The 16 National Parks in Texas: Why & How to Visit Each One!

USA - Texas - Santa Elena Canyon and Rio Grande river at Big Bend National Park
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They say “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” and that is one hundred percent true! Texas is a very large state with a vast number of sites overseen by the National Park Service, including national seashores, monuments, and official National Park in Texas.

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The 16 National Parks in Texas: Why & How to Visit Each One!

The Sixteen National Parks in Texas

The recreational areas, rivers and so much more offer opportunities for amazing trips to go on with family or friends. If you love nature like me you will appreciate the natural wildlife and scenery. It is simply breath-taking, and a little dangerous, so please exercise caution.

The Texas Diamondback is not to be played with! I am a native Texan and I haven’t even seen all of the beauty this state has to offer. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but if you’re also a history buff (like me) you will love the historic information that each of these locations has to offer.

This state is very large so it may take you a couple of trips to experience it all. However, I suggest visiting at least one of these Texas National Parks. Plan your trip today!

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in Texas, USA

Thirteen thousand years ago, this site was the place to obtain the best stone for tool crafting. Although several millenia have passed, the colorful flint found in the Texas panhandle never lost its value or purpose.

Plan a visit and learn how essential this site was to the survival and culture of the High Plains. Alibates Flint is the lovely stone that shaped the cultures in the Texas Panhandle for centuries. The beautiful flint, Alibates Museum Exhibits, and the Petroglyphs (rock paintings made by the Antelope Creek people) are a few reasons to check this place out!

Plan Your Visit 

Address: Cass Johnson Road, Fritch, TX 79036

Open: 9am – 5pm Daily

Amistad National Recreational Area

Texas - Amistad National Recreational Area - The beach at Lake Amistad in the Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio, Texas.

This beautiful site is located in Del Rio, TX. Described as “an oasis in the desert,” Amistad consists of the US portion of the International Amistad Reservoir. The name Amistad comes from the Spanish word for “friendship.”

This national recreation area is well-known for its rich cultural history, boating, swimming, picnicking, camping, hiking, and petroglyphs. Amistad is also home to a variety of plant and animal life, including a great biodiversity beneath the water.

Water-based recreation, camping, hiking, rock art viewing, hunting, and visiting the Rough Canyon Marina are just some of the reasons to plan a trip. 

Plan Your Visit

Address: 4121 Veterans Blvd, Del Rio, TX 78840

Big Bend National Park 

USA - Texas - Big Bend National Park

Big Bend received its name for the large curve of the Rio Grande. This is an amazingly beautiful natural region with a complex, yet fascinating history.

There are over one million acres of public land including Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park that offer hiking, camping, river running, horse riding, mountain bicycling, birding, jeep touring, and an abundance of sightseeing opportunities. 

The culture is very rich here as well. The desert environment has inspired many philosophers, poets, and artists. The Chihuahuan Desert, a region of Big Bend, is no exception.

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Once described as a “dusty bohemia”, this area has various resident musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, and actors.

Some reasons to visit are the rich culture, hiking, camping, river running, horse riding, mountain bicycling, bird watching.

Plan Your Visit

Address: Big Bend National Park, TX

Big Thicket National Preserve

USA - Texas - A fallen tree against the backdrop of fall colors in the Big Thicket National Preserve near Beaumont, Texas.

Located in Beaumont, The Big Thicket has always been a unique place. Historically, the woods were ideal hunting ground for numerous Native American tribes and the early European settlers.

This national preserve protects the incredibly diverse life where multiple habitats coexist in southeast Texas. Hiking trails and waterways zigzag through nine different ecosystems. The Big Thicket is truly a place of wonder, a place to explore, and a place to appreciate the beauty of nature.

Plan Your Visit

Address: FM 420, Kountze, TX 77625

Chamizal National Memorial

USA - Texas - Chamizal National Monument

Located in El Paso along with the US–Mexico international border, this is a National Park Service site commemorating the peaceful resolution of the Chamizal boundary dispute, a hundred plus year border dispute between the US and Mexico.

The 54-acre memorial park serves predominantly as a cultural center and contains art galleries, a theater, and a museum that outlines the history of the US–Mexico border. The cultures of the borderlands are celebrated to promote the same mutual respect that helped to diplomatically resolve an international dispute.

Plan Your Visit

Address: 800 S San Marcial St, El Paso, TX 79905

Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Daily

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro & El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trails

Texas - El Camino Real de Tejas
By Billy HathornOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and El Camino Real de Los Tejas are both former Spanish colonial “Royal Roads” that extended from what’s today the United States all the way to Mexico City.

Today they both roads are listed as National Historic Trails to honor three hundred years of heritage and culture in the Southwest.

Plan Your Visit

El Camino Real de Los Tejas

Address: 3710 Cedar St #288, Austin, TX 78705

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Monday through Friday

Fort Davis National Historic Site

USA - Texas - Old Covered Wagon in the Desert Among the Ruins of Fort Davis, Texas, USA

Fort Davis is a great example of what a military post in the Southwest looked like. From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically placed to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on their journey to California for gold.

Due to the outbreak of the Civil War and the secession of Texas from the Union, the federal government evacuated Fort Davis. The fort was occupied by Confederate troops from the spring of 1861 until the summer of 1862. Then Union forces reclaimed possession. 

There are 24 restored historic buildings and 100-plus ruins and foundations that are part of the Fort Davis National Historic Site. Five of the 24 buildings have been refurbished to the 1880s, allowing visitors to envision themselves being at the fort at the peak of its development.

A self-guided tour of the fort begins at the site’s visitor center. You can even experience a living history demonstration. Those are very common during the summer.

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Plan Your Visit

Address: Fort Davis, TX 79734

Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

USA - Texas - El Capitan of Guadalupe Mountains National Park at sunrise

East of El Paso, Texas, in Salt Flat the Guadalupe Mountain range includes Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, and El Capitan that was used as a landmark by travelers as well as the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line.

The newly restored Frijole Ranch contains a small museum of local history and is the trailhead for Smith Spring. The park is large covering 86,367 acres.  

Plan Your Visit 

Address: Salt Flat, TX 79847

Hours: 8 am – 4:30 pm Daily

Lake Meredith National Recreational Area

USA - Texas - Sunset at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area in the Texas Panhandle

In the Texas Panhandle city of Fritch lies a hidden oasis. A welcoming haven where humans and wildlife find solace from the hot Texas summers. The Canadian River has carved out dramatic 200-foot canyons where humans lived for thirteen thousand year.

Lake Meredith occupies these hidden coves and is a sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Boating is a great way to explore the lake. Other recreation can involve hunting, hiking, camping, off-roading, and fishing. This would be an excellent adventure get-away.

Plan Your Visit

Address: Lake Meredith National Recreation Area Headquarters, 419 E Broadway St, Fritch, TX 79036

Hours: 8 am – 4:30 pm Monday through Friday

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

USA - Cow scratching head on a Post at LBJ Ranch

In Johnson City, Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park tells the tale of our 36th President starting with his ancestors and ending at his final resting place at LBJ Ranch.

This entire “circle of life” gives the visitor a different outlook into one of America’s most memorable citizens by providing the most complete depiction of any American president. Visitors to the park can see the Visitor Center, President Johnson’s Childhood Home, Sam Johnson Sr.’s cabin, and the Texas White House.

Plan Your Visit

Address: 1048 Park Road #49, Stonewall, TX 78671

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily

Padre Island National Seashore

USA - Texas - Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life.

It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and a sanctuary for almost four hundred species of birds. It also has a rich history. North Padre Island is where nature is preserved. However, South Padre Island is a fun vacation and college party spot.  

Plan Your Visit

Address: 20301 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418

Open 24 Hours  

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

USA - Texas - Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park
By SchmorleitzOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park is the site where in 1846 there was a clash between Mexican and US troops. Located in Brownsville, Texas, here you will also find a preserved battle site and history tours. 

On May 8, 1846, the Battle of Palo Alto was fought. It was the first major conflict that triggered the Mexican–American War. The victory here by the US Army created the opportunity to invade Mexico, setting off what would become the Mexican-American War.

This historic site depicts the battle and the war, and its causes and consequences, from both the American and Mexican perspectives.

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Plan Your Visit

Address: Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, 7200 Paredes Line Rd Suite 213, Brownsville, TX

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily

Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

USA - Texas - Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River in Hot Springs Canyon

This river is one of the major rivers in Southwest Texas. Depending on how it’s measured the Rio Grande is either the fourth or the fifth largest river system in the US. In the late 1980s, the International Boundary and Water Commission calculated its total length to be 1,896 miles. 

Plan a float trip! Proper preparation and planning is the key to a successful float trip on the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. Please make sure that you have the proper equipment, and acquaint yourself with river regulations and safety notices. There are three canyons to explore: The Mariscal Canyon, Boquillas Canyon, and The Lower Canyons

Plan Your Visit

Contact the Park:

Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River

c/o Big Bend National Park

PO Box 129

Big Bend National Park, TX 79834

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

USA - Texas - San Antonio Missions

The people in southern Texas found their cultures and their lives under attack. In the early 1700s the Apache foraged from the north, deadly diseases migrated from Mexico, and the drought was persistent.

Entering a mission was the only way to survive the harsh surroundings. By entering a mission, members gave up their traditional lives to become Spanish, accepting a new religion and pledging loyalty to a distant and obscure king. 

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park symbolizes nearly three hundred years of rich history and culture. Four separate mission sites offer recreation opportunities for the whole family. Journey back in time while never leaving the city at Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.

Plan Your Visit

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Daily

Waco Mammoth National Monument

USA - Texas - Waco Mammoth National Monument

Mammoths were magnificent creatures that stood up to fourteen feet tall and weighed twenty thousand pounds! It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, mammoths roamed what is now present-day Texas. This monument has the fossil remains that represent the nation’s first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths.

The Waco Mammoth National Monument is a fairly new park. However, its environment dates back thousands of years. Visitors will get the idea of what a Texas Ice Age was.

Surprisingly, it was not very cold. A habitat for numerous species can be found, and a river that was used by Columbian mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and camels for thousands of years. The natural resources that exist in the park are only a glimpse of a world that thrived with life during the Ice Age. 

Plan Your Visit

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily

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The 16 National Parks in Texas: Why & How to Visit Each One!

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