Texas is a large state, and while much of its terrain is the rugged desert landscape you’d imagine, you’ll be surprised by the diversity you’ll find on the trail. The Lone Star State has a few hidden gems up its sleeve, from lush swimming holes to epic summit views and wildflower meadows. Whether you’re searching for a small, all-day hike or a quick retreat close to town, this list has something for everyone.
Colorado Bend State Park
This diversified state park in Bend, Texas, has a whopping 32 miles of trails. The Gorman Falls Trail, which leads hikers to a stunning waterfall in Colorado Bend State Park, is one of the park’s most rewarding hikes. If you can do one hike, we recommend the Spicewood Springs Trail.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is one-half of Texas’ two national parks, and it encompasses the arid Chisos Mountain Range right by the Texas-Mexico border. Over the last decade, the park has gained popularity among hikers.
Big Bend National Park, with over 150 miles of trails, is arguably the best place in Texas to go hiking. This West Texas masterpiece will delight both day hikers and experienced backpackers alike.
Big Thicket National Preserve
This biodiverse national forest, located near Kountze, has approximately 40 miles of trails, with eight different trails to choose from. Look out for alligators, butterflies, snakes, rabbits, and carnivorous plants such as the pitcher plant!
Pedernales Falls State Park
Do you see those rocks? You can climb all over them, but be careful not to fall into the river. Aside from the rocks on the Pedernales River, there are other trails to enjoy, such as the Equestrian Trail and the Wolf Mountain Trail, offering a panoramic view of the hill country from 1000 feet up.
Climb to Texas’ highest point! The drive out west is worth it, with an 8.5-mile hike out and back with around 2,867 feet of elevation gain situated 110 miles east of El Paso. If you could somehow hike the 3,000 feet to the peak, you’ll be at 8,749 feet, Texas’ highest point.
Enjoy panoramic views of El Capitan and the bordering mountainous terrain that rises from the desert. On a clear day, you can observe the Sierras on the other side of the divide. What a spectacular view.
A 5.13-mile loop hike with a 344 feet elevation gain, wide-open spaces, small boulder fields, and lush desert vegetation are expected. If you can, stay for the sunset – it’s usually spectacular.
You can’t truly be a Texan unless you’ve seen this massive mass of molten magma about 18 miles north of Fredericksburg. Undoubtedly, the hike to the top of the rock is difficult, but you’ll be compensated with a spectacular view of the hill country below. The panoramic views of Texas Hill Country are well worth it.
Lost Maples State Natural Area
A four-mile loop hike with a total elevation gain of 561 feet and safely tucked in Hill Country, the Lost Maples State Natural Area is brimming with magnificent maple trees and is the ideal place to view vibrant Fall foliage in Texas. And, yes, there is beautiful fall foliage in Texas!
Hiking here makes you feel like you’ve been teleported to Vermont. The bigtooth maples give the park its name and are located on the Edwards Plateau five miles north of Vanderpool. Undoubtedly, you’ll want to visit in the fall to see the full array of fall colors.
Davy Crockett National Forest
This national forest, located 20 miles east of Crockett, offers breathtaking views of winding creeks, pine and cypress trees, and Lake Ratcliff at its base. The Four C National Hiking Trail is an excellent day hike for hikers of all ages.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
The Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is 227 acres of native Texas Hill Country habitat with 2.5 miles of hiking trails open to the public. The Preserve also serves as a research facility for the Wild Basin region, thanks to the Creative Research Center, owned and managed by St. Edwards University.
The Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, managed as a phase of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, was established in 1974 to preserve the beautiful Texas Hill Country and encourage people to take an interest in environmental preservation and conservation through various educational programs.
Garner State Park
This scenic park in Concan, Texas, has a 2.77-mile loop hike with a 938-foot elevation gain. Garner State Park has access to the Frio River and miles of scenic trails, which are well-known for their lush greenery, beautiful vistas, and rolling hills.
Wolf Mountain Trail
We couldn’t leave this one out because the top of the mountain provides some of the most stunning views of the hill country. The 7-mile loop in Pedernales Falls State Park makes for a great day hike, and you can hear a pin drop at the top of the mountain. It is that quiet.
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon, the second-biggest canyon in the United States, is in Texas. Because it steers to its namesake, a rock formation referred to as The Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Trail is the most famous hike in this state park (so expect a lot of other hikers).
This canyon is situated in the Texas Panhandle and has a dry, hot climate. This trail has the highest number of heat-related deaths and injuries among humans and pets of any trail in the park. You must bring plenty of water and exercise caution when climbing the rock structures or cliffs.
You’ll see cacti, desert shrubs, and incredible geological features on your hike. Wildflowers add extra color to the already vivid landscape if you visit in the spring.
Seminole Canyon State Park
This state park in Comstock has one of the ancient cave dwellings in North America and five different hiking trails, and a beautiful view of the Rio Grande Reservoir. You can also try taking a guided tour of the Fate Bell Shelter, which contains numerous ancient Native American rock paintings.
McKinney Roughs Nature Park
McKinney Roughs Nature Park boasts 16 miles of trails leading to wide-open meadows, rocky canyons, and stunning views of the Colorado River weaving its way through the park, located 8.4 miles west of Bastrop.
Sam Houston National Forest
The remarkable 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail winds through the forest and is located in Huntsville, Texas. You’ll likely make several trips to see all the trails in the area because they’re spread across four different counties.