The Lone Star state is known for its cowboys, down-home cooking, and wide-open spaces. There's plenty of room to get out and enjoy the local nature—which you'll find includes more than just flat livestock paddocks and tumbleweeds, if you do your research. Texas is home to two national parks and 12 state parks, not to mention all the splendor that isn't federally overseen. Here in these vast expanses lies a tremendous variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Hueco Tanks State Historic Site
Hueco Tanks in West Texas offers a variety of outdoor activities, most notably camping and rock climbing. However, one of the biggest draws to this historic site is the prehistoric pictographs that adorn its caves (tours are available). Visitors and campers must make reservations at least two days prior to visiting.
Big Bend National Park
Designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, Big Bend offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities in a primitive setting. Backpacking, mountain biking, fishing, boating, hiking, nature watching, camping, and you-name-it—if it can be done outdoors, it can be done in Big Bend. There are three campgrounds within the park, all at an elevation of 1,800 feet or higher. Although there are a number of sites within each of these campgrounds, they fill up fast, so reservations are required.
Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island National Seashore stretches some 75 miles from Corpus Christi to the Port Mansfield Cut, offering up some of the most remote seashore to be found anywhere in the U.S. Semi-primitive campsites (toilets, rinse-only showers, and picnic tables included) are available at Malaquite Beach. Primitive camping (no facilities) is also available at both North and South Beach.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Located just north of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock is one of the largest natural rock formations in the United States, with a dome that rises 425 feet above the ground (1,825 feet above sea level). Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1970, Enchanted Rock is also part of the Texas State Parks System and attracts thousands of visitors annually. Walk-in campsites with tent pads and water are available, as are primitive hike-in campsites.
Devil's River State Natural Area
Located just north of Del Rio on Texas' famed Devil's River, the Devil's River State Natural Area offers a variety of outdoor activities in a remote setting. Canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and swimming are just a few of the adventures you can get into.
Garner State Park
Located on the Frio River in Concan, Garner State Park is one of Texas' most popular summer getaways. Whether it's swimming, fishing, paddling, or tubing, most visitors to Garner find a way to get on or in the water. Apart from that, though, there are also dry activities, such as miniature golf, birding, nature trails, and hiking.
Lake Amistad (Del Rio)
A town named after the river it's built near, Del Rio serves as the hub for water sports on the upper stretches of Texas' Rio Grande River. In addition to the traditional water sports, many tourists head out in search of adventure aboard a houseboat.
Lower Laguna Madre
With miles of shallow, calm water in the Lower Laguna Madre and strong winds coming off the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island is a windsurfer's paradise. Additionally, kiteboarders, surfers, and anglers all find plenty of reason to spend time on this narrow bay between Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
Located in Texas Hill Country, the manmade Lake Buchanan offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including kayaking, hiking, camping, and beyond. Make this one of your stops on a broader tour of the area, arguably the most scenic sliver of Texas.
Palo Duro Canyon
Known as the "Grand Canyon of Texas," Palo Duro Canyon is 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. Palo Duro is one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in the country. Horseback riding, mountain climbing, camping, and hiking are also popular here.