13 Amazing State Parks Near Austin

Austin is known for its proximity to outdoor beauty–and the collection of incredibly diverse Texas state parks near Austin shows exactly why!

Waterfalls, wetlands, caves, and lakes are just a few things you can potentially find in one of the best state parks close to Austin.

We’ve rounded up the coolest parks near the city here, focusing on Texas state parks within a 2-hour radius of downtown Austin.

Whether you have a half-day or full weekend to explore, here are the best state parks near Austin to explore.

Guadalupe River State Park with cypress trees in the background and the river in the foreground. This park is home to some of the best camping near san antonio tx

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State Parks Near Austin Within a 1 Hour Drive

McKinney Falls State Park

The beautiful Mckinney Falls State Park was established on Onion Creek, with its flowing water over limestone shelves, and dropping into cool pools of water below. The park has become one of the most visited in the Austin area since it is close enough to be within the city limits. 

This doesn’t mean it is an urban park, as the segregation from city to wilderness is pronounced even with its close proximity to town. 

The park has over 80 campsites to enjoy (both tent and RV), along with six cabins for rent. While staying for the weekend, be sure and enjoy the miles of trails for hiking and the cool water for swimming. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

20 minutes.

mckinney falls water fall in austin on sunny day

Bastrop State Park

Nestled within the lost pines sits the unique Bastrop State Park.

While almost all of the pine trees in the Lone Star State are found in East Texas, Bastrop State Park offers a rare chance to enjoy them in central Texas.

The city of Bastrop is blessed with the only growth of majestic shortleaf pines in the region. 

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After a devastating fire a few years ago, the area is recovering well. The park offers hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, overnight camping for RVs and tents. 

There are also historic cabins to rent during your stay at the park. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour.

cabin in the woods in bastrop state park, one of the best state parks near austin tx

Pedernales Falls State Park

One of the most popular state parks in the area, Pedernales offers a rugged landscape and a mesmerizing display of what water can do over many years as it cuts its way through the local rock. 

Water running over the limestone bluffs makes for a peaceful getaway and is the park’s most famous attraction. There are, however, many things other than the river to keep you busy here. 

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Trails are available for hiking and mountain biking and open to horses (you must bring your own). The trails here are not flat, so make sure you bring water, snacks and leave plenty of time to rest during a hike. 

Camping is allowed with both water and electric hookups, along with some primitive camping sites. There are also areas for youth group camping and equestrian group camping. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour.

river moving over limestone on a sunny day in pedernales falls state park, one of the texas state parks near austin

Lockhart State Park

Alright, I’m just going to get this out of the way. Before heading to Lockhart State Park, stop at one of the great BBQ houses in town and grab a to-go order for your picnic in the park–Lockhard is the self-declared barbecue capital of Texas!

This park is a little unusual among the Texas state parks near Austin as it is known more for its golf course and swimming pool than anything else. However, don’t think this is all the park has to offer.

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Built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) during the Great Depression, the park also offers several fishing holes due to the dams created by this historical group of people. Lockhart State Park also offers hours of fun hiking its trails and camping within the park.

Several of the sites are either full water and electric hookup or electric only. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

45 minutes.

picnic building in lockhart state park, one of the state parks near san antonio texas

Blanco State Park

This state park close to Austin is all about fun in and on the water. With the spring-fed Blanco River running through the park, it offers a great respite from the summer heat. 

Blanco State Park does offer camping to those who want to spend several days, but most drive to the park as a day trip to enjoy swimming or fishing. 

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The park is open to kayaks, canoes, and small boats, as long as they have an electric motor only installed.  

Whether you choose this park for a day trip or a longer one, you will enjoy all it has to offer and its proximity to Austin makes it even better. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour.

view of the swimming area in blanco state park with a small waterfall, one of the best texas state parks close to austin tx

Buescher State Park

Located east of Austin and also known as the sibling to Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park packs a punch for one of the smaller state parks near Austin.

With six miles of wooded trails for hiking and biking, Buescher has plenty of room for those who want to stretch their legs for a day on the trails. 

For more biking fun, Buescher has a scenic park road that gives bikers 12-miles of the roadway to pedal. 

If fishing and kayaking are more your styles, the park has a 30 plus acre lake to enjoy. 

For those wanting to stay longer than a day, the park has over 60 campsites, divided between those with electric or water hookups and even some primitive sites available as walk-in only. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour.

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Inks Lake State Park

For more water fun, head to Inks Lake State Park. This lake is large enough to allow for full-sized boating fun. From water skiing to wakeboarding, the lake offers hours of fun on the water. There is also a designated no-wake zone for those who want to enjoy kayaking and paddle boats. 

Other than boating fun, the park also offers miles of hiking trails where during the wet season waterfalls make their way into the lake. 

Fishing from the park piers or banks do not require a fishing license, so the whole family can get in some fishing time. Try your luck at catching some of the many catfish, bass, and perch the lake has to offer. 

Camping consists of over 200 campsites and 22 cabins for rent for those who wish to visit a few days at the park. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour, 20 minutes.

Kayakers in a rocky part of Inks Lake, one of the best places to camp near austin tx

Longhorn Cavern State Park

Another CCC gem, Longhorn Cavern State Park, attracts people for its cavern exploration and the architecture built by the CCC. 

Stone buildings seamlessly intertwine with the natural rock formations around the park, where an ancient river carved its way through the park’s limestone.  

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This park offers day passes and is best for those who wish to spend a few hours exploring outside of the city. Take either the park’s cavern walking tour or its wild cave tour for views underground that you will not soon forget. 

Longhorn Cavern State Park is located next to Inks Lake State Park where ample overnight accommodations are available. It’s also close to the popular small town of Marble Falls.

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour, 20 minutes.

Interior of a cave in Longhorn Cavern State Park, one of the best day trips from Austin Texas

Palmetto State Park

Those who think you need to visit an East Texas or Louisiana park to find a swamp, may not have heard of Palmetto State Park near Austin. 

A place where rivers and creeks converge, Palmetto State Park is unique to the area with the wetlands encompassed within its borders. 

Of course, with water comes all of the normal Texas state park fun, such as kayaking and fishing. But Palmetto State Park allows for more than that as the swamps are a great habitat for wild animals including birds. 

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If you are a lover of nature watching, Palmetto State Park may be your best chance in the area to see such a diverse array of animals not seen in other parks nearby. Bring a pair of binoculars for hours of bird-watching fun. 

About 40 tent and RV sites are available at the park for overnight and longer stays. For large youth groups, there is a group camping area that accommodates up to 100 people. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour, 10 minutes.

boardwalk framed by trees dripping spanish moss in palmetto state park texas

Guadalupe River State Park

Guadalupe River State Park is best known for its four miles of river frontage, allowing visitors to pass long summer days swimming in and floating down the sparkling waters of the Guadalupe River.

Kayaking and canoeing are also popular at this state park near Austin–anything to be on the beautiful river!

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If you can pull yourself away from the water, though, there’s still plenty more to explore, including more than 13 miles of hike and bike trails and more than 90 campsites (85 with water and electric, plus more walk-in tent sites).

The fall foliage is also beautiful here, and generally peaks in November.

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour, 40 minutes.

Guadalupe River in Texas lined with cypress trees

Colorado Bend State Park

A classic Hill Country favorite, Colorado Bend State Park is home to beautiful views of the Colorado River (try out the Tie Slide Overlook trail for one of the best ones!), excellent swimming in the naturally-formed pools from Spicewood Springs, and a hike that leads to one of the best waterfalls in Texas: the 70-foot Gorman Falls, which looks positively out of place in the usually arid Central Texas climate!

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With beautiful campsites right by the river, Colorado Bend State Park is perfect for swimmers, hikers, and mountain bike riders alike.

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour, 50 minutes.

Gorman Falls Texas in Colorado Bend State Park surrounded by green trees

Lake Somerville State Park

Like Inks Lake State Park, this state park close to Austin is all about fun on the lake. Lake Somerville State Park has been one of the most popular Texas state parks for years. 

Anglers will find hybrid, bass, catfish, and many more fish species available for catching during their visit. 

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In the summer months, the park offers excellent boating and swimming to give its guests a break from the heat. During cooler months the park still has plenty to do, as it offers over 40 miles of trails to explore on foot or by bicycle. 

Hundreds of campsites are available at Lake Somerville State Park, including several set up for equestrian camping. 

Driving Distance from Downtown Austin

1 hour, 30 minutes.

2 photos of texas state parks: mckinney falls and guadalupe river. black and red text on a white background reads "13 best state parks near austin"

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