Hikes & Nature Walks
Whether you enjoy strolling around a quiet lake on a gentle, shaded path or backpacking on a rugged trail to a stunning view, you’ll find paths and pinnacles to suit your pace.
Hiking in Texas State Parks
Trails are the pride and joy of our state parks. Whether you are looking for a short nature trail for a quick stroll or an adventurous, all-day endeavor through a park's most remote stretches, you will find what you are looking for in the trails at a Texas State Park. In addition to the Ranger Picks below, you can plan your next hike at a State Park by exploring a State Park webpage and looking for links to a park trail map on the right-hand side of the page. Play it safe by always packing extra food and water, extra clothing, a flashlight (just in case) and of course a trail map. Keep your parks beautiful by following the Leave No Trace principles, including staying on the trails and trashing your trash. Happy Hiking!
For the best trails for parents and children, keep an eye out for "Nature Trails" and "Interpretive Trails," which generally take less than an hour to hike. Extra snacks go a long way to keep the kiddos happy on the trail. Also consider Geocaching to add some more excitement to a family hike.
Pedernales Falls is a favorite for family hikes, with a duck pond, a quarter-mile nature trail leading to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, and a wheelchair-friendly wildlife-viewing station. The easy 7-mile Wolf Mountain Trail winds along small canyons created by Mescal and Tobacco creeks. At Dinosaur Valley State Park, explore the Paluxy River Nature Trail to learn about the river and the flora and fauna of the park. In McKinney Falls State Park, a 3-mile paved hiking loop runs along pecan-shaded Onion Creek.
Many parks have wheelchair-accessible facilities including trails, fishing piers and nature centers. A highlight is the Creekfield Nature Trail, only 20 miles from Houston at Brazos Bend State Park. Amid the alligators and lily pads, visitors can enjoy tactile displays and interpretive information in braille; or enjoy scenic views from the wheelchair-accessibile George Observatory.
Hiking into History
At Davis Mountains State Park, you can climb the Skyline Trail to a high ridge above Limpia Creek for a superb view of Fort Davis and a breathtaking panorama of this kinder, gentler mountain range. Mission Tejas, Blanco and Abilene State Parks offers great examples of the craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which designed and built more than 50 parks throughout Texas in the 1930s.
Play in the Sand
For a unique family adventure, walk or “surf” the dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park near Odessa; some sand dunes are more than 70 feet tall! Boogie surf boards are available for rent at the park office. You can also explore the beautiful beaches and ocean breezes of Texas at Galveston Island, Mustang Island, Goose Island and Sea Rim State Parks.
Into the Woods
For protection from the hot Texas sun, try the state’s shadier scenic trails. Martin Dies, Jr. offers trails through the primeval Big Thicket. At Huntsville State Park, the hiking trail around Lake Raven cuts through pine forest. You can hike through a beautiful pine forest past a picturesque lake at Tyler State Park, or experience the towering oak canopy anc backcountry hiking loops at Buescher.
To take in some dazzling sights at sundown, try the Sunset View Trail in Franklin Mountains State Park, which offers a dramatic 360-degree view of the sunset and the lights of El Paso (hikes must be scheduled in advance.) The rolling hills surrounding Inks Lake State Park also make for some great sunset vistas over the lake. Late-afternoon hikes are a great time for wildlife watching, but don't forget a flashlight to help get you back to the car in case night falls quickly.
Dramatic and Demanding Hikes
The Lighthouse Trail takes its name from the Lighthouse Rock formation that has become the emblem for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This trek offers an immersion in color-coded geology, with layers of rock ranging from bright red to yellow, pink and lavender. The cottonwoods here are spectacular in the fall. An abandoned railroad line that passes by Caprock Canyons State Park has been transformed into a scenic 64-mile trail that passes over trestles and through Clarity Tunnel, the state’s longest railroad tunnel.
Overnight Backpacking Adventures
Sometimes one day is not enough to explore the trails of your favorite park. An overnight backpacking trip is a perfect way to enjoy some solitude in the remote corners of a scenic park. The 19-mile Rancherias Backpacking Loop through Big Bend Ranch State Park leads backpackers from the narrow ribbon of the Rio Grande along Highway 170, also known as River Road, into timeless, rugged canyon terrain, across thornscrub mesas, past seeps and springs and remnants of historic homesteads. Other popular overnight hikes can be found at Lost Maples State Natural Area, Hill Country State Natural Area and Dinosaur Valley State Park