When you need to reconnect with nature, get away from the hustle and bustle of city life at Texas’ 100+ state parks. From sandboarding to rafting to walking through Lady Bird Johnson’s closets, Texas has something for everyone. Here are a few local favorites. For more information about Texas State Parks visit tpwd.texas.gov
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
The Red River in the Texas Panhandle spent one million years carving its way through layers of sandstone, siltstone, sediment and rock to create the beautiful and rugged Palo Duro Canyon. At 120 miles long and as much as 20 miles wide, it is the nation’s second largest canyon. The multi colored layers of rock, steep cliffs and flat tops create a stunning backdrop during sunset. Texas Longhorns greet visitors as they enter the park. The park boasts more than 30 miles of biking, hiking and equestrian trails, and enough activities to keep the most active nature buff busy. During summer months, visitors can enjoy a performance of the outdoor musical drama, “Texas.”
Lyndon B. Johnson Park and Historic Site
While most parks provide visitors with plenty of hiking opportunities, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park allows visitors to walk through history. The park tells the life story of our nation’s 36th President beginning with his ancestors, through his boyhood in the Texas Hill Country and his presidency until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch. Dubbed the “Texas White House,” Johnson spent much of his presidency working from his ranch. Visitors can walk through his office, the many rooms that appear as they did during his presidency and the bedrooms suites that appear as they did at the time of the President and Mrs. Johnson’s deaths.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
Longhorn Cavern State Park, just an hour-and-a-half northwest of Austin, is a result of where water and time combined to create one of the most unique natural features in the state—with some Texas-sized stories to boot. Learn about the history and geology of the cavern during the daily 90-minute guided walking tour. Or crawl, climb, and squeeze your way along on the wild cave tour, offered every Saturday. The cavern maintains a temperature of 68 degrees, making it the perfect park to visit in the summertime. Before you leave, enjoy a short Hill Country hike or spend some time admiring the craftsmanship of the park’s historic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
At Dinosaur Valley State Park, you can place your feet in the footprints of dinosaurs who walked along the edge of an ancient ocean 113 million years ago. Today those tracks are suspended in time in the bed of the Paluxy River, an hour’s drive southwest of Fort Worth. If high water obscures the dinosaur tracks, replicas of the tracks are available for view in the visitor’s center. Mountain bikers, hikers and campers also love this park for its great trails that wind upland with trailheads located near the campgrounds.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Nothing beats a calf-burning, blood-pumping scenic hike, which is why climbing the massive pink dome known as Enchanted Rock is a rite of passage for Central Texans. The steep slope – greater than 30 degrees on average – challenges leg muscles as you clamber to the top of the 425-foot pink granite batholith. It is all worth it when you can take in the stunning 360-degree view of the Texas Hill Country at the top. Rock climbers flock to the area for all the available climbing space. For those who want a less strenuous day, the park is also great for bird watching, geocaching or picnicking.
Monahans Sandhills State Park
Sand is so abundant in West Texas that adventure seekers are surfing on it. The Monahans Sandhills State Park near Midland-Odessa is just a tiny portion of the 200-square-mile sand dune field that extends into New Mexico. The Pecos River eroded New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains more than 40,000 years ago leaving behind grains of sand and 70-foot sand dunes providing a slick base for sandboarding, sand football, sand surfing and sand tobogganing. Sandboarders can rent a sand disk from the visitor’s center to work on their sandboarding techniques. Experts recommend riders to properly wax your board, and take a running start before propelling yourself down the sand dune to gain enough speed to make it to the bottom. A word to the wise, don’t forget a bandana and sunglasses to keep flying sand out of your face! Stick around for the sunset. The light from the setting sun bouncing off the pale white sand produces extraordinary colors which make for great sunset photos.