The 10 Best State Parks near Houston

Those who love nature have plenty of locations to visit while in Houston. The city itself and The Lone Star State are known for the diversity of nature that can be admired there.

At the same time, the weather in Texas allows you to visit these best state parks almost every month of the year. With direct transport links from Houston, these state parks impress with their natural landscapes.

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10. San Jacinto State Park

If you’re interested in nature and history, the San Jacinto State Park is a place you have to visit. It’s also the closest to Houston which makes it perfect for a day trip out of the city. The state park is known as the battleground for the independence of Texas which makes it even more important to locals than you might believe. The premises are fully prepared for visitors with hundreds of thousands of acres to visit and to learn about the history of the state.

9. Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island is a wild undeveloped barrier island in the world. It attracts hikers, holidaymakers, and researchers. This stretch of land is impressive as it covers a surface of over 100,000 acres. Activities here are normally based around water sports. The location is famous for its group boat rides. Other activities include fishing (as long as there are no motorized boats involved) and hiking with a few trails to choose from.

8. Lake Corpus Christi State Park

Image: Wikimedia / Larry D. Moore

Corpus Christi State Park is entirely man-made as it was leased from the city of Corpus Christi back in 1934. It’s now a rare brushland in the state that’s also home to animals such as the black-bellied whistling-duck. Within the park, there’s a 20,000 acres lake that is perfect for those who like camping next to a water source. However, you might want to plan your trekking trip here accordingly with a few more days attributed to the nearby Choke Canyon State Park and Goose Island State Park.

7. Copano Bay Causeway State Park

This small stretch of wild nature is one of the smallest state parks in Texas. It has a surface of only 5.9 acres which makes it walkable even for visitors who’re not avid hikers. The entire bay area can be seen as a fishing destination. However, it’s highly rated since it’s situated close to a major highway and many people book a wildlife photography boat ride here with the help of Aranas Bay Adventures.

6. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

One of the rarest birds in North America, the whooping crane, attracts thousands of visitors to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. You can reach this national park by bus from Houston and you’ll need to bring your camera as it’s the home of many other birds and animals. But vegetation which is evolved to live in saltwater overflowing the low shores is also found here for those into botanicals.

5. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Image: Wikimedia / William L. Farr

The Kiskadee Trail, the Mesquite Trail, and the Lakeside Trail are your 3 short trekking options when stepping into the wildlife refuge. The area combines unique subtropical and coastal weather together with desert influences which make it an interesting visit for those visiting the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Biking is also popular in this wildlife corner of the state. However, you might be tempted to join the crowds going alligator-watching which is increasing in popularity and the nature reserve.

4. San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

Image: Wikimedia / William L. Farr

The wildlife refuge is home to many endangered animal species and as a result, it’s only open to the public in about half of its total surface. Still, there are many great activities here. Gravel cycling is one of the activities that attract visitors to this natural wonder. However, you are only allowed to cycle on the same roads cars are driven on. We recommend taking the Cocklebur Slough Road to see raptors in their natural habitat.

3. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

This stretch of 34,000 acres of the natural landscape is home to many species of endangered animals. However, it’s also known to be a public area for waterfowl hunting. Fishing is also popular off the coast. If you simply like vast open lands, this might be the park which you go to as its quite close to Houston. Snow geese are found here in high numbers and you won’t be alone along the wild refuge’s trails. We recommend walking inside the park since it’s quite small compared to other national parks in the state of Texas.

2. Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Image: Wikimedia / William L. Farr

You can travel to Angleton or Lake Jackson from Houston to reach the impressive Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Like many of the national parks in the region, it offers a new home to many birds during the cold winter season. Among them, birds that travel far to warm up include the Canada Geese and sandhill cranes.

If you’re into fishing, you need to head over to the Bastrop Bayou region of the park. A small pier is a home to many fishermen that are out fishing early in the morning soon after sunrise. Hiking trails are also easily found here. Most are only about a mile long which means you can walk them in a matter of hours. All of them are mapped out at the Brazoria Discovery Center.

1. Galveston Island State Park

Only 1 hour away from Houston, the Galveston Island State Park offers a range of outdoor activities that make visiting other parks hard to justify. You can start out with pier-based fishing for a few hours. Golf and even skydiving are activities you can get involved in when visiting the area as well. The Aquarium Pyramids at the Moody Gardens are top attractions for those traveling with kids.

But the park is also known for its museums, shops, and restaurants. Alongside its busy atmosphere, it still retains natural beauty which you can study from its multiple observation platforms when they’re not taken by researchers. To make your visit to the park even more memorable, you can rent a kayak to venture off the beaten paths and see amazing bird species such as mottled ducks.