, snow in the southernmost region. That also doesn’t mean they shouldn’t study the best seasons in Texas. The best time to visit Texas is between late March and April. During this period, the climate is generally cool but it is not warm as well. It is basically the fine line between Texas’ mild December weather and scorching summer.
Since March and April have the perfect weather conditions, it is best to visit Texas around this time. Spending time outdoors is a great way to enjoy this season. Plus, an even better way to spice things up is by visiting the top state parks in Texas. Lucky for travelers, the state of Texas has nearly countless state parks that are all worth the visit. Even so, there are a few ones that are just a cut above and the rest and they deserve to be explored through and through.
January is typically one of the coldest months in Texas, but it still is mild enough to spend time outdoors—without the heat and humidity. Avid anglers, golfers, runners, and other outdoorsmen will love the Lone Star State in the winter.
20 of The Top Texas State Parks
Texas has a lot of activities and nice spots to offer – whether you are a tourist or a local. One of the things that you shouldn’t miss when traveling here is visiting the Texas State Parks. This is because the top Texas state parks provide a very relaxing atmosphere. On top of that, each of its parks offers different activities that you and your family and friends will surely enjoy. Here’s a gist of more of what you can expect to experience in Texas’ state parks.
1Palo Duro Canyon State Park
In case you don’t know yet, Palo Duro Canyon State Park homes the second largest canyon in the USA. Thus, you can expect lots of outdoor activities which many adventure seekers would love. some of which are hiking, biking, and camping.
Since this area is big, you can get to enjoy 30 miles of hiking and biking. If you want to camp, the said state park can offer you campsites with water and electricity as well as backpack camping areas. They also offer cabins on the canyon’s rim and on the canyon floor.
In Palo Duro Canyon State Park, you can also get to enjoy a 1,500-acre tail where you can go horseback riding. It’s also not a problem if you have your own horses.
In addition to that, Palo Duro Canyon State Park also offers bird watching activities and other ranger programs. Through here, you can learn more about longhorn cattle and birds. You can also take a tour with a park ranger.
If you’re not much a fan of outdoor activities but still want to get to know more about Palo Duro Canyon State Park as well as the whole texas, they have museums too. Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers attractions like Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum.
You can watch a musical drama at Palo Duro Canyon State Park as well. However, it’s more of an outdoor activity but it definitely isn’t as tiring as the other activities that we’ve first mentioned. Rather it’s much more relaxing and entertaining. Through this, you can also get to know more about the state’s culture as well as the stories of its early settlers.
2Davis Mountain State Park
Davis Mountain State Park is yet another good Texas state park. Located in the western part of Texas, USA, this state park also has some of the activities that you can in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Here, you have museums to explore that will also fill you with knowledge about the history of the state. Moreover, you can go hiking biking as well. It also offers a nice equestrian trail.
Additionally, Davis Mountain State Park provides campsites and cabins that you can rent. It also has an Indian lodge, a hotel that has 39 rooms in total and is also filled with a lot of history to tell. It has a restaurant, a pool (that’s, by the way, exclusive for the lodging guests only), and even a picnic area for you and your family to enjoy.
The Davis Mountain State Park also offers bird watching activities. But this 2,709-acre state park is much different than others. This is because, here, they have an enclosed viewing station, watering and feeding stations, plus a shielded outside patio.
Davis Mountain State Park is also unique because of how remote it is. And because of that, you can even enjoy stargazing without any interference brought by the city lights and buildings.
3Big Bend Ranch State Park
Big Bend Ranch State Park is also one of the top Texas state parks that’s located in the west. Here, you are also provided with good outdoor activities. Some of which are hiking, biking, and, of course, your visit to some of the top Texas state parks wouldn’t be complete without a horseback riding activity. But what separates Big Bend Ranch State Park from other is the water activities that it has to offer.
Here at Big Bend Ranch State Park, they offer awesome water activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. Have we mentioned that these are activities that families can try as well? Yes, even if you have kids with you, you’ll still enjoy it. This is because the river has sections that are ideal for beginners too. Plus they offer professionally guided trips for everyone’s safety and comfort. If you don’t have your gears with you, you can rent pieces of equipment here too.
4Seminole Canyon State Park
If you prefer a more laid back trip, Seminole Canyon State Park is one of the top Texas State Parks you shouldn’t miss. Located in Comstock, Texas, this tourist spot offers a nice place for history enthusiasts as well as families with children.
Here, you can get to go geocaching with your friends or with kids. For starters, Geocaching is basically a treasure hunting where each player is taken into a fun, creative and beautiful place outdoors. It won’t just let you experience what it’s like to go treasure hunting outdoors. But it will also help you gain more knowledge about nature.
Here at Seminole Canyon State Park, you’ll be able to know more about the ancient people who once lived in Texas. This is because they offer tours around the area where you can see pictographs legitimately made by the early dwellers of the said canyon. They also have biking, hiking, and camping sites and activities.
5Garner State Park
Garner State Park is one of the best Texas State Parks to be as well, especially in summer. This is because here, you can have an easy access to the clear waters of Frio River. You can enjoy a relaxing swim with your friends and family. Plus, you can have fun paddle boating, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
During summer, you can also witness or even join Summer Dances, held at the Garner State Park. Such event is held nightly during the summer season from Memorial weekend up until mid-August.
If you’re not much of a party goer, you can just sit back, relax, and have a picnic or go camping with your friends and family. The Garner State Park also offers a miniature golf as well.
6Colorado Bend State Park
This Texas state park boasts of an impressive 35 miles of beautiful hiking trails. Hence, if you’re looking for a good hiking trail adventure, this Texas State park is something that you shouldn’t miss. To top off such kind of good hiking adventure, you can take a look at the beauty of the 70-foot-spring-fed Gorman falls.
At Colorado Bend State Park, they also offer cave tours. Here, you can explore what’s hidden under the park. Through such tours, you can also learn new things about the park’s geology as well as its rich history. After a long day of testing your limits in hiking and trying out the other activities that the Colorado Bend State Park has to offer, you can go camping at the various camping areas that they offer.
7Lost Maples State Natural Area
Lost Maples State is one of the famous among the top Texas State Parks because of its color during Fall season. But it shouldn’t be known for just that. Lost Maples State Natural Area is spectacular all year round. Plus, it can offer a wide variety of activities that even your whole family will enjoy.
The Lost Maples State Natural Area is one of the top Texas State Parks that offers a good view of nature. The trees here show off brilliant colors, especially in fall. Thus, you can go here for picture taking as this place is very Instagrammable. The night sky view from here is also superb. This is because there are no city lights nor tall buildings that will obstruct your view.
If you’re hungry for more adventure, the Lost Maples State Natural Area also has some activities for you to enjoy just like the other top Texas State Parks do. This more than 2,000-acre reserve offers 17 km of hiking trails that features a loop which will take you along the top of a 2,000+ foot cliff. What makes it even more unique than other Texas State Parks is that it is a home to a wide array of bird species. You can also get a glimpse of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.
8Lake Mineral Wells State Park
There is also a lot of things to do in Lake Mineral Wells State Park. Here, like the other top Texas State Parks, you can hike, bike, or ride a horse. You can also take a swim in its lake or go fishing or boating. But what separates it among the rest is that it has rock climbing activities to offer is the rock climbing activity.
The Lake Mineral Wells State Park offers 12.8 miles of hiking trails. It has sections that range from easy to challenging. Additionally, it has a Trailway that’s more than 32 km with gentle curves. In the same trails, you can go biking or even horseback riding. Moreover, it has few rock climbing spots that are perfect for those who are seeking more physical activity. However, make sure to check on the weather as they don’t allow rock climbing activities when the rock formations are wet and trails are closed during rainy season.
The Lake Mineral Wells State Park also offers 640 acres of lake. Here, you can rent or bring your own equipment and go kayaking, boating, canoeing, or paddling. They also have flat-bottom boats with trolling motors and rowboats up for rent.
9Longhorn Cavern State Park
The Longhorn Cavern State Park has sites that it can talk big of. In fact, its caverns are some of the most exceptional land formations in the world. Not even one of the top Texas State Parks could equal its uniqueness.
The Longhorn Cavern State Park also has a rich history as well. To get to know more about the Longhorn Cavern’s past, you can explore the cavern via paid guided tour. The tour will only take you only an hour and a half. They also have an exhibit building which will help you learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps as well as its works in Texas.
10Pedernales Falls State Park
Almost all of the top Texas State Parks offer hiking trails for adventurous travelers. Pedernales Falls State Park is no different when it comes to having hiking trails. However, it offers unique trails that no other state parks can have. This is because it has a wide variety of trails to choose from. There are so many of them that you can have this as an excuse to come back more often as it’s quite impossible to see it all in just one visit. In addition to that, its trails also come with a range of distances. Plus, its level of difficulty varies.
If you want a long hike, the 9-mile Juniper Ridge trail is a must-try. Be warned, though, as it can be quite a challenging hike. Still, it’s a beautiful way to tour the terrain. If you want stunning views, the park’s overlook trails are for you.
11Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is one of the best Texas State Parks that offers rock climbing, hiking, camping, geocaching, and stargazing. Here, you can also go on a picnic and go bird watching. But many tourists and locals visit this place a lot because of the mystery that surrounds it that piques their interest.
Rising above Central Texas is a colossal dome of pink granite that is nearly 500 feet in height. This attraction is considered the largest pink granite monadnock (also known as an isolated mountain) in the US. This has attracted many people to its base for years. Aside from that, the mystery that shrouds the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area also draws the attention of many.
Rumor has it that people hear creaks and groans coming from the dome. There are also some who report that they’ve seen “ghost fires” coming from it and so so much more mysterious stories.
12Balmorhea State Park
The top Texas State Parks aren’t just about hiking, biking, camping, and rock climbing. It isn’t all flat and dry in Texas as well. The state also boasts state parks where you can enjoy the water more than the dry outdoor activities that it has to offer.
The Balmorhea State Park, for instance, is one of the cool oases in the desert of Texas. Here, you can take a plunge into its crystal-clear waters. Built in the 1930s, it has a big spring-fed pool that stretches to 1.3 acres. But its size for isn’t the only thing that’s impressive. Its depth is something that’s awe-inspiring as well because of its depth that reaches up to 25 feet. Because of that, you can even scuba dive.
13Monahan Sandhills State Park
Monahan Sandhills State Park is yet another one of the top Texas State Parks that offer unique activities. Here, you’ll be surrounded mostly by sands, sands, and more sands. But don’t fret much as this type of area won’t be as boring many people would think. Rather, it offers a nice and fun location for more adventures.
Here, you can go surfing – not on the water, though. Rather, you can go surfing on its nearly 4,000-acre area of sand dunes. What’s even better is that it would only cost you $4 while children under 12 years old can enjoy the Monahan Sandhills State Park for free. If you haven’t tried sandboarding, this place is definitely something you need to visit.
14Caddo Lake State Park
The Caddo Lake State Park also offers water activities. Here, you can canoe, swim, kayak or paddleboard. They also offer hiking and horseback riding activities. But what separates Caddo Lake State Park from the other top Texas state parks, you say?
The Caddo Lake State Park offers an area of 468 acres. Here, you can experience a more tranquil setting. This is because it has a lot of bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss tower in the area. Because of this unique sight, you’ll definitely feel relaxed. Be warned, though, as there are alligators that live here. Nevertheless, it’s still a nice state park to consider.
15Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Birdwatching activities are often available in many top Texas State Parks. However, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is a cut above the rest. This is because it hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of different bird species from different parts of the globe. In fact, there are already 525 species documented in this amazing Texas state park.
The Bentsen -Rio Grande Valley State Park has a jaw-dropping list of more than 350 species of birds that are recorded solely within its boundaries. This state park will definitely fill every birdwatcher’s eyes with a huge number of birds during their yearly migrations. Because of that, many people visit this place as there are also some bird species that you won’t find anywhere else in the world but here.
16Big Spring State Park (Howard, Texas)
The Big Spring State Park is also one of that top Texas State Parks that’s popular to many even before it has become an official state park. Before it opened in 1936, early Indian groups and Native Americans have already frequented the park. Historians believe that the reason why they often visited the ark is that of the fact that it’s one of the permanent sources of spring water.
However, when Texas acquired the land in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began revamping the park. They started building their headquarters, lodgings, pavilion, and pump house. To this day, it’s still popular among many tourists and locals alike because of these plus the artifacts and fossils that its ancient dwellers left behind.
17Eisenhower State Park
Eisenhower State Park is also quite different from the top Texas State Parks on this list. This is because the park offers more water activities than the dry ones. Yes, the park also offers hiking, camping, and biking activities just like the other top Texas State Parks on this list. However, the reason why it’s also popular to many is that of the water activities that it has to offer.
Here, you can swim, canoe, fish and kayak. What’s even better, and also one of the main reasons why it’s popular is because of the water skiing that it can talk big of. It’s definitely a unique activity that everyone should try out.
If you want to see more flora and fauna, head on to the Kerrville-Schreiner Park. Kerrville-Schreiner still has some of the activities common in some of the top Texas State Parks like camping, swimming, and boating.
However, it is the only one among the top Texas State Parks that offers the most abundant flora and fauna. In fact, it features landscapes with acres of live oak trees, juniper, and Spanish oak trees. It also has a wide variety of colorful wildflowers and native plants that would encourage anyone for picture-taking.
19San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site (a.k.a San Jacinto State Park, TX)
The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, as the name suggests, is one of the top Texas State Parks that have a rich history. This is because it once played a role in the history of Texas and the United States. It served as the battleground on which the Texan troops attained their state’s independence as they fought the Mexican army in the 1830s. Here, you can also get to know more about its history because of the San Jacinto Museum that it features. Another prominent feature of San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is the San Jacinto Monument, as well as its observation deck where you can get to see a fantastic view of Houston, Texas, the Houston Ship Channel, plus the USS Texas.
20Jim Hogg State Park
Jim Hogg State Park also has abundant flora and fauna just like Kerrville-Schreiner Park. But unlike the latter as well as the other to Texas State Parks, the Jim Hogg State Park features an array of wildlife. This includes squirrels, deer, and so many species of birds. Hence, you can hunt here too. However, note that hunting is allowed by permit only.
This 178.4-acre state park highlights a memorial for James Hogg, who is the first native-born governor, as well. In addition to that, Jim Hogg State Park also features several recreational activities too. Just like the other top Texas State Parks on this list, Jim Hogg State Park. This includes fishing, boating, hiking, and boating.