Texas State Parks Guide: Questions, Answers and Pics

Texas is full of parks with incredible landscapes and most of them are worth visiting. Inside of Texas State Parks you will see rivers, forests, beaches, sinkholes, sand dunes, lakes, springs, canyons, mountains, and more. Most of these parks are dog friendly and easy to find. Which parks are the best in Texas? What do they look like? Do you need a reservation? This Texas State Parks Guide will answer most of your questions, leaving you with few excuses to visit a state park near you, but don’t forget your dogs!

Hiking Inks Lake State Park at sundown and it's dog friendly
Hiking Inks Lake State Park

How Many State Parks Are in Texas?

Texas currently has 89 state parks and natural areas. However, this total will increase as new Texas State Parks continue to open. These parks can be broken up into 7 different areas: Big Bend, Panhandle Plains, Prairies and Lakes, Hill Country, Piney Woods, Gulf Coast and South Plains. We have visited half of these state parks so far. More information is available on each specific park in our “Adventures” section, and the best parks are located in Hill Country.

Which Texas State Park is the Best?

The most popular Texas State Park (according to annual visit statistics) is Garner State Park in Hill Country. This park receives nearly as many visits as Big Bend National Park. The word “best” is subjective, but Garner State Park is also the best park in Texas, in our opinion. The hiking trails and scenic views are unmatched. Close runners up include Enchanted Rock, Pedernales Falls and Hill Country State Natural Area.

Garner is the best state park in this Texas State Parks Guide
Old Baldy Shadowing the Frio River at Garner State Park

What is the Least Visited State Park in Texas?

The least visited state park in Texas, by far, is Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area. Kickapoo Cavern is a close second. These parks lie on the western edge of Hill Country, several hours from major cities. Devil’s Sinkhole is only open to guided tours a few times each month, which also helps explain the lack of visitors. We created a video while touring Devil’s Sinkhole. Surprisingly, this is our most popular video to date!

Do You Need a Reservation to Visit a Texas State Park?

Most Texas State Parks do not require a reservation. However, we recommend making a reservation prior to visiting any state park. If you purchase a Texas State Parks Pass ($70 per year), you can reserve your spot at any state park for “free”. If you arrive at a popular state park in Texas, and the park is full, staff will turn you away at the gate. Prior to camping at a state park you will need to make a reservation first.

The Sandhills in Monahans are extraordinary in west Texas
Monahans Sandhills State Park

How to Make a Reservation Before Visiting a Texas State Park?

Making a reservation before visiting a Texas State Park is quick and easy. Simply go to the reservation page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Choose your park, and then select a reservation date. If there are reservations available you will proceed to the checkout page as if you are shopping. Once you are finished you will receive a confirmation email. You can give your confirmation number, or last name, to the staff during check in.

Is a Texas State Parks Pass Worth It?

If you visit at least one state park each month, a Texas State Parks Pass is worth the investment. If you only visit parks a few times every year, you may not want to invest in the pass. A Texas State Parks Pass will allow you to make unlimited reservations at parks throughout the year. Additionally, you will receive discounts on camping rates and items at the park stores. In our estimation, you can save nearly $500 each year if you visit several parks every month.

Hike with gators at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Baby Gator at Brazos Bend State Park

What Can You Do at a Texas State Park?

Most state parks have trails where you can hike, bike, run, or walk your dog. Nearly every state park in Texas is dog friendly, but a few have restrictions. Many parks are situated near rivers and lakes where you can fish, swim, or kayak. Some parks offer guided tours, especially if they contain a large cave, sinkhole or an historical structure. Most state parks allow camping where you can stay within the park for two weeks. Camping, hiking and swimming are a few of the most common things people do at Texas State Parks. However, specific parks may offer other options such as horseback riding, dancing, cave exploration, educational videos, etc.

What is the Largest State Park in Texas?

Big Bend Ranch is the largest state park in Texas. This park contains more than 300,000 acres in the mountainous Chihuahuan Desert. Big Bend Ranch is next to Big Bend National Park, but receives far fewer visitors. We have visited these parks more than once, and you can find their differences in our article about the mountains in west Texas.

High point in South Llano River State Park in Hill Country
South Llano River State Park

What is the Smallest State Park in Texas?

Old Tunnel State Park is the smallest “park” in Texas. It contains a short hiking trail in Fredericksburg, but the real attraction is the emergence of Mexican Free-Tailed bats. It is free to visit Old Tunnel State Park, but the bat emergence will cost you $5, and takes place around sundown during the warmest months of the year.

Is Nudity Allowed in Texas State Parks?

Public nudity is not allowed at any Texas State Park. However, there are obvious exceptions such as being inside a tent, RV, or shower. You may find yourself incredibly isolated inside a state park, but you still can’t get naked where others might see you.

Longhorn Cavern is an amazing tour in Hill Country
Longhorn Cavern State Park

Can You Find Buried Treasure Inside Texas State Parks?

It’s possible, but it’s illegal to remove artifacts from a state park that do not belong to you. Parks typically recommend leaving only footprints and taking nothing more than photos and memories. Several parks have a store or gift shop if you would like to return home with a souvenir. A few parks offer geocaching which is one way to find “treasure” in a Texas State Park.

How Many Days Can You Camp in a Texas State Park?

Most state parks allow visitors to camp for 14 consecutive days. Some campsites on the Gulf Coast are free, but most will cost you a few dollars per night. Of course, the more popular parks tend to have higher camping rates.

Colorado Bend State Park

When Are State Parks Open?

Open days vary from park to park. Some are open everyday, while others are only open Friday through Monday. Park offices close on most holidays, but you can still get into parks which are open daily. Check the specific park you plan to visit by calling ahead, or by making a reservation online.

Are State Parks Free in Texas?

No. Most parks charge a small entrance fee in Texas. Fees range from $3 – $8 per person. With a Texas State Parks Pass you may feel as if you are getting into Texas State Parks for free. This pass allows unlimited reservations, but it still costs $70 for the year. Some parks which offer guided tours will let you into the park for free, but they will charge a fee for the tour. Big Spring State Park and Old Tunnel State Park are two of the only free parks in Texas.

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


We kept this Texas State Parks Guide short and to the point. There is plenty of other information to share about our beautiful state parks in Texas. If you have more questions which have not been addressed above, please leave a comment below. What would a Texas State Parks Guide be without visitor feedback?

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