The diversity of Texas’ state parks makes them incredibly popular–and no matter what your travel style is, there’s a West Texas state park for you.
State parks in West Texas, however, are a world all their own. The distance from urban life and the pure wildness of these parks make them great places to visit for those who enjoy the unspoiled wilderness they each offer.
Here are some of the incredible West Texas state parks that you can’t miss!
Monahans Sandhills State Park
Rising out of the West Texas desert lays a place that can make you forget you are in Texas altogether. The dunes of Monahans Sandhills State Park may as well be those of the Sahara in Africa.
Maybe the most unique of all of the West Texas state parks, Monahans delivers fun for the entire family.
Described as an ocean of sand, most visitors spend their time sliding down the tall dunes as if made of snow-except you don’t need a jacket or toboggan in the desert sun. Dune surfing has become so popular, the park rents plastic discs to slide down on.
The park offers no marked trails, but you are free to wander the ever-changing dunes. Other things to do include a large picnic area for sharing a meal and twenty-six campsites for those who want to make a weekend stay out of their trip.
Balmorhea State Park
A Texas gem that is favored by West Texas locals, this state park is just as much fun for out-of-towners.
With a history of providing much-needed water to surrounding farmers, Balmorhea State Park’s natural springs provide much more than that today.
You wouldn’t know the park even existed unless guided there by a map. Exiting off of I-10 and driving through the small town of Balmorhea isn’t on most people’s bucket list. With this state park as your prize for getting off of the freeway, it makes it all worthwhile.
Like so many great parks across the state and country, Balmorhea State Park owes its existence to the Civilian Conservation Corp of the 1930s government work programs.
The park itself is small but packs a punch with its main attraction of the spring-fed swimming pool.
However, this is no ordinary cement pond as the natural waters of the pool allow for a variety of fish, turtles, and other aquatic life to thrive here. So whether you’re taking a dip off of the high dive, scuba diving, or snorkeling to see the underwater wildlife, the pool makes for a cool respite from the desert heat.
The park also offers 34 campsites and a retro lodge for overnight stays.
Davis Mountains State Park
Nestled next to the Fort Davis National Historic Site, we find the beautiful Davis Mountains State Park. Divided by a small mountain, the two parks combined make for great hiking and historical site seeing.
Even if you don’t take a hike over to the national park, our state park has everything you need to stay busy during your stay.
For those who love bird watching, the park has erected a bird watching station from the comfort of a closed-in room.
Large picture windows separate you from the diverse wildlife that visit the water fountain and trees next to the station. Most go to the viewing area out of curiosity and stay much longer than they intended, getting caught up in the surrounding wildlife.
The trails at Davis Mountains State Park are not for the faint of heart, as most of them require at some point to make an ascent to the top of mountains. Don’t worry, though, as a scenic drive takes you parallel to a couple of the trails and is accessed by car.
For longer visits, the park has over 80 easy-to-reach campsites with everything from full hookups to water only. More adventurous visitors will enjoy primitive camping after a four-mile hike up and into the mountains.
If camping is not in your plans, book a room at Indian Lodge. Built in the 1930s, this hotel-style lodge is tucked away in the back of the park. A restaurant and swimming pool are available onsite for guests. The lodge even has a movie night once a week for guests to share in a classic movie together. Popcorn included!
Tip: The famous McDonald Observatory is only a short ride up into the mountains from the state park. Get your reservations a couple of months out for this special place.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Traveling to the different state parks in West Texas will put some serious mileage on your car. Franklin Mountains State Park is no exception since it is as far west as you can travel for a state park visit.
Only twenty miles from El Paso, this mountainous state park is perfect for a day hike out of the city or for longer stays within its wilderness.
Franklin Mountains State Park is all about the hikes and vistas you’ll see along the way. The park consists of over 27,000 acres and 100 miles of trail to explore.
Just remember that nature rules here: summertime temperatures in the summer can reach the century mark with an unrelenting sun. Bring plenty of water on your hikes to stay hydrated.
Others who enjoy rock climbing will find this state park precisely what they are looking for. Two separate rock climbing areas are designated in the park for your climbing passion.
After a full day of hiking and rock climbing, pitch a tent or park your RV at one of several overnight sights. Electricity and water are not on the infrastructure, though, so be sure and prepare for your stay with plenty of food and water.
Hueco Tanks State Park
This West Texas state park is full of treasures that cannot be measured in only outdoor space. Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site provided shelter and water to humans up to ten thousand years ago.
As a natural source of water, Hueco Tanks supplied early Native Americans with a place to farm corn, squash, and beans at its foothills. They left behind not only archaeological evidence of pottery and other objects but actual rock paintings depicting daily life.
Guided and non guided tours are available, but beware, the non guided tour still has a maximum number of hikers of 70 people in the rock painting tour.
Other than these historical sites, other trails are available for hiking, and rock climbing is available in certain areas. Although mainly a day trip type of park, Hueco Tanks does have about 20 campsites with water and nearby restrooms.
Only a short drive from El Paso, Hueco Tanks is a perfect getaway when visiting the area.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
You may only hear of this park’s big brother the east, but Big Bend Ranch State Park makes for a great visit when in the Big Bend area. This park offers a true outdoor adventure.
Just as with the national park down the road, Big Bend Ranch State Park provides a rugged environment for those looking for getting out into the wilderness along the Rio Grande and Rio Bravo.
As Texas’ largest state park, Big Bend Ranch has over 240 miles of multi-use trails for hiking and mountain biking. Trails vary from river trails to steep canyon wall mountain hiking.
After a full day of sightseeing in the park, take a dip into the cool river waters to get out of the heat. When the sun falls behind the horizon, there is no better place in Texas to enjoy the night sky. Far away from any substantial light source, the night sky of Big Bend Ranch must be seen to be believed.
There are drive-in and hike-primitive camping areas available for people who prefer a longer stay. Remember, this is a rugged country, and no electricity or water is available. Bring in plenty of supplies for your visit as you can find yourself several miles from the nearest store.
Chinati Mountains State Natural Area
Sadly, the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area is not open yet to the public, but this beautiful place is worth bookmarking for future West Texas travel. This almost 40,000-acre park will make for a spectacular visit for outdoor lovers.
Already in the planning stage, the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area will begin construction of infrastructure in the near future.
From the lowland desert to the high wooded mountains, this park will give us one of the best natural looks at the Chihuahuan Desert.
With such a large area under private control for many years before donation to the state, you’ll find some of the best-untouched lands when this park opens.
The parks out west require a bit more planning and preparedness, but that is part of the fun. Knowing you are miles from civilization at most of these parks only adds to the excitement.