When people think of Texas, state parks are not the first thing that come to mind. To my surprise, Texas has an abundance of them. A huge concentration of which are within 2 hours of Austin. My understanding is that when Texas joined the United States after being its own republic, it kept the majority of its parks local to the state versus transitioning them to national state parks. This is why Texas has only 2 national parks, but 89 state parks. What’s most incredible to me is the amount of trees, rivers, waterfalls, and springs. These are just a handful of my personal favorites.
1. Pedernales Falls State Park
This my personal favorite state park in the area, possibly in the state. It’s just beautiful, especially after a lot of rain, but even when there isn’t. Clear waters, swimming, bouldering. It’s one of two places I am eager to take visitors who like nature and have the time. Only 90 minutes from Austin. Camping is available.
2. Colorado Bend State Park
Incredible state park with hiking, the famed Gorman Falls which looks like something out of a jungle in Southeast Asia, Spicewood Springs to cool off, and of course the Colorado River that flows through the park for swimming or boating. There are also several short canyon hikes above or below the pools that ultimately feed into Spicewood Springs and the Colorado River. Great place to relax or be active. About 2 hours from Austin.
3. Guadalupe River State Park
Wonderful place for lounging, picnicking, BBQ’ing, and most notably floating on the river in an inflatable tube. Great place for swimming in the hot Texas summer. I really love the cypress trees along the river bank. Gets crowded in summer, so not the greatest for solitude, but there are always places to escape the crowds if you look hard enough (or go during the week).
4. Inks Lake State Park
Great place to relax, camp, picnic, and maybe do some light trekking around the lake. Nearby you’ll find the resort towns of Marble Falls and Horseshoe Bay which offer pretty views of Lake Travis.
5. Longhorn Caverns State Park
Cave with large, open rooms. And of course, interesting rock formations. Exceeded my expectations. Nice area to picnic or hang out while waiting for your cave tour.