Texas is blessed with two particularly dynamic national parks — Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains — but with a state this large, there are plenty more natural attractions that don’t get the attention they deserve. Once you get outside the hustle and bustle of Texas’s many major cities, there’s an enormous canvas of natural wonders to explore, from forests and canyons to tropics and mountains.
The best times to discover these treasures are during Texas’s temperate spring months (March and April) and its fleeting fall (November). Seasoned hikers and campers from Texas or those undaunted by the heat will brave the brutally hot summer months to play outside.
Whether you’re planning a week-long trek through the canyons or a day hike through the Big Thicket, be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Winter months can be deceiving, with sun and clear skies one day and ice storms the next.
The Hill Country’s Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is not quite as impressive as Palo Duro, but it has its own charm and an especially large aura of Native-American lore associated with it. This massive dome of solid granite is said to have been a location of human sacrifices with “ghost fires” appearing at night. It’s a moderate walk to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding Hill Country.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns outside San Antonio is one of the premier caverns in the country. Experience this natural wonder as part of a regular tour group, or if you’re especially adventurous, sign up in advance for the Adventure Tour excursion for some rappelling and exploring in a primitive natural cavern.
Big Thicket National Preserve
Covering nearly 100,000 acres, the Big Thicket National Preserve in East Texas features a diverse range of natural features, from pine trees and cacti to swamps and hills. Summertime can be sticky with humidity, but hiking and camping on a cool spring day can be especially rewarding.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Just outside Dallas lies a prehistoric natural wonder known as Dinosaur Valley State Park. Rock formations from nearly 113 million years ago have been exposed by water erosion, revealing some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in the world. It’s a fun and fascinating place to visit, whether you’re traveling alone or with the family.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition