Want to breathe in the fresh air, stretch your legs, and rejuvenate in the natural world sans a chaotic crowd? Skip some of the state’s more popular parks like Enchanted Rock and Pedernales Falls and opt for a less popular alternative.
Whether you like hiking, fishing, biking, swimming or even bird-watching, there is a lesser-known yet beautiful state park for you. Here are six parks almost always free of large crowds and traffic, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife department.
The parks are listed below with brief descriptions provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Sea Rim” is where marsh grass and wetlands meet the sea. Silt deposits from the Sabine River delta formed the sea rim here in southeast Texas. Enjoy fishing, crabbing, birding, nature study and swimming on more than 4,000 acres and five miles of Gulf of Mexico beach.Visit for the day or stay overnight at water and electric or primitive beach campsites, floating tent raft, or cabin. The west dune boardwalk has rinse-off showers. Explore the marsh paddling trails or Gambusia Nature Trail Boardwalk, or ride your horse along the beach.
19335 S. Gulfway Dr., Sabine Pass 77655, (409) 971-2559
About 105 miles from Downtown Houston
Lake Somerville State Park’s two units, between Austin and College Station, are great family getaways. Roads and trails wind through meadows and woodland campsites. Nails Creek Unit has a shallow swimming area perfect for small children. Birch Creek Unit has a group trailer area. Anglers favor Birch Creek, while Nails Creek is an equestrian favorite. Both units rent canoes and kayaks. Lake Somerville Trailway: Thirteen miles of trails connect the units, offering hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, backpacking, birding and photography. Equestrians and backpackers can camp along the trailway.
Birch Creek Unit, 14222 Park Rd. 57, Somerville 77879, (979) 535-7763
Nails Creek Unit, 6280 FM 180, Ledbetter 78946, (979) 289-2392
Brown pelicans, rare whooping cranes and fishing in the bountiful waters of Aransas, Copano and St. Charles bays draw visitors here. The CCC built Goose Island, Texas’ first coastal state park. It sits on the southern tip of the Lamar Peninsula. Dramatic wind-sculpted trees dominate the park. The “Big Tree,” a massive coastal live oak estimated to be centuries old, is one of the natural wonders of Texas.
202 S. Palmetto St., Rockport 78382, (361) 729-2858
The Edwards Plateau ecoregion, the Rolling Plains natural region, and the Trans-Pecos desert meet in this park. Its diverse mix of plants includes bottomland trees such as pecan, hackberry and mesquite, which are more common in the arid plains. The Official Texas State Longhorn Herd resides here, as well.Rent one of the heated and air-conditioned limited-service cabins, group pavilions, or regular or equestrian campsites. Explore more than 50 miles of equestrian, hiking and biking trails.
362 S. FM 2288, San Angelo 76901, (325) 949-4757
Along the Sabinal River, springs flow through scenic and rugged limestone canyons. Wildlife thrives here, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. Hike the 11 miles of trails up steep canyon cuts to reach dramatic overlooks and find the perfect place to pitch a backpacker’s tent. The stars of this 2,900-acre natural area are the stands of uncommon Uvalde Bigtooth Maples. Large weekend crowds arrive when the maples turn vivid reds, yellows and oranges from late October through November. Plan your trip mid-week during this peak season.
37221 FM 187, Vanderpool 78885, (830) 966-3413
With nearly 6,400 acres in the southwestern Hill Country, the park is relatively undeveloped—a natural open space where you can find solitude—but offers great activities. It has 15 tent sites and five full hookup campsites, bird-watching, and miles of trails for hiking and biking.The park has a network of caverns, including one large enough for guided tours. At Stuart Bat Cave, you can view Mexican free-tailed bat flights during the evenings of warm weather months.
20939 RR 674, Brackettville 78832, (830) 563-2342
Searching for more things to do in and around Houston? Visit our Things To Do page.
Don’t get caught off guard. Before venturing out, familiarize yourself with adjusted hours and follow guidelines around social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures required by the destinations you visit.