All 18 State Parks in Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country contains 25 counties, and 18 state parks/natural areas. The landscape includes prickly pear, live oak, ashe juniper, springs, rivers, wineries, caverns and hills which rise several hundred feet above their surroundings. It begins just south of the center of Texas, and provides many opportunities to adventure. The state parks located within are where you will find the best hiking in Texas Hill Country. This article contains a list of these Texas State Parks with photos and details.

Garner State Park is the most popular in Texas Hill Country and there's good reason.
Old Baldy at Garner State Park

We have visited every state park in Hill Country. Moreover, we have at least one video of each park on our youtube channel – Pawsitively Adventurous. Continue reading for an overview of each park, or follow the links to find more detailed articles about our experience.

Most parks are dog friendly, although one of them (Government Canyon) has restrictions. If you do not hold a Texas State Parks Pass, plan on paying a small fee at most parks. Making a reservation is your best course, and will guarantee you a visit during busy seasons. We created a unique map of these locations which can be found at the bottom of the article.

Colorado Bend State Park

This is the northernmost Texas State Park in Hill Country. It is about two hours northwest of Austin along the Colorado River. You can hike, or bike along 35 miles of trails, as well as camp, or fish. The 70 foot waterfall and wild cave tour make this park incredibly unique. Colorado Bend is dog friendly, but you are expected to leave no trace, use a leash, and be aware of potential snakes. The first time we visited this park we came across eight armadillos, which is eight times more than the average park.

  • Challenging trails: Tinaja Trail (3 miles)
The 70ft high waterfalls (Gorman Falls) at Colorado Bend State Park in Texas.
Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend – 70ft

Inks Lake State Park

This park is about an hour northwest of Austin and is also along the Colorado River. However, the water in the area is also recognized as Inks Lake. You can fish, swim, paddle, boat, ski, or scuba dive. The park contains more than 1,000 acres with 9 miles of hiking trails, and nearly 200 campsites. There are more things to do here than the average park. You can fish without a license at this, or any Texas State Park. You might even be able to fish without bringing your own rod, or lures!

  • Challenging trails: none
Sunset at Inks Lake State Park
The sun goes down on Inks Lake

Longhorn Cavern State Park

This park is just south of Inks Lake, and east of the Colorado River. This park is unique because an entrance fee is not required. However, it does charge a fee for tours of the cavern. If you hold a Texas State Parks Pass you can get a 10% discount on purchases at the park, including the cavern tour. Admittance to the cavern is by tour only which means you will pay to visit the park if you plan on seeing it (whether you have a pass or not). The tour is $18 per person with a distance of one mile, 52 steps, and a duration of 90 minutes. The park also has dog friendly hiking trails, but they do not allow pets on the cavern tour.

  • Challenging trails: Wild Cave Tour

Pro Tip – Longhorn Cavern State Park has a wild cave tour every Saturday at 9:30am. This tour lasts about three hours, and costs $55. If you prefer to get down and dirty on your adventures, this tour is a “must do”. Plus, everyone who makes it out of the cave alive receives a free T-shirt!

The cave tour at Longhorn Cavern State Park
Longhorn Cavern was formed by an ancient river

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

This park, about 90 minutes north of San Antonio, is known for its pink granite dome which takes roughly 20 minutes to climb. I climbed Enchanted Rock in less than eight minutes on my most recent visit, but I was going for speed. Hiking, camping and climbing are a few of the things to do at this park. The four mile outer loop is dog friendly, but they do not allow dogs on the summit trails. Climbing Enchanted Rock is quite an experience which provides a 360 degree view of Texas Hill Country, just north of Fredericksburg.

  • Challenging trails: Summit Trail (1 mile), Echo Canyon Trail (1 mile)

Pro Tip – I’ve climbed Enchanted Rock several times. The dome is steep and unshaded in many areas. Plan accordingly by wearing good hiking shoes, packing water and protecting your skin from the sun. You will feel the burn in your legs before reaching the top, but you can do it!

Summit trail at Enchanted Rock where the clock started.
The Summit Trail at Enchanted Rock

South Llano River State Park

This 500 acre park is about two hours northwest of San Antonio. Despite its size this park has 22 miles of dog friendly hiking trails. You can also camp, bike, or fish at the park. However, it seems most people prefer to swim or float along the South Llano River. Rio Grande Turkeys can be seen in the Turkey Roost Area, which is between the HQ and the river. We spotted more types of wildlife at South Llano River State Park than any other so far.

  • Challenging trails: Frontera Trail (4 miles)

Pro Tip – The Overlook Trail (point of interest 3) leads around a hill and offers some amazing views of Hill Country. However, if you head south to the Frontera Trail, you will reach the highest point (2,130ft) in the park next to the boundary.

A view from 2,130 feet from a hill inside South Llano River State Park
The highest point at South Llano River State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park

This dog friendly park is about 30 minutes west of Austin along the Pedernales River. It has 26 miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. You can swim or float in the river, but only in designated areas away from the falls. However, you can get up close and personal with the falls during dry weather. The rock formations along the river are fun to hike. You may spend several hours on these trails which will not seem too difficult for most hikers.

  • Challenging trails: Hiking along the rocks in the Pedernales River is probably the most difficult spot
Abbey and I at Pedernales Falls State Park
The Pedernales River and Falls

LBJ State Park and Ranch

This is a Texas State Park and historic site about an hour north of San Antonio. It is free to hike the Living History Farm, and drive through the ranch. However, visiting the Texas White House is not free. The park is dog friendly and has a short hiking trail near the farm. You may learn a few things about our former president Lyndon B. Johnson at his childhood home.

The LBJ statue
LBJ State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

This park is located along Onion Creek, east of Austin, Texas. You can hike 10 miles along dog friendly trails, fish, camp, swim, or simply enjoy the waterfalls before the water reaches the Colorado River. In the middle of the park there are two separate waterfalls. Streams of water have eroded channels in the rock over time.

Only a few channels were filled with rushing water during our visit in December. Higher water levels will lead to more streams, and more spectacular falls. The rocks near the falls are littered with pockets of water, and hiking is more challenging. You can climb down to see the falls in both areas, but you may find the climb up more difficult. Even though the rocks are not very high we noticed several people climbing the rocks for fun.

  • Challenging trails: none
McKinney Falls State Park in Austin.
Near the lower falls at McKinney Falls

Old Tunnel State Park

This small park is about an hour northwest of San Antonio, Texas, and is well known for its population of Mexican free-tailed bats. Millions of bats exit the tunnel just before dusk during summer months. Entrance to the park is free, but viewing the show from the lower deck will cost you $5.

Park staff presents bat education for those on the lower deck prior to the emergence. There is also a short mile long trail to hike at the park. The trail is out-and-back with some changes in elevation. You may find it closed immediately before the bats emerge. I’ve seen the emergence twice at this park, and it is an amazing experience.

The bats emerge in Texas Hill Country at Old Tunnel State Park.
The Old Tunnel bat emergence

Blanco State Park

Blanco is about 45 minutes north of San Antonio along a river of the same name. This very small park only contains about 100 acres. It is a popular area to swim and hangout along the river. Camping, fishing and boating are other things you can do. The park has some interesting waterfalls, and they are publicly accessible.

  • Challenging trails: none

Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area

This park contains a very deep sinkhole which is home to Mexican free-tailed bats during the year. The sinkhole was created at an unknown time when a cavity beneath the surface caved inward. In the past, bat guano has been mined from the hole. Unlike most parks you cannot simply show up and visit the sinkhole. You must call ahead and make a reservation. There are hiking trails, but reservations must be made on two specific days each month. Visiting this natural area is easier said than done.

Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area is only open with reservation in Texas Hill Country.
The Devil’s Sinkhole

Devil’s River State Natural Area

It’s not too easy to reach this park which is about four hours west of San Antonio, Texas, and not far from the border of Mexico. There are not many hiking trails, but one of them is a 12-mile loop. The loop trail leads through at least nine different camping areas, most of which can also be accessed by road. There are two short trails near the spring which feeds into the Devil’s River, giving the park a total hiking distance of 14 miles. Paddling downriver is allowed, but only for those who are experienced and have a river access permit.

  • Challenging trails: 12-Mile Loop

Pro Tip – Beware the 20-mile drive on a rough gravel road leading into this park!

Kickapoo Cavern State Park

20 caves can be found inside this park which is about three hours west of San Antonio, Texas. The caves can only be accessed by tour, but there are several hiking trails leading 13 miles through the hills as well. Kickapoo Cavern has some of the best trails in Hill Country, as it begins to transition into Big Bend Country. Mountain biking is allowed on the trails, and camping is allowed near the HQ. If you would like to see the caves, there are cave tours every Saturday at 1pm.

  • Challenging trails: Barbado Ridge Trail (2 miles)
The Barbado Ridge Trail at Kickapoo Cavern State Park is simply awesome as Texas Hill Country transitions into Big Bend Country.
Kickapoo Cavern State Park

Guadalupe River State Park

This park is located near Boerne and Bulverde, along the Guadalupe River. There are 16 miles of hiking trails, a few of which follow the river. You can swim, paddle, canoe and fish at the river. The park has a discovery center for kids, and monthly events on the weekends. You can also bike or ride horses at this dog friendly park. The most unique aspect is the new five mile paddle trail which begins inside the park.

  • Challenging trails: There is one steep section along the Golden-Cheeked Warbler Trail (1 mile)

Pro Tip – Unlike many state parks, you can hike north or south of the river here. Furthermore, new trails have opened up on the north side of Guadalupe River State Park. Unfortunately, there is no good way to cross the river, and visitors must drive an additional 10 miles to get to the other side. I was able to get up-close-and-personal with an armadillo on the trails to the north.

The Guadalupe River is quite clear although people swim in it.
Guadalupe River State Park

Lost Maples State Natural Area

This park is well known for its colorful maple trees in the fall. There are only 10 miles of hiking trails, but you will get some of the best views in Texas Hill Country along the way. Steep sections along the loops are more difficult as you climb 2,200 feet up rocky hills, and back down the other side. The weather was bad on our first visit, but we took some good shots none-the-less. We crossed the Sabinal River, saw fascinating rock structures and colors while hiking with our dog. She hiked eight miles and did not seem to mind the weather.

  • Challenging trails: East Trail (3 miles), West Trail (4 miles)
Lost Maples is one of the most popular state parks in Texas Hill Country.
A waterfall at Lost Maples

Hill Country State Natural Area

Parking is centrally located at this park, and it has several loop trails. There are 40 miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. This is a really great place to see wide open views of the Texas Hill Country. It’s dog friendly, but there is very little shade to be found on many trails. Bring water and try to keep cool as you get a glimpse of the Old West. This park is another one of our favorites. The views are well worth the hike, and we cannot wait to see them in other seasons.

  • Challenging trails: West Peak Overlook Trail (1 mile), Ice Cream Hill (2 miles), Vista Ridge Trail (2 miles), Cougar Canyon Overlook Trail (2 miles)
A far reaching view of the hills at Hill Country State Natural Area
Hill Country State Natural Area

Garner State Park

At this park you can swim, paddle, tube, camp and hike along the Frio River. There are 16 miles of dog friendly hiking trails. However, most trails loop around, or climb over the hills within. There are several things to do here besides hiking with your dog. The most unique is the jukebox dance which happens on summer evenings, and has been for nearly 80 years.

Garner State Park receives more visits than any other in the vicinity. The hiking trails are challenging, but the views are amazing and seem endless. We hiked through most of the hills for a total elevation equal to 136 floors! We also crawled into two caves, and hiked along the crystal clear Frio River. This may be the best park in Texas Hill Country. We definitely plan to return during other seasons.

  • Challenging trails: Bridges Trail (1 mile), Crystal Cave Trail (1 mile), Old Baldy Trail (1 mile)

Pro Tip – The elevation changes at Garner State Park are unbelievable. No other park has come close in terms of elevation gain. Hill Country State Natural Area was good, but still 30 floors less. You will go up and down A LOT.

One of many hills at Garner State Park

Government Canyon State Natural Area

This very large park contains more than 40 miles of hiking trails, and over 12,000 acres in San Antonio, Texas. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the majority of trails. Dogs may only use the two trails in the front end of the park. The park is not exactly dog friendly, which is rare compared to all of the others we have visited in Texas.

There are a few other unique things to do at Government Canyon. Visit a home built in the 1880’s, find dinosaur footprints, and discover an ancient Native American site. Furthermore, you can hike to Black Hill and gather far reaching views of Texas Hill Country. The only problem is the weekly schedule. The park is only open four days a week (Friday – Monday). There’s a lot to do at this park, and not a lot of time to get it done.

  • Challenging trails: Several trails in the natural habitat and center of the park are difficult to hike, or bike

Pro Tip – Black Hill is inside a natural habitat on the north side of the park. The trails in this area are easy to miss, and only open during fall/winter months. You can spot downtown San Antonio (probably 30 miles away) from the outside of Black Hill.

Government Canyon is on the edge of Texas Hill Country, but it has a fair share of hills and views.
A view from the natural habitat at Government Canyon

Best Hiking in Texas Hill Country

There are many great places to hike in Hill Country. If you are looking for the best hiking in Texas Hill Country, you will need to visit some of these state parks. Each of them are dog friendly to some extent. Most of them contain scenic views, or trails along major rivers. Several of them have unique features, and several things to do besides hiking.

If you purchase a Texas State Parks Pass you can enter most of the parks without being charged for one year. This will save you a bunch of money in the long run if you visit as many parks as we do. Always make a reservation beforehand to guarantee entry, especially if you are visiting on weekends or holidays. If you have found our list of Texas State Parks useful, share it with someone else who will also benefit.

Visit these parks during different seasons and you will be surprised by different views. Winter is a great time to hike more challenging and less shaded trails because of cooler temperatures. Spring is a good time to see wildflowers, springs, rivers and flowering trees. Visiting caverns, shaded trails, rivers and lakes will be refreshing in the summer. The changing colors of fall may be more appealing where there is a variety of trees and plant-life.

All 18 state parks in Texas Hill Country have their place and purpose. Hiking, camping, kayaking and swimming are just a few of the popular activities. Plus, you can hike with your dog. We enjoy the parks with more potential distance and challenging trails the most. Which Texas State Park is your favorite?

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it. We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site. Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

David Earley


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