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15 Best National and State Parks Near Austin, TX

The second largest state in the country, Texas isn’t short on wide open spaces to explore. Whether you want to summit the highest peak in the Guadalupe Mountains, hunt for dinosaur footprints in an ancient seabed, or kayak down the Rio Grande, there’s always a new adventure around the corner. Here are the best national and state parks where you can discover some Texas-size outdoor fun.

Garner State Park

Where: Uvalde County, Texas

What to expect: Texas’ most-visited state park, Garner boasts nearly three miles of Frio River access, 16 miles of trails and 1,774 acres of Hill Country terrain. Go tubing, canoeing, fishing, hiking and swimming, or hike up the iconic Mount ‘Ol Baldy. In the summertime, gather at the park’s concession building for an evening of dancing—an old-school tradition since the 1940s.

Size: 3 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor center, ranger-led programs, miniature golf course, cabins, concessions, paddleboard/kayak/inner tube rentals, lockers and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities.

Big Bend National Park

Where: Brewster County, Texas

What to expect: An outdoor paradise that spans the Chihuahuan Desert, the Chisos Mountains, the Persimmon Gap and the Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote areas of the United States, as well as one of its largest parks. Explore more than 150 miles of hiking trails, paddle along the Rio Grande, try your hand at horseback riding, go stargazing, and even cross the border into Mexico.

Size: 1,252 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, historic sites, scenic drives/overlooks, exhibits, ranger-led programs, and hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including nature trails and campgrounds.


Big Thicket National Preserve

Where: Southeast Texas

What to expect: Spanning nine ecosystems and six water corridors, Big Thicket National Preserve earned its name due to its dense forest and canopies—a rich breeding ground of biodiversity that has been dubbed “The Biological Crossroads of America.” Hike, boat and kayak through eastern hardwood forests, Gulf coastal plains, and midwest prairies in search of rare wildlife.

Size: 177 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, boat launches, visitor center, ranger-led programs, and hiking, cycling, and paddling trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible trails and a visitor center.


Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Where: Hudspeth and Culberson Counties, Texas

What to expect: Home to the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef and the four highest peaks in Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a haven for hikers, campers and backpackers. Discover more than 80 miles of trails that snake along deserts and dunes and up steep switchbacks, and spend the night under a blanket of stars in this stunning mountain range.

Size: 135 square miles

Amenities: Visitor center, museum, scenic drives, ranger-led programs, and equestrian and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible trails and a visitor center.

Padre Island National Seashore

Where: Kleberg, Willacy, and Kenedy Counties, Texas

What to expect: The longest remaining undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world, Padre Island National Seashore also protects one of the last intact coastal prairie habitats in the United States. Come here to boat, fish, canoe and appreciate wildlife at its best, including over 380 bird species and the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.

Size: 204 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, ranger-led programs, canoe/kayak rentals, concessions, and picnic areas

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including beach wheelchairs and accessible picnic areas.

Inks Lake State Park

Where: Burnet County, Texas

What to expect: Located just an hour’s drive from Austin, Inks Lake is at the heart of this hilly state park, with boating, swimming, fishing, and kayaking ranking among its most popular activities. There’s plenty of fun to be had on land, too; go hiking through colorful rock outcrops, explore hidden waterfalls, and play a game of volleyball.

Size: 2 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, cabins, ranger-led programs, fishing piers, boat ramps, volleyball courts, picnic areas, paddle boat/canoe/kayak rentals, concessions, and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities, including campsites and boat ramps.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Where: Armstrong and Randall Counties, Texas

What to expect: Home to the second largest canyon in the country, Palo Duro Canyon State Park boasts more than 30 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. Take in the spectacular landscape while keeping an eye open for hoodoos and, if you’re daring, ride across the canyon at the Palo Duro Zip Line Adventure Park. 

Size: 44 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, cabins, visitor center, picnic areas, scenic roads, historic sites, concessions, and hiking, equestrian, and cycling trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Where: Somervell County, Texas

What to expect: Go fossil hunting at Dinosaur Valley State Park where dinosaurs roamed the mud of an ancient sea 113 million years ago. Today you can follow 20 miles of trails that highlight the footprints of sauropods or theropods in the bed of the Paluxy River. You have the best chance of seeing them when water levels are low.

Size: 2 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor center, concessions, ranger-led programs, guided tours, and hiking, cycling, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities.

Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site

Where: Val Verde County, Texas

What to expect: Witness the rare rock paintings left by prehistoric peoples over 7,000 years ago in the Lower Pecos River Country. Some of the oldest Native American pictographs in North America, the art is protected from the elements by rock shelters carved into the canyon walls. In addition to guided hiking tours of the art, you can camp and mountain bike in the park.

Size: 3 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, guided tours, visitor center, ranger-led programs, concessions, historic site, and hiking and mountain biking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash. Dogs are not permitted on tours.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities.

Longhorn Cavern State Park

Where: Burnet County, Texas

What to expect: A short drive from Austin, Longhorn Cavern was created by the flow of an ancient river. Just as impressive as the site’s geology is the lore surrounding it. Take a tour and hear about outlaw Sam Bass hiding $2 million inside the cave and how settlers mined bat guano there to make gunpowder during the Civil War.

Size: 1 square mile

Amenities: Picnic areas, visitor center, guided tours, concessions, and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Wheelchair Accessible: The park is not wheelchair accessible.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Where: Blanco County, Texas

What to expect: Found right in Austin’s backyard, Pedernales Falls State Park is the perfect spot to escape the city and relax for a couple hours. Trek to the park’s namesake waterfall. Go swimming, tubing, or fishing in the Pedernales River, surrounded by limestone cliffs and giant boulders. Mountain bike along backcountry trails. Look for wildlife in the butterfly garden and bird blind.

Size: 8 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, ranger-led programs, bird blind, mountain bike rentals, dark sky programs, picnic areas, visitor center, and hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including a bird blind and a scenic overlook.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Where: Gillespie and Llano Counties, Texas

What to expect: The second-largest monolith in the United States, Enchanted Rock itself covers 640 acres, and got its name from early Spanish explorers who thought it was supernatural due to the way it glowed at sunset. At the summit, don’t miss the vernal pools (pits that hold water for several weeks) and the translucent freshwater shrimp that live in them. It’s also a great spot for stargazing, rock climbing, and birding.

Size: 3 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, concessions, visitor center, rock climbing tours, ranger-led programs, and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers limited accessible amenities.

Colorado Bend State Park

Where: San Saba and Lampasas Counties, Texas

What to expect: Best known for Gorman Falls, a 70-foot, spring-fed waterfall that you can reach on a short hike, Colorado Bend State Park has ample opportunities for adventures. Book a tour to visit one of 400 underground caves, paddle along the Colorado River that bisects the park, or take a dip in Spicewood Springs. 

Size: 8 square miles 

Amenities: Campgrounds, visitor center, cave tours, ranger-led programs, picnic areas, and hiking and biking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities.

Palmetto State Park

Where: Gonzales County, Texas

What to expect: Featuring a swamp, tropical trees and its namesake dwarf palmettos, you might not believe that you’re in the Lone Star State when hiking through Palmetto State Park. Its marshy terrain is one-of-a-kind in Texas. Go tubing, canoeing and fishing on the San Marcos River and explore several miles of trails.

Size: 0.5 square miles

Amenities: Kayak/paddleboard rentals, campgrounds, fishing pier, fishing equipment on lend, ranger-led programs, and hiking and biking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including cabins and accessible trails.

Bastrop State Park

Where: Bastrop County, Texas

What to expect: In 2011, a fire destroyed much of Bastrop State Park’s famous “lost” loblolly pines. Now the forest is regrowing. Come see the results of the restoration efforts as you hike or bike through the young vegetation, and sleep in a historic cabin.

Size: 3 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, cabins, visitor center, concessions, ranger-led programs, fishing equipment on lend, scenic drives, swimming pool, and hiking and biking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including campsites and a swimming pool.

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