15 of the BEST Texas State Parks you MUST Visit

Everything is big in Texas including our State Parks. From the deserts in West Texas to the forests of the Piney Woods, there are over 80 state parks in Texas. We visited a few when most everything was shut down the past year and here are a few of our favorite State Parks in Texas that are near Dallas plus a couple that is worth driving to (remember Texas is almost as big as some European countries). Whether you enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, or just want to spend a few hours in nature, there is something for everyone to enjoy at these Texas State parks.

15 of the BEST Texas State Parks | Outside Suburbia

Texas State Parks near Dallas Fort Worth

From the occasional snowfall in the winter (that last snowmageddon was not the norm!), wildflowers in the spring to small pockets of vibrant oranges and yellows in fall, there is always something to look forward to if you live in Texas. Come summer when that Texas heat hits 3 digits, we hide inside our homes!

There are many Texas State parks near Dallas that offer gorgeous views, scenic hiking trails, and great fishing, keep reading about a few of them that we have visited and why we think you will love it too. Most Texas State Parks have Geocaching, a modern-day treasure hunt where you use a smartphone to find the cache aka hidden treasures. Spend some time outdoors and in nature, start planning your visit to a Texas State Park!

1. Cedar Hill State Park

Cedar Hill State Park is one of my favorite Texas State Park! It is easy to get to since it is located just ten miles southwest of Dallas on FM 1382 and the eastern shore of Joe Pool Lake in Cedar Hill, Texas. This State Park is the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are campsites, fishing spots and hiking trails.

Adults and kids will enjoy Geocaching, a modern-day treasure hunt where you use a smartphone to find the cache aka hidden treasures. We found some cool stickers and even a small notebook. You can go for a swim, launch a boat and enjoy some quiet time or fish from the shore for which you don’t need a fishing license.  It is also a great spot to catch a Texas sunset over the lake.

2. Lake Bob Sandlin State Park

About 2 hours away lies one of the prettiest and best Texas State Parks IMO! Two ecoregions meet here on the shore of Lake Bob Sandlin and home to a variety of trees. The Piney Woods of East Texas is home to a diverse array of flora that also makes it one of the best places to see fall colors in the state. From mid-October through mid-November, the park is awash with vibrant color as the sweetgum, hickory, and red maple trees turn with the season. Visit at the right time and you can see these arresting colors beautifully reflected off the still waters of Lake Bob Sandlin.

Lake Bob Sandlin State Park - one of my favorite state parks in Texas | Outside Suburbia

Although the brilliant color is practically everywhere during fall, spring and summer are good times to visit Lake Bob Sandlin State Park. You can explore the hiking and mountain biking trails. The lake is also an idyllic fishing spot, where you can find bass or catfish. We brought a picnic to enjoy on the benches by the lake after our hike through the woods.

Best Texas State Parks near Dallas Fort Worth | Outside Suburbia

Northeast Texas’ Most Beautiful Lake

Nearby, Lake Cypress Springs is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in northeast Texas. The lake extends over 3,461 acres famous for its rolling hills and towering pine trees dotting the 43 miles of shoreline. Where you are looking for activities or just want to relax, the Lake Cypress Springs area has something for everyone to enjoy. The area has nice rentals if you want to spend a weekend and Experience Lake Life in Texas!

3. Lake Mineral Wells State Park

At Lake Mineral Wells Park you can walk in the shade of walnut, pecan, oak, Texas ash trees and hike on nearly 13 miles of trails among fields blanketed in sunflowers, Indian paintbrushes, and bluebonnets. Fishing is another great activity here, where you might find catfish, crappie, or largemouth bass from one of six fishing piers. You can rent a flat-bottom boat, canoe, kayak, or rowboat to explore the 640-acre lake.

Best state parks in Texas | Outside Suburbia

Climbers and rappellers can visit Penitentiary Hollow, one of the few natural rock climbing areas in North Texas to test the skills. There are so many outdoor adventures to be had at Lake Mineral Wells State Park. The best part is, it is just 45 minutes west of Fort Worth.

4. Ray Roberts Lake State Park

Just an hour north of the DFW Metroplex is Ray Roberts Lake State Park which has picnic pavilions, campsites,  a full-service marina that has boat storage and a boat repair shop. This Texas State Park has nine units. Three are developed:  Johnson Branch, Isle du Bois and the Greenbelt Corridor. We love the wilderness and trails at Isle du Bois. Take the Randy Bell scenic trail which is a 2.2-mile loop that takes you through woodlands and prairies. Afterward, enjoy a lunch by the water. Isle du Bois also has equestrian trails.

5. Possum Kingdom State Park

The Palo Pinto Mountains are just an hour west of the DFW Metro area, but they are absolutely stunning, especially in fall.  The Possum Kingdom, the Texas State Park, is near this area.  Bring a canoe and take a ride down the Brazos River.  Possum Kingdom Lake lies between three small towns of Graham, Mineral Wells and Breckenridge which offer history and art museums, and restaurants. Take a drive on Farm Road 4 or Highway 16 to see some of the best fall foliage near Dallas Fort Worth.

6. Cleburne State Park

Located just 30 minutes south­west of Fort Worth on the northern edge of the Hill Country sits Cleburne State Park. This Texas State Park surrounds the clear blue water of 116-acre Cedar Lake where you can enjoy swimming, fishing and boating. The 13 miles of trails at Cleburne State Park take you around the spring-fed lake, and through the forests.

7. Tyler State Park

Tyler State Park is a stunning recreational area located just north of the city of Tyler, an hour from Dallas. A majestic forest of 100-foot-tall trees envelops a scenic 64-acre spring-fed lake, creating a beautiful East Texas retreat. You can explore the Lakeshore Trail for awe-inspiring views of the lake and the colorful trees(especially during fall), then traverse the Whispering Pines Trail that takes you to a rock waterfall.

Tyler is home to a beautiful rose garden. The Azalea and Spring Flower Trail in Tyler is a 10-mile long Trail guiding visitors through neighborhoods of quaint brick streets, historic homes and residential gardens filled with blooming azaleas, dogwoods and tulips.  The Azalea and Spring Flower Trail usually runs from mid-March to April. 

See photos from the Tyler Rose Garden, the best public Rose Garden in the US.

8. Dinosaur Valley State Park

At the Dinosaur Valley State Park you can trace the footprints left by dinosaurs in the bed of the Paluxy River in what is believed to be the edge of the eancient ocean millions of years ago.

Nearby, Glen Rose is best known as the home of Fossil Rim, a 1650-acre wildlife preserve with over 100 exotic, threatened and endangered animals that roam freely in the Wildlife Center pastures. The self-drive through the preserve is up to 9.5 miles long and can take three hours to complete – it is a unique Safari experience in the Southwest. 

Fossil Rim in Glenrose

Glen Rose is also home to some excellent golf courses, good bluegrass music, and nice restaurants.

9. Lake Tawakoni State Park

Located just 50 miles east of Dallas is Lake Tawakoni a 37,879-acre reservoir. You can explore over 300 acres of oak forest and more than five miles of lakeshore. This state park in Texas has two large Prairie Grass Restoration areas that Texas Pollinators love. Walk down the Spring Point Trail to see the beautiful monarch butterflies and hear the bees buzzing! 

Fish the lake from shore or go boating, bird watching, there is even a small kid fish pond. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from shore in a state park. Don’t miss First Monday Trade Days at Canton which is nearby, a great place to treasure and antiques.

State Parks in Texas worth the drive

10. Enchanted Rock State Park

Enchanted Rock State Park in the Hill Country of Texas is 250 miles away from Dallas and an hour and half away from Austin. Enchanted Rock State Park’s massive pink granite dome has drawn hikers and rock climbers to scale its magical rock formations for years. Fredericksburg is only about 30 minutes away from the state park.

Enchanted Rock State Park, Texas - Photo by OutsideSuburbia

See our trip and hike up the Enchanted Rock State Park

11. Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake State Park is a state park located in the piney woods ecoregion of eastern Texas and operated as a wildlife management area. Caddo Lake State Park is about a 3 hour drive from Dallas. The lake that this state park encompasses, and is one of only a handful of natural lakes in Texas. You will find Bald cypress trees draped with Span­ish moss towering over the maze of bayous, and ponds of Caddo Lake. Paddle the waterways, stay in a historic cabin, or try your luck at fishing, there is so much to discover at this East Texas treasure!

The cypress trees in the swampy Caddo Lake turn fiery orange in the fall and one of the best places to see some unique fall colors in Texas.

12. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Also called the Grand Canyon of Texas, the Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the country.  It lies in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, about 5-hour drive from Dallas.  We are yet to make it here, hopefully, will happen this year. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is rugged, beautiful and colorful. Explore the canyon by foot, mountain bike, horse, or car. They have more than 30 miles of hiking trails in the park.

Lighthouse Peak Palo Duro Canyon State Park

13. Caprock Canyons State Park

Visit the Caprock Canyons State Park to see the bison roam the plains. Located approximately 100 miles southeast of Amarillo, this park is home to the Texas Bison herd. The Bison are considered a keystone species within the prairie ecosystem.

14. Monahans Sandhills State Park

The Monahans Sandhills State Park is a 3,840-acre state park located in the southern Llano Estacado in Ward County and Winkler County, Texas. The closest major town is Monahans, Texas which is about 5 hours from DFW. While the park does not have marked trails – you are free to ex­plore as you wish and play in this giant sandbox.  You can rent sand disks and surf the peaks and valleys of the dunes. 

Monahans Sandhills Texas State Park

A few other Texas State Parks worth the drive that is closer to Austin are: the stunning limestone cliffs of Garner State Park, the stream at Pedernales River, the lovely maples that put on a show in fall at Lost Maples State Park.

15. Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is a 275,000-acre preserve managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Brewster and Presidio counties. The texas park stretches along the Rio Grande in far west Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. The park has rugged volcanic landscapes and opportunities for backcountry solitude. Nearby is the Big Bend National Park which is almost three times the size of the Texas State Park and offers a completely different experience.

Big Bend National Park is the only National Park in Texas and deserves a visit. 

Safety precautions and things to know before you go

  • Advance day pass reservations were required to visit the state parks in Texas at the time of writing. You can reserve them online or by calling (512) 389-8900
  • Face coverings are required and no groups of over five people are allowed even if you are part of the same family (at the time of writing). And maintain at least a six-foot distance from people not in your group.
  • Kids can become a Junior Ranger and pick up a free activity journal or borrow an explorer pack that has tools kids can use to explore nature.
  • While Geocaches are fun to find when placing new ones check with park headquarters before placing them within a park.
  • You don’t need a fishing license to fish from shore in most of the state parks of Texas. (See here for a few Fishing Tips for Beginners)
  • Public display or consumption of alcohol is prohibited and all outdoor areas within the park are public.

Park hours may be adjusted, be sure to check park hours before your visit. Download the Texas State Park App, so you can stay up to date.

Safety precautions and tips for visiting the Texas State Parks | Outside Suburbia

If you are planning to visit more than a couple of the state parks in Texas, it might be worth it to get a Texas State Parks Pass which gets you free entry to all the state parks for one year. 

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Beavers Bend State Park in Oklahoma 


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