Cowboy boots can’t take you everywhere in Texas. For the nature-lover, Texas offers a variety of beautiful hiking trails with a range of flora, fauna, and even various climates. West Texas generally is rockier and many of the best hiking trails are mountainous and steep. East Texas often is greener, offering more gentle rolling hills and plenty of excellent water features. No matter what part of this great state you’re driving through, you are never far from an exhilarating hiking adventure.
The Best Hiking Trails in Texas
With a state as big as Texas, we can guarantee there is no shortage of incredible hiking trails no matter what part of Texas you find yourself in. When you’re ready to hit the trails, start with these stand-out hiking trails in Texas.
Hiking Trails in West Texas
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
After the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon is the largest canyon in the United States. The Lighthouse trail is a little more than 5 miles round trip, and is by far the most popular trail in the park. Take on the relatively easy dirt-packed trail early, but beware! There is a strenuous section up to lighthouse rock itself for the last quarter mile that should only be attempted by confident hikers. If you take on the challenge, you can enjoy the views of this incredible rock formation and surrounding area.
Guadalupe Peak in the Guadalupe Mountain Range is not for the faint of heart. But if you have a full day to try a hike unlike anywhere else in Texas, this hike will take you up over 3000 feet in elevation to the highest spot in the state. It’s just shy of 8.5 miles long but offers great views throughout including some exposed cliffside moments. For those looking for something less strenuous, Guadalupe Mountains National Park also offers many other shorter trails –– both paved and unpaved.
Big Bend National Park
Hiking in Big Bend National Park deserves an entire article to itself. But if you’re just driving through and you don’t have a lot of time, the Lost Mine trail and the Santa Elena Canyon trail are two standouts. At less than 2 miles, the Santa Elena Canyon trail is great for hikers of all levels and provides excellent rewards for relatively little effort. The Lost Mine trail is a bit more of a mountain hike but the overlook on the ridge is breathtaking on a clear day.
Hiking Trails in Central Texas
Lost Maples State Park
When you think of Texas, you might not think of maple trees, especially not a few hours from San Antonio. But the East trail at Lost Maples State Park is one of the best hiking trails in Texas in the fall for the vibrant colors. Taking a look around on the 4.4-mile trail almost feels like you’re somewhere else entirely. Plan to get to the park early to avoid waiting in a long line of cars. And if these gorgeous trees weren’t enough to persuade you to make the visit, there are even some small waterfalls and beautiful carved cliffs.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
“The Greenbelt” as it is known to Austinites is a popular trail beginning just a few miles from downtown Austin. Hike as much of the 12.8 miles of trail as you feel ready for. The highlights are absolutely the swimming holes and limestone rock climbing areas that you will find throughout. Cool down like a local with a dip in Campbell’s Hole… if there’s water in it! Or check out Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls.
Colorado Bend State Park
For one of the best hiking trails in Texas with waterfalls, get off the beaten path and immediately to Colorado Bend State Park. There are over 35 miles of trails throughout the park and they range from prairie to desert to rocky cliffs to green oasis. Gorman Falls trail is only a little more than one mile, but it takes you to one of the park’s many jewels. The rocky terrain looks desolate in the beginning, but the payoff at the end is more than worth it. The falls are 65 feet tall and appear in a lush green section of the park that looks almost jungle-like.
Hiking Trails in East Texas
Sam Houston National Forest
The Sam Houston National Forest is a huge forest at over 163,000 acres only 50 miles north of Houston. The most famous trail in the area is the Lone Star trail which winds throughout the park and beyond. At over 128 miles long, this East Texas staple is best hiked in small sections unless you have several days to do the whole thing. Everything really is bigger in Texas! For a day trip, take the loop trail to Lake Raven via the Chinquapin trail for a moderate 6.6-mile trail to a stunning lake surrounded by dense green.
Palmetto State Park
Have you ever wanted to take a stroll through Jurassic Park? The thousands of Palmetto plants that give this park its name lend a prehistoric feeling to the trails. Allow yourself to be transported as you hike the gentle (and very short!) trails in the park. Oxbow Lake trail circles the lake of the same name and is a great place to find waterfowl. The Ottine Swamp trail features views of otherworldly looking swamps. No matter which trail(s) you take, wildlife abounds. Watch out for snakes though!
Now that you know some of the best hiking trails in Texas, let’s go over some tips for your hiking adventure.
Tips for Hiking Trails in Texas
No matter how easy or strenuous the hike, you won’t want to be caught unprepared on the trail. A little foresight can go a long way in making sure you stay comfortable enough to enjoy all of what the Texan wild has to offer. Check out these hiking tips to be prepared for anything!
- Bring Water. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in warm and hot weather. Most trails won’t have access to fresh, clean drinking water so it is imperative to bring your own.
- Be mindful of the heat. Fall and spring are some of the best times for hiking in Texas as the daytime highs are not too unbearable. But for summer hikers, stick to early mornings and late afternoons or evenings to avoid the harshest heat.
- Dress your best. No, not in formalwear. You’ll need sturdy hiking shoes at least. Avoid cotton clothing as best you can as other materials will do a better job of moisture-wicking any sweat and drying quickly to keep you as comfortable as possible even on the longest treks.
- Sunscreen. Yes, even when it’s cloudy. Yes, even in the fall. And while you’re at it, consider other layers of protection like a hat, sunglasses, and maybe even sleeves if you are sensitive to the sunshine.
Meet You on the Trail
Take on one or all of these stunning trails! No matter how you choose to explore Texas, there will always be more to discover. Take your time as you roam the Lone Star State from the comfort and convenience of a Cruise America RV rental.
Ride in style with all of the amenities from home that you’d rather not do without to camp and hike your way across the state. Backed by 24/7 support and complete with a full multi-point safety inspection, a Cruise America RV is sure to keep you moving from trail to trail, mile after mile.
Call or visit one of the seven Cruise America locations in Texas, or visit the website for more details and a location near you.