Hiking with Gators at Brazos Bend State Park

There are many great things to do at Brazos Bend State Park in Needville, Texas, but hiking with gators is the best one. This Texas State Park contains nearly 5,000 acres along the Brazos River. Seven lakes within Brazos Bend provide visitors with many opportunities to spot an alligator. How many gators will you see? The answer depends on which trails you hike, and what time you visit Brazos Bend State Park.

A 2 - 3 foot-long American alligator at Brazos Bend State Park in Houston, Texas
A baby alligator at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas

How to Get to Brazos Bend State Park in Texas

Address: 21901 Farm to Market Rd 762, Needville, TX 77461

Hours of operation: Brazos Bend is open from 8am – 10pm daily

Fees: $7 without a Texas State Parks Pass

Brazos Bend State Park is about 20 miles south of downtown Houston. It’s also about 20 miles northwest of the Gulf Coast. This park is directly between HWY 288, and HWY 36, on the west side of the Brazos River. The only entrance is along FM 762.

There may not be much to see along the road, but you cannot miss the alligator on the parks entrance sign. Head to the HQ after you see the gator, where you can pay and collect the trail map.

A display of the trail map at Brazos Bend State Park.
Brazos Bend State Park Trail Map

Things to Do at Brazos Bend

  • Walk your dog
  • Ride a horse
  • Camp in a tent
  • Launch a canoe
  • Fish in three of the lakes
  • Have a picnic
  • Climb the observation tower
  • Ride a bike
  • Visit the observatory
  • Hike with gators

Surprisingly, this park is dog friendly. However, there are alligators inside the park, and many places for them to hide. Be very careful while hiking with your dog at Brazos Bend. Keep your dog on leash and by your side along the trails. You may hike any of the trails with your dog, but even the best dog is no match for an American Alligator.

40 Acre Lake at Brazos Bend
40 Acre Lake

At Brazos Bend you can also have a picnic near three of the larger lakes, or fish for bass, catfish, sunfish, and carp. If you prefer an overnight adventure, you can camp in a cabin, screened shelter, or electric site. Campsites are roughly $12 – $25, not including the daily entrance fee. Hike along the Brazos River to camp with a horse, or canoe downstream.

The Brazos Bend Observation Tower

One of the most popular areas to visit is probably the observation tower. It’s marked as point of interest #2 on the trail map, and is not far from the HQ. To reach the top of the observation tower you must climb two and a half floors (45 steps). From there you will see 40 Acre Lake, Pilant Lake, and trails heading in three separate directions.

How many alligators will you see from the observation tower? It’s difficult to say, but there may be more than 250 alligators at this park. The odds are in your favor if it’s not too hot, or too cold outside. We did not see any gators from the tower on a hot summer day, but the trail is a different story.

Brazos Bend State Park; inside the observation tower.
A view from the observation tower at Brazos Bend

Hiking Trails at Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park has 25 hiking trails. Biking is allowed on all but two of these trails; Creekfield Lake ADA Trail, and Observatory Trail. It’s approximately a six-mile hike from one end of the park to the other. The total trail distance is, at least, 30 miles.

The lakes are fairly close together in the center of the park, and short trails form loops around them. Most of the trails inside the park are short loops, but a few different trails form larger loops as well. Most points of interest are closer to the lakes. However, there are two points of interest near the Brazos River to the northeast.

The 40 Acre Lake Trail at Brazos Bend.
40 Acre Lake Trail – 1.2 miles

The parking areas are also located near the lakes. This may make it a bit easier to spot some of the alligators. The first trail we hiked was 40 Acre Lake Trail to the observation tower. The view of the park is great, but we did not see any gators in 40 Acre Lake, or Pilant Lake. In fact, Pilant Lake is so swampy, there could be many gators enjoying its lush cover and cool water.

We did see an alligator while hiking away from the tower. A baby gator (probably about one year old) was relaxing in the shade, close to 40 Acre Lake. It was only about 2 – 3 feet in length, and refused to move as we hiked by at a distance of six feet. This was the only gator we spotted during our first hike at Brazos Bend. We kept a watchful eye, but did not see any adult alligators around the lakes or trails.

Found this baby gator at 40 Acre Lake, getting some shade.
Baby gator at 40 Acre Lake

Points of Interest at Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park has eight points of interest listed on the trail map. The observatory (#5) is the most unique. The observation tower (#2) is great, but it’s been done. However, we did not expect to find a Houston astronomical observatory inside this park.

Use the short Observatory Trail to cross Creekfield Lake from the Nature Center and reach the observatory. The observatory is only open from 3pm – 11pm, on Saturdays. Adult admission is $7, but children get in free. We noticed hundreds of orange and black spiders along the Observatory Trail. Walking directly underneath spiders can be uncomfortable, but the park is worth it.

The Houston astronomical observatory
The observatory inside Brazos Bend State Park

You will notice the Interpretive Trail (#4) on the way to, or from, the observatory. Displays show the birth of a woodland. Creekfield Lake is slowly becoming a marsh, and a woodland is being born. Cool! Before leaving the Nature Center, checkout the old cistern (#6) on the backside of the building. It’s easy to miss if you are not looking for it. It’s all closed up now, but used to store and provide water to people in the 1800’s.

Over at Elm Lake (the largest lake) there is a viewing platform (#1) in front of the public restroom. However, no alligators could be seen in the very swampy water. Hiking the loop trail may provide a better outcome. Another viewing platform is located at 40 Acre Lake, but is not listed as a point of interest. A Prairie Platform (#7) can be reached from the road near the HQ, but we didn’t see anything of interest there.

The old cistern can be found behind the Nature Center at Brazos Bend.
The old cistern at Brazos Bend

See You Later Alligator

Brazos Bend State Park is a must-visit near Houston, Texas. This park has unique forms of wildlife, terrain, and things to do. Unsurprisingly, it is quite different from the state parks we are used to in Texas Hill Country. The best part – you can hike, bike, canoe, or camp with alligators.

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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