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14 Tremendous National Parks in Texas

Red flowers in the foreground on a mountain peak. There are more mountains in the same range in the background, all in Big Bend, one of the national parks in Texas

NPS/Reine Wonite

Looking for a new adventure? There are 14 national parks in Texas. From Fort Davis to Big Bend, these parks offer something for everyone. Whether you want to explore remote locations or enjoy local favorites, there is a park that will fit your needs and interests.

Keep reading to discover the state’s natural beauty by learning about the Texas national parks. This post is full of information about each one and how the parks can be explored. You’ll find everything from easy-to-access historic sites to remote locations that require a bit more effort (but offer some truly spectacular scenery). 

There are plenty of reasons why the Texas national parks should be on your list for places to visit in the Lone Star State. There’s something different waiting around every corner for those who take the time to explore them!

Last updated August 19, 2021. This post may contain affiliate links.

Map of National Parks in Texas

A map of Texas in blue with the national parks in Texas shown in green

Texas National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

A map of Texas with a road trip itinerary outlined to the Texas national parks

Start/end: El Paso, Dallas, Houston, or Austin would work. For this itinerary, we’re using El Paso as the starting point.

Day 1: Fly into El Paso and visit Chamizal National Memorial to start off your Texas national parks road trip.

Day 2: Drive down to Fort Davis National Historic Site (3 hours) on your way to Big Bend. The Persimmon Gap entrance to Big Bend is only 1.5 hours from Fort Davis. I recommend staying in Big Bend National Park for a few days; read my itinerary for 3 days in Big Bend for an idea of what to do during your visit.

Day 6: After a few days in Big Bend, continue south to Amistad National Recreation Area (3 hours). I recommend staying the night here in Del Rio or driving a few more hours and staying the night in a smaller town.

Day 7: Spend some time at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park. If you were to drive from Del Rio, this is a 6.5-hour drive.  Stay the night nearby.

Day 8: Continue to Padre Island National Seashore (2.5 hours). You may want to two days here.

Day 10: Head north to San Antonio (2.5 hours) and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Spend the night in San Antonio.

Day 11: Continue north to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site (1.5 hours). Spend the night in Austin.

Day 12: Drive north once again toward Waco Mammoth National Monument (3-hour drive). Spend the night near Waco or drive east toward your next destination.

Day 13: If you stayed in Waco, it’s a 4-hour drive to Big Thicket National Preserve. Spend the day hiking here, then stay the night in the area. Houston isn’t terribly far if you prefer to explore another large Texas city.

Day 14: Your next day will be spent entirely in the car as you return to western Texas toward Amarillo (9.5-hour drive).

Day 15: Spend a day relaxing on the shores of Lake Meredith. Today or tomorrow, visit its partner site, Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. The two sites are only about 40 minutes from each other.

Day 16: Head south to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. You’ll travel through New Mexico, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is another convenient stop along the way. Stay the night in Carlsbad if you decide to stop there, then continue to Guadalupe Mountains the next day. Otherwise, it’s a 6-hour drive to head from Amarillo to Guadalupe Mountains.

Day 17: Spend the day hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. You may want to spend a few days here enjoying the trails. When you’re ready, return home via El Paso, just two hours from Guadalupe Mountains.

Complete List of National Parks in Texas

Texas 

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

A red trail through green grass, viewed from a rocky vista point above

NPS Photo

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is located in the western portion of Texas. It’s one of the most critical archaeological sites ever found in the state, making it one of the most important national parks in Texas.

Thousands of years ago, this area was well-known by mammoth hunters as a prime location for the flint needed to create their tools. There are cliffs here made from caves carved out by prehistoric Indians who mined deposits of flint within these cliff walls.

Archaeologists have identified six different excavation areas with archaeological remains containing artifacts such as hunting weapons, food preparation items, ceremonial pieces, and artwork.

How to Get There: The monument is located about 35 miles from Amarillo. Click here for directions.

Map: click here

Things to Do: Guided tours and ranger programs. Reservations required; call (806) 857-6680 to inquire.

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Drury Inn, Super 8, Route 66 Inn, 1 Hotel

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (806) 857-6680

Amistad National Recreation Area

A panoramic shot of sunrise over the lake at Amistad National Recreation Area, one of the national parks in Texas

NPS/Seth Dodd

Amistad National Recreation Area is located on the border between Texas and Mexico. It’s one of the few international reservoirs in the US.

There are over 700 aquatic species in the recreation area, which also draws bird watchers from around the world. More popular activities include camping, hiking, and paddling.

Furthermore, the park tells a rich history. There are hundreds of Native American artifacts and petroglyphs to discover. Visitors can see some of the rock art left behind centuries ago.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Guided tours, bird watching, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, paddling, diving

Park Entrance Fee: While there is no entrance fee, there may be a fee for camping, hunting, or boating.

Where to Stay: Executive Inn, Quality Inn, Best Western, Whispering Palms, Holiday Inn

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (830) 775-7491

Big Bend National Park

In Big Bend National Park, Pummel Peak seen through the stone window of a ruined home at the Mariscal Mine.

NPS Photo

Big Bend National Park is located in the southwestern portion of Texas. The park contains mountains that rise over a mile high and contain more than 2,000 plant species. This makes it unique among the national parks in Texas.

The area has been home to humans for 12,000 years as evidenced by archeological sites found within the park boundaries such as La Playa, Terlingua, and Santa Elena Canyon.

Fauna like black bears, wolves, mountain lions, javelina, bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and roadrunners can be seen throughout the park as well. This makes it one of the best national parks for wildlife watching.

Big Bend National Park also has an extensive system of hiking trails along with a few short paved trails for individuals with impaired mobility. It’s also popular for camping and backpacking in its extensive wilderness.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Scenic drives, hiking, camping, wildlife watching, boating, bicycling, fishing, stargazing, horseback riding

Park Entrance Fee: $30/vehicle, $25/motorcycle, or $15/person (valid for 7 days)

Where to Stay: Terlingua Ranch Lodge, Tin Valley, Lajitas Golf Resort

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (432) 477-2251

Big Thicket National Preserve

Cypress trees growing out of a green swamp in one of the Texas national parks

NPS/Scott Sharaga

Big Thicket National Preserve is located in southeast Texas and was established to protect an area in Texas where multiple habitats converge.

This creates one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America and the national parks in Texas. Big Thicket provides a home for hundreds of animal species and rare plant life making it an ideal location for camping, hiking, bird watching, paddling, wildlife viewing, and photography.

Big Thicket National Preserve is a popular place for bird watching with more than 250 different species of birds throughout the area including several rare species as well as some migratory birds that pass through during their journey to warmer climates.

Bird watchers will love hiking one of the many trails in this preserve where they can observe animals in their natural habitat.

America’s first national preserve also allows hunting in one of the more unique Texas national parks. When you visit, it’ll feel like you aren’t in Texas anymore.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Hiking, paddling, camping, hunting, bicycling, backpacking, fishing

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Relax Inn, Super 8, Heritage Inn, Quality Inn, Howard Johnson

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (409) 951-6700

Chamizal National Memorial

A walking path leads to a visitor center with USA and Mexico flags raised

NPS Photo

Chamizal National Memorial is one of the national parks in Texas that was created to recognize a historical event, the Chamizal Treaty.

The treaty was signed on June 6th, 1963, and provided for joint ownership of a 16-acre parcel of land along the international border between Mexico and the US. This settled a century-long boundary dispute between the two countries.

The memorial commemorates this historic event with two large murals depicting the treaty signing as well as a peace tower and ceremonial garden.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Museum, memorials, cultural events, ranger programs, art gallery, picnic, hiking, bicycling 

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Coral Motel, La Quinta, Hampton Inn, Soluna Hotel, Gardner Hotel

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (915) 532-7273

Fort Davis National Historic Site

A man dressed in a historic military uniform rides a host near an outpost at one of the national parks in Texas

NPS Photo

Fort Davis National Historic Site was established in 1854 as the westernmost outpost of the US Army. The fort is located in West Texas where it served as a waypoint on the road to Santa Fe during the Mexican-American War and Indian Wars.

Visitors can experience what life would have been like for early settlers in this region by visiting the fort. The site contains a half-mile walking trail and several areas that have been used as an army post since the establishment of the original fort in 1854 including functioning officers’ quarters, barracks, and storerooms.

Fort Davis National Historic Site is located at 1002 Fort Davis Road which is approximately 65 miles west of Marfa on Highway 17. The site is one of the best-preserved military outposts in all the national parks in Texas and the southwest.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Walk around the military outpost, special events, hiking, living history, ranger programs

Park Entrance Fee: $20/vehicle, $15/motorcycle, or $10/person (valid 7 days)

Where to Stay: Fort Davis Inn & RV Park, Hotel Limpia

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (432) 426-3224

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Yellow wildfllowers bloom in a field of green grass with tall gray and brown mountains in the background

NPS/Karen Poteet

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a great place for hikers to explore as well as rock climbers, campers, and anyone interested in discovering more about the geology of Texas.

This section of the Chihuahuan Desert is one of the most remote areas in North America and home to a diverse array of plant life including yucca, agave, prickly pear cactus, buffelgrass, wildflowers, and juniper. Wildlife like mule deer, javelina (wild pigs), coatimundis (a raccoon relative), and bobcats call the Guadalupe Mountains home as well.

The park is a wonderful place to spend the day hiking, biking, camping, and picnicking.

Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas) is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Hikers can reach the summit of Guadalupe Peak by following a strenuous 8-mile round trip trail that begins at the trailhead. Guadalupe Peak rises to an elevation of 8,750 feet. 

There are many other great hikes in the park in addition to more wonderful things to do. If you enjoy exploring the national parks in Texas, this one will not disappoint. 

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Scenic drives, hiking, camping, backpacking, horseback riding, birdwatching, stargazing

Park Entrance Fee: $10/person, valid for 7 days

Where to Stay: Hampton Inn, Desert Inn, Super 8, Parkview Motel, Comfort Suites

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (915) 828-3251

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

A boat on a blue lake surrounded by red hills

NPS Photo

Lake Meredith is just one of the national parks in Texas that provide visitors with various activities such as camping, picnicking, swimming, and hiking. Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is a lovely place to enjoy boating, swimming, and fishing as well.

The lake was created by the construction of the Sanford Dam on the Canadian River in western Texas.

Lake Meredith Reservoir supplies water for several cities and towns including Abilene and Amarillo while also providing recreation opportunities for visitors. The park boasts abundant wildlife including deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, buffalo, egrets, and herons.

The Caddo Indians settled in this region long before Europeans arrived in the area and they have been credited with building many of the rock walls that are still standing around Lake Meredith today. The area was originally settled during the 19th century by homesteaders who used the abundant natural resources including deer, rabbits, and fish in Lake Meredith.

The lake can get very busy during peak seasons and visitors are encouraged to check ahead for camping reservations.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Paddling, boating, camping, hiking, ranger programs, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing, hunting

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Drury Inn, Super 8, Route 66 Inn, 1 Hotel

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (806) 857-3151

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Lawn chairs in front of a white home known as the Texas White House, located on President Johnson's ranch which is one of the national parks in Texas

NPS/Cynthia Dorminey

Located in the Texas Hill Country approximately 35 miles west of Austin, this park is home to the ranch that served as a home to President Johnson and his wife.

Visitors can tour the grounds on two different paths called “The President’s Trail” and “The Mrs. Johnson’s Trail.” Each trail follows the former pathways of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. The park consists of two separate units; the LBJ Ranch Unit and the Johnson Family Farm Unit. The park grounds include Johnson’s boyhood home and his final resting place.

The family lived at the ranch until 1961 after Lyndon B. Johnson was elected President of the United States. Tours of the LBJ Ranch include a driving tour as well as an audio presentation which is narrated by Lady Bird Johnson herself.

Visitors can view the president’s rocking chair as well as the first car that LBJ owned in Texas. The ranch also hosts special events throughout the year including an annual art show showcasing the work of local artists and former employees of the Johnson family.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is a tribute to the legacy of former President Lyndon B. Johnson and his family. This includes his wife Lady Bird Johnson, daughter Lynda Johnson Robb and her husband Chuck Robb. They still live on the ranch today with their children Luci Baines and Roxane Caleotte Robb.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Self-guided tour, ranger-guided tour

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Hill Country Inn, Johnson City River Retreat, Carter Creek Winery Resort & Spa, Three Horses Ranch

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (830) 868-7128

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore 4 

Padre Island National Seashore is located on the southern tip of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. Of all the national parks in Texas, Padre Island is the only national seashore.

The park is home to several endangered species including the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, Piping Plover bird, and the Texas Sea Otter.

Visitors can enjoy four miles of beach on the northern end of the island which is also a popular vacation spot for families because of its proximity to several Texas cities, including Corpus Christi.

The National Park Service offers many events and tours as well as programs for children and families, group reservations, camping opportunities, and boat tours of the coastline. Events include tours of the historic buildings, a sea turtle festival in June, and a fall festival with arts and crafts demonstrations among other activities.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Paddling, junior ranger program, visit the beach, fishing, birdwatching, special events

Park Entrance Fee: $10/vehicle, $7/motorcycle, and $5/person for one day or $25/vehicle, $20/motorcycle, and $15/person for 7 days

Where to Stay: Aloft, Emerald Beach Hotel, Hampton Inn, Best Western, Plaza Inn

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (361) 949-8068

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

Storm Clouds Gathering 

Palo Alto Battlefield is a memorial site dedicated to the Civil War battle between Confederate Major General John B. Magruder and Union Major General Edwin Vose Sumner. It took place on May 8, 1862, in what was then known as Palo Alto County.

Visitors can enjoy tours of the battlefield as well as two reconstructed forts, Old Fort Waller and New Fort Waller. The visitor center offers a film and displays weapons used during the battle as well as historical exhibits.

Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of events throughout the year including lectures, reenactments, and living history demonstrations.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Guided tours, museum

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Holiday Inn, Studio 6, Magnuson Hotel, La Quinta, Texas Inn

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (956) 541-2785 x333

Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

A river runs through the desert

NPS Photo

Located in the Big Bend Region of Texas, the Rio Grande River forms the border between Mexico and the United States. The river was declared a national wild and scenic river due to its stunning natural beauty and diverse ecosystem. It is one of only three rivers to receive the title and it was extended 25 miles into Mexico which makes it one of our nation’s largest protected areas.

The park offers visitors can enjoy four overlooks as well as a visitor center and museum. The park offers visitors can enjoy many different recreational activities including hiking, backpacking, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, birdwatching, boating, and kayaking. 

You can also visit the park by visiting one of the other national parks in Texas, Big Bend.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Paddling, birdwatching

Park Entrance Fee: None, however, there is a fee to enter Big Bend National Park

Where to Stay: Terlingua Ranch Lodge, Tin Valley, Lajitas Golf Resort

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (432) 477-2251

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

A historic stone church surrounded by green grass and palm trees

NPS Photo

This National Historical Park located outside San Antonio offers visitors a glimpse into the past. Of all the national parks in Texas, it’s the only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The park was established to protect four Spanish colonial missions which were built between 1718 and 1756 during Spain’s occupation of Texas. Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours or take guided walking tours of each mission to learn more about their history and the daily lives of the Spanish explorers and missionaries who lived there.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Guided tours, self-guided tours, bicycling

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Southtown Classic, OYO Hotel, Best Western Plus, Woodspring Suites

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (210) 932-1001

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Waco Mammoth National Monument 

Waco Mammoth National Monument is the only place in the world where visitors can see a complete mammoth skeleton.

It’s estimated that these amazing creatures stood as tall as 14 feet and weighed 20,000 pounds. Present-day Texas was once home to the Columbian mammoths thousands of years ago. Today, only their fossils remain to help us uncover their stories.

This is the only evidence of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths in the United States.

How to Get There: Click here

Map: Click here

Things to Do: Museum

Park Entrance Fee: None, however, there are fees to access the dig shelter

Where to Stay: Best Western Plus, La Quinta, Hotel Indigo, Woodspring Suites

Official Website: Click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: (254) 750-7946

Pin the National Parks in Texas

The 14 national parks in Texas provide an excellent opportunity to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. From visiting a UNESCO world heritage site, seeing how soldiers lived during wars, or exploring nature with your family, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure and discovery in the Texas national parks.

The national parks in Texas provide an excellent opportunity to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. Learn more about the Texas national parks. The national parks in Texas provide an excellent opportunity to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. Learn more about the Texas national parks. The national parks in Texas provide an excellent opportunity to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. Learn more about the Texas national parks. The national parks in Texas provide an excellent opportunity to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. Learn more about the Texas national parks.

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