Texas owes much of its rich heritage and culture to the diversity of our natural environment. Covering an area of more than 268,000 square miles, Texas is home to a vast collection of spectacular natural landmarks. From the mountains and deserts of west Texas to the National Seashore on the coast, there truly is something for everyone in the Lone Star State. Whether you’re into mountain biking, wind surfing or fishing, we recommend experiencing all there is to offer in this wild and beautiful state.
Big Bend National Park
1 Panther Dr, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
Appropriately named for the dramatic bend in the mighty Rio Grande River, Big Bend is the rugged crown jewel of a network of parks and reserves in the Chihuahuan Desert, which traces the southwest border of Texas and Mexico. Offering an impressive combo of mountains, canyons, deserts, and river ecologies, Big Bend is the ideal location for any outdoor adventure. Big Bend is also the only park in the nation to contain an entire mountain range – the Chisos! From camping and hiking, to river running and mountain biking, there’s something for everyone in this boundless natural playground.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015
In the Panhandle, about 30 miles southeast of Amarillo lies the second largest canyon in the United States. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro is roughly 120 miles, 20 miles wide, and 800 ft. deep in some areas! Carved into the earth by the Praire Dog Town Fork of the Red River, colorful bands of the steep canyon walls reveal an immense and intricate geologic timeline of more than 240 million years. Inhabited by humans for more than 10,000 years, this area reflects a rich history of settlers and explorers – from nomadic big game hunters, to Native American tribes such as the Apache and Comanche, to European explorers, to famous ranchers such as Charles Goodnight. Visitors can explore Palo Duro on foot, bike, horse, or even in the comfort of their vehicle. For the ultimate experience, we recommend staying in one of the 3 cabins on the canyon rim, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.
Padre Island National Seashore
20420 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418
Next up let’s head south to the beach for a visit to the “longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world,” according to the U.S. National Park Service. This pristine beach separates the Gulf of Mexico from Laguna Madre, facilitating one of the “few hypersaline lagoons in the world.” Composed of more than 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and tidal flats, the Padre Island National Seashore is a safe haven and nesting ground for protected sea turtles and over 380 species of birds. There is little development in the park, however camping is available and the beach is largely accessible to vehicles, preferably four-wheel-drive. Whether your ideal beach vacation includes surf-fishing, kayaking, wind surfing, birding or simply relaxing by the ocean, Padre Island National Seashore has it all.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Just north of Fredericksburg a huge dome of pink granite juts from the ground, rising nearly 500 ft. above the surrounding landscape. This geologic phenomenon, known as Enchanted Rock is the second largest in North America! The surrounding park includes over 1,600 acres for visitors to explore at leisure. Visitors can expect to enjoy a wide range of native flora and fauna as well as a number of outdoor activities such as backpacking, camping, biking, hiking, and caving. In concert with the volunteer organization, Friends of Enchanted rock, Texas Parks and Wildlife works year round to maintain and improve the park, with a particular focus on preservation and conservation.
Caddo Lake State Park
245 Park Rd 2, Karnack, TX 75661
Located on the border of Texas and Louisiana, Caddo Lake is named after the indigenous Caddoan people who originally inhabited these lands. The lake is one of the only natural, non-oxbow lakes in Texas and is also an internationally protected wetland. The wetlands foster a unique array of aquatic life and vegetation such as wild alligators, as well as the impressive bald Cypress trees, which stand sentinel in this beautiful swampland. There are authentic cabins available, built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Visitors can expect to enjoy a wide range of activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, paddling, boating, and much more in this iconic state park; not to mention the multitudes of Bigfoot sighting reported in this area…