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Texas National Parks

Everything is bigger in Texas!

That’s the unofficial state motto – that happens to be true. From the towering, glistening Dallas skyline rising above the North Texas flatlands to the miles and miles of the Rio Grande tracing the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico, the wide-brimmed hat and great, shiny belt buckles in the Fort Worth stockyards and the great expanse of Southwestern sky hovering above it all, the great state of Texas is a singular presence in the American landscape.

While covering the largest landmass in the lower 48, it should be no surprise that Texas also boasts wealth and diversity of geography as well as historical relevance that thankfully are preserved in some of the nation’s more exciting and well-visited national parks. 

Below are some of the must-sees and highlights the Lone Star State has to offer.

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK: Stargazers and avid birders will not want to miss this national park. Known for its “splendid isolation,” this national park offers some of the least light pollution in the United States – making it a perfect destination for those looking for a shooting star – or a deep black bowl of stars under which to pitch a tent for a night. Other options include scenic drives and long and beautiful day hikes to enjoy the diverse wildlife in this corner of far west Texas.

Photo Courtesy Mick Haupt

GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS: Visit this national park to experience the sky-scraping mountains and canyons, desert and dunes, night skies, and incredible vistas in a place truly unlike any other. Guadalupe Mountains National Park also protects the world’s most extensive Permian Fossil Reef, contains the four highest peaks in Texas, and preserves an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna. Hiking and backpacking are favorite activities for visitors to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park – but with all these mountains, some trails are quite challenging!

Photo Courtesy Raychel Sanner

PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE: Texas also is host to a coastal paradise. Padre Island National Seashore separates the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world, from the Gulf of Mexico. This national park protects over 66 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats, as well as sea turtles and almost 400 species of birds. Enjoy the beaches, kayak, or camp or simply explore the rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of the 16th century.

RIO GRANDE WILD & SCENIC RIVER: One of the most famous rivers in the world skirts the southern boundary of Texas, and this national preserve offers visitors the opportunity to explore it in its entirety. For almost 200 miles, the Rio Grande snakes its way through desert expanses and stunning canyons of stratified rock. For the well-prepared and adventurous, an extended float trip provides opportunities to explore the most remote corners of Texas and experience the pinnacle of solitude, self-reliance, and immersion in natural soundscapes.

Photo Courtesy Kyle Glenn

WACO MAMMOTH: For the lovers of the ice age, the Waco Mammoth is something that must be seen to be believed. The park sits on 100 acres along the Bosque River. And in 1978, two men searching for arrowheads stumbled across what they thought to be a giant bone – but instead turned out to be a fossil from a Columbian Mammoth! Thousands of years ago, the tremendous Columbian Mammoths (standing at over 14 feet tall and weighing 20,000 lbs.) roamed the plains of Texas, and this national monument stands as a testament to the fantastic beasts and their history. The park offers opportunities to learn, dig, and explore onsite!

LAKE MEREDITH: Within the arid, windswept plains of the Texas Panhandle lies a hidden oasis, an inviting haven where wildlife and people find relief from the dry grasslands above. Through this plain, the great, wild Canadian River has cut dramatic 200-foot canyons, or breaks, where humans lived over 13,000 years ago. Lake Meredith is a refuge for all kinds of migratory birds and other wildlife. Boating, fishing, hiking, and camping are favorite activities for sojourners to Lake Meredith.

Photo Courtesy NPS

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