I’ve been going to the same park over and over… granted, it’s the nearest to town, and the trail is a nice loop where I saw plenty of painted buntings in early summer. It’s been too hot to head out for longer excursions but camping season is just around the corner :D
The state divides the parks into regions: Panhandle Plains (north), Big Bend Country (west), Piney Woods (east), Prairies and Lakes (east central), Hill Country (west central), South Texas Plains (south), and Gulf Coast.
Hill Country (under 3 hrs)
✔ McKinney Falls SP, Austin TX, 8 miles, 17 min. Painted bunting capitol of Austin :D Hiked here too many times to count, but ought to give the primitive camping a go.
✔ Pedernales Falls SP, Johnson City TX, 40 miles, 52 min. Love this beautiful park.
✔ Inks Lake SP, Burnet TX, 66 miles, 1 hr 22 min. Lake stuff, good camping, hiking would be better when it’s cool out as there is no shade.
✔ Guadalupe River SP, Spring Branch TX, 79 miles, 1 hr 39 min. Amazing river, good hiking, a bird blind. Really gorgeous.
✔ Enchanted Rock SNA, Fredericksburg TX, 94 miles, 1 hr 43 min. The rock is truly enchanted ;) Primitive camping, so I’ve only hiked here so far.
Colorado Bend SP, Bend TX, 104 miles, 2 hrs 45 min. Caves, waterfalls, and camping. Currently low water and burn ban.
Government Canyon SNA, San Antonio TX, 92 miles, 1 hr 40 min. Hiking and birding, NO campsites. Stop here on the way to Hill Country SNA. Current burn ban.
Hill Country SNA, Bandera TX, 127 miles, 2 hrs 33 min. 40 miles of gorgeous hill country trails, primitive camping.
South Llano River SP, Junction TX, 141 miles, 2 hrs 42 min. River, camping, turkeys.
✔ Garner SP, Concan TX, 166 miles, 2 hrs 55 min. I’ve camped here but would love to go back in the fall, when it’s less busy, and do the big hike.
Lost Maples SNA, Vanderpool TX, 149 miles, 3 hrs 0 min. My favorite trees, no brainer :D Rugged limestone canyons. Pretty excited about all the parks in this region, actually.
Prairies and Lakes (under 3 hrs)
✘ Lockhart SP, Lockhart TX, 33 miles, 46 min. I’m gonna be honest, this park looks like it sucks. I could go there and verify, but it’s basically a golf course and a swimming pool. I really have no intention of going here.
✔ Bastrop SP, Bastrop TX, 37 miles, 54 min. Something magical about these pine trees. Haven’t been since last fall’s wildfires.
Buescher SP, Smithville TX, 42 miles, 56 min. The less-awesome of the two SPs in Bastrop, but probably worth checking out based on proximity. Love Bastrop, and at worst, it’s 12 miles from what I know is good hiking.
Palmetto SP, Gonzales TX, 53 miles, 1 hr 10 min. Strikes me as kind of dinky. Why am I not excited about this one? I could at least stop in for a hike since I drive past it once per month… :)
Lake Somerville SP, Ledbetter TX, 88 miles, 1 hr 57 min. Meh… lake stuff and birding. EDIT: last week I heard such great things about the birding here, and some nice hiking trails to get to bird ponds… so much more tempted by a flock of wood storks… :)
Mother Neff SP, Moody TX, 101 miles, 2 hrs 4 min. Also not as excited about this one, but it’s the park that started the Texas parks system. Camping, birding.
I am not that excited about these parks, which maybe means I ought to give them a chance, otherwise I will keep overlooking them. And they are all under 2 hours.
✔ Meridian SP, Meridian TX, 135 miles, 2 hrs 26 min. A small park with camping and a no-wake lake (yes!!!). Habitat for golden-cheeked warbler :) They also provide a bird checklist.
✔ Dinosaur Valley SP, Glen Rose TX, 161 miles, 3 hrs 12 min. Slipping in even though over 3 hours, because it’s DINOSAURS. I’m pretty sure we went here as kids but not for camping. Looks pretty and has hiking and river stuff, and river stuff>>lake stuff ;)
South Texas Plains (under 3 hrs)
Goliad SP, Goliad TX, 127 miles, 2 hrs 30 min. Busy: Dec-Mar. On the San Antonio river, camping, historical stuff.
Choke Canyon SP, Calliham TX, 151 miles, 2 hrs 40 min. Lake activities, camping and birds.
Piney Woods (~3 hrs)
✔ Huntsville SP, Huntsville TX, 167 miles, 3 hrs 17 min. The closest park in the tall pines of East TX. Will have all the eastern birds... :D and camping.
Gulf Coast (3-4 hours)
Brazos Bend SP, Needville TX, 169 miles, 3 hrs 30 min. YES!! This one is all about birds. There is a variety of habitat directly in popular migratory path, as well as over-wintering birds. Wheee! Is 100 miles/2 hrs from parent’s home, also. Maybe this one over the holidays?
Lake Corpus Christi SP, Mathis TX, 184 miles, 3 hrs 15 min. Lake stuff…. heehee
Mustang Island SP, Port Aransas TX, 244 miles, 4 hrs 15 min. Camping on the beach, lots of birds (also on a migratory path). 138 miles/2 hrs 30 min from parents’ home. Would be cool to get them to meet us in CC sometime.
These are all a sort-of reasonable distance for a weekend trip (4 hrs is pushing it). I’ll save the further away parks for a different entry, for future times, when I have a car that I wouldn’t fear falling apart on the way o_O 8 months ago