AUSTIN— With Spring Break around the corner, Texans everywhere will be looking for new ways to explore. Take a walk on the wild side this year with a one-of-a-kind experience at a Texas State Park.
Visitors now have the option to purchase day use passes up to one month in advance, guaranteeing access to parks even during busy times like weekends and holidays. To purchase a day pass, visit the Texas State Parks Reservation System page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.
With 95 parks around the state, there are plenty of things to see. Below are a few ideas recommended by park staff for anyone who wants to visit somewhere new this Spring Break.
Big Bend Country
The dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park go on for acres. It’s a great place to camp in an other-worldly setting. Pack a picnic, water, sun protection and a GPS unit (or follow your tracks back out) and set out on a deep dune adventure. Stay for a while and then hit the road again.
Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site might be considered a long haul to the “middle of nowhere” but to those who know, it’s in the middle of it all. The park offers campsites with sweeping views of wide-open spaces. Seminole Canyon cuts through the vista and exposes rock shelters that ancient Texans thousands of years ago also thought were pretty cool. They left their mark in many ways, the most notable and eye-catching being their rock art. Sign up for guided tours of Fate Bell Shelter to learn more.
Explore the vast network of marsh channels at Sea Rim State Park in Sabine Pass. Canoe or kayak through this green world of mystery. Trail markers and a map are available at the park and on the park web site. The park provides trails to match a variety of skill levels, so there is something for everyone to enjoy. Visitors can add to the fun by fishing from the boat, camping at a special floating marsh platform, or by staying at the park's new marsh side cabin.
For anyone looking to connect with nature, the trails at the Bauer Unit at Guadalupe River State Park are often uncrowded. The entrance to this unit of the park is about 20 minutes away from the main entrance and visitors need to get the gate code from park headquarters before making the trip over there.
Unplug and get back to nature just 10 miles from Bandera at Hill Country State Natural Area, which boasts both tame and rugged trails for explorers of all experience levels. Pack a picnic and plan to spend the day admiring early spring unfurling amid the limestone. There’s little-to-no cell phone service here, and no drinking water, but that just makes it more of an adventure.
Hit the trails this Spring Break at Old Tunnel State Park. Famous for its bat population, Old Tunnel also offers a half a mile of trails for daytime hikes, perfect for a short stroll after enjoying a scenic Hill Country drive. Visitors can also learn about native plants on the self-guided interpretive trail. Check out the interpretive signs that tell the story of the trains that once passed through the tunnel and the bats that do now. The bats will make their return later in the spring, so be sure to make plans to return for the show when the weather warms up.
The stars at night, are big and bright, at Copper Breaks State Park. The park is one of only five International Dark Sky Parks in Texas and is recognized as one of the best places to view the stars with a gold-tier rating. Visitors can grab a blanket and cozy up at their campsite to observe the milky way, planets, and other celestial bodies. During the day, Copper Breaks State Park offers plenty of recreational activities. Explore the rugged landscape on one of the many hiking trails or cool off in the lake. The park is also home to members of the Official State Longhorn Herd and visitors can attend regular feedings.
Lake Colorado City State Park is a hidden gem that offers more than 100 campsites and several limited cabins with lake views for anyone wanting to spend a few days in the outdoors. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, short hiking trails and kayak rentals, just to name a few fun activities. Visitors are sure to find a spot to suit their needs and get away from the crowds.
Nestled between towering pines and hardwood trees, Atlanta State Park is a hidden gem park tucked away in the northeast corner of the state that offers gorgeous lake views, campsites, excellent hiking and birding. Atlanta State Park provides something for everyone to enjoy all year round. Learn to fish on the 20,300-acre Wright Patman Lake reservoir by borrowing fishing tackle from the park. Visitors can also rent canoes, basketballs, volleyballs and horseshoes for visitors to use and enjoy in the park.
Two ecoregions meet on the shore of Lake Bob Sandlin State Park in northeast Texas. The result: massive trees, tall grasses and a fascinating mix of plants and animals. Wildlife abounds at this park and it also has a lighted fishing pier. Visitors can try out geocaching, which is a digital scavenger hunt available at this and many Texas State Parks. Rangers also lead a variety of programs here, including Reading with a ranger and guided trail hikes.
Prairies and Lakes
Located about an hour shy of the Oklahoma border, Bonham State Park is a Civilian Conservation Corps park that houses a handful of trails and a quaint little lake. Since there are only a limited number of campsites available, the park provides for a quiet camping experience. Beautiful CCC-era structures can be found throughout the park and along the trails, so be sure to take the time to look for them during an outing at the park. Paddle rentals are also available for anyone wanting to spend time on the lake.
Buescher State Park has hiking trails suited for all levels of hikers, from families with small kids to active adults. One short trail highlights Civilian Conservation Corps heritage, other trails traverse through a pine-oak woodland, others travel through the landscape impacted by the 2015 Hidden Pines Fire that is now flourishing with loblolly pine tree seedlings. Canoes and fish tackle are also available at the park for visitors to rent during their stay.
At the top of the Hill Country you will find a quiet oasis at Meridian State Park, which offers opportunities for nature-and-recreation lovers alike. Take in the beauty of Texas wildflowers along the Little Forest Junior Trail or enjoy the stunning view from atop Bee Ledge. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to explore the calm waters of Lake Meridian, or cast a line and try to catch crappie, catfish, and largemouth bass. Ask park staff about the free tackle loaner program and remember that no fishing license is required to fish at any Texas State Park. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic at the historic stone refectory built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Whatever your pleasure, this tranquil retreat has something for everyone.
Bring out the oars and fishing poles for a day on the water at Purtis Creek State Park. Located close to Dallas metroplex, the park is known for its catch-and-release bass fishing. The park has piers, cleaning stations and boat ramps for anyone wanting to cast a line. For visitors that want to try fishing but don’t have the equipment, the park loans out fishing tackle for anyone to use. The park is also an excellent paddling destination. Visitors can bring their own equipment or rent a kayak or paddleboard from the park to take out on the water.
South Texas Plains
Take a walk through Texas history at Goliad State Park and Historic Site, located 30 minutes outside of Victoria. The park is now the home of the El Camino Real de los Tejas Visitors Center and has exhibits that talk about the history of the Spanish “King’s Road.” Goliad State Park is also the take-out point for the 6.6-mile Goliad Paddling Trail. Paddle the San Antonio River for a few hours and enjoy the first inland paddling trail to include a state park.
For more information about Texas State Parks, visit texasstateparks.org.