9 state parks in and around the Houston area perfect for a day trip, quick getaway

Huntsville State Park (Brazos Bend State Park)

Do you want to escape the hubbub of the city, maybe grab some fresh air and commune with nature but don’t have enough energy (or vacation days) to trek out to the middle of nowhere? Take a day trip or weekend getaway to one of the many Texas state parks in and around the Houston area.

The parks are listed below with brief descriptions provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Here are nine state parks in or near the Houston area, listed from closest to furthest from Houston, using Downtown Houston as a reference point:

Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center

About 20 miles from Downtown Houston

Come to Sheldon Lake for its wildlife viewing, paddling, boating and fishing. The park features a fish hatchery “gone wild” and wheelchair-accessible trails. LEED-certified facilities demonstrate “green architecture” and alternative energy. This day-use park is only 15 miles from downtown Houston. Enjoy free catch-and-release fishing at two stocked ponds. Keep your catch when you fish in the shallow 1,200-acre Sheldon Lake. Stroll the 3,000-foot Prairie/Wetland Boardwalk. Ascend the John Jacob Observation Tower for a bird’s-eye view.

14140 Garrett Rd., Houston 77044, (281) 456-2800

Brazos Bend State Park

About 45 miles from Downtown Houston

Brazos Bend has almost 5,000 acres of lakes, prairies and forests. Live oak trees draped in Spanish moss shade the park’s picnic areas. Explore more than 30 miles of multi-use trails, where you’ll see alligators, white-tailed deer and over 300 bird species. Choose from six small lakes and a winding, tree-lined creek for fishing.

21901 FM 762, Needville 77461, (979) 553-5101

Stephen F. Austin State Park

About 50 miles from Downtown Houston

Along the Brazos River lies 473 acres of scenic moss-draped hardwood forests and towering cottonwood bottomlands. This park is home to pileated woodpecker, white-tailed deer, barred owl, and many unique ecosystems. Mexico granted this land to Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas,” and it was the birthplace of Anglo-American settlement in Texas.Come ready to camp! The park has 30-amp full hookup, water-only and primitive campsites; screened shelters; cabin; and group facilities. Go birding or wildlife viewing, and hike or bike our nature trails.

Park Rd. 38, San Felipe 77473, (979) 885-3613

Galveston Island State Park

About 60 miles from Downtown Houston

Galveston Island State Park is an excellent example of Texas Gulf ecology, with 2,000 acres that spans from the beach to the bay. Access is open to the bayside of the park, where coastal prairie, freshwater ponds, and salt marsh yield ample hiking, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Historic houses, tent and multiuse campsites with restrooms and showers nearby are available on this side of the park.

14901 FM 3005, Galveston 77554, (409) 737-1222

Huntsville State Park

About 60 miles from Downtown Houston

The Civilian Conservation Corps helped build parks all over the United States. It accepted all citizens, remarkable for the times. As a result, African-American companies formed to help develop public lands, including Huntsville State Park.The park quickly became a favorite of tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Located among loblolly and shortleaf pines, the park has an extensive trail system. Rent a canoe for the 210-acre Lake Raven. The lake has plentiful wildlife and birds, as well as great fishing. Rent the CCC-built group hall for weddings, parties and reunions.

565 Park Rd. 40 W., Huntsville 77340, (936) 295-5644

Lake Livingston State Park

About 73 miles from Downtown Houston

This Southeast Texas park sits on the shores of an 83,000-surface-acre lake. Catfish and white bass are plentiful. The park has a fishing pier and three boat ramps, and loans fishing tackle.Explore the Pineywoods Nature Trail Boardwalk, featuring two ponds, native pollinator garden, and bird blind. The park store offers food, souvenirs and watercraft rentals. The Nature Center has interactive exhibits including a live beehive.Park campsites include full hookup sites and screened shelters (some ADA-compliant).

300 Park Rd. 65, Livingston 77351, (936) 365-2201

Village Creek State Park

About 100 miles from Downtown Houston

Village Creek State Park reveals a fascinating world of diverse habitats including bottomland swamps, mixed pine-hardwood forests, and arid sandhill pine forests. Thousands of plants and animals thrive in the Big Thicket – a forest so dense that early pioneers struggled to settle it. This ecological marvel once covered over 3 million acres.Today, a small portion is set aside as a state park with eight miles of trails, picnic sites, campgrounds, nature programs, and access to the wide, slow-moving Village Creek. This park has facilities for individuals, families, or groups

8854 Park Rd. 74 (off Alma Dr.), Lumberton 77657, (409) 755-7322

Lake Somerville State Park & Trailway

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

Sea Rim State Park

About 110 miles from Downtown Houston

“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

For a full list of state parks, click here.


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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.

About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.