Hello! We are Brave Family Adventures and we LOVE living in the great state of Texas! One of our most favorite family trips was a 15-day road trip through our beautiful state. We started and ended where we live in Rockwall (near Dallas) but this trip can start in any corner of the state!
On this trip we saw 13 State Parks, 1 National Recreation Area - Amistad, and 1 National Park - Big Bend. Texas has some of the most incredible landscapes you could imagine. Our boys slid down waterfalls, swam in crystal clear rivers, and hiked through deep canyons. We also slept in a tree house for the first time!
A few of our favorite stops:
Colorado Bend State Park:
The main attraction near this AirBNB is Colorado Bend State Park. A Texas State Park known for one of its waterfall - Gorman Falls. We love waterfalls so it made sense this would be our first stop! This park is a definite must for anyone who lives in Texas. Take plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat! A long, hot, full sun hike ends with traversing down huge boulders to the site of the waterfall. It is incredible.
After the long hike back to the car we were hot and in need of a swim! We did the Spicewood Springs Trail - a trail full of small waterfalls and springs. Our kids absolutely loved this spot. We will absolutely do this park again just for this spot! They slid down waterfalls and swam and swam for hours.
Canyon Lake & Guadalupe River State Park:
Guadalupe River is a fairly small State Park and we knew we could cover it in a few hours. We added a stop at Canyon Lake for the morning to hang out on the shore and dip our toes in. Really, just an easy, relaxing morning. The water at Canyon Lake is crystal clear. We could see fish right from the shore. Turns out its a popular spot as the morning rolls on! We got there early and had a prime pick of spots, but by the time we left around noon it was packed! Canyon Lake is large. We pitched our stuff near Canyon Overlook Park. Its a steep hike down rocky terrain to get to the shore so pack accordingly!
That afternoon we hit Guadalupe River State Park. Keep in mind rivers are FLOWING bodies of water. So, you will need a way to keep hold of your kids so they don’t get away from you. The water is shallow so keeping up with kids is not super difficult - BUT if you have one that is not a strong swimmer - be mindful. Our kids absolutely loved walking up river and floating down over and over and over. We got a great workout in! It was an absolute blast.
Garner State Park
Garner State Park deserves an entire blog post to itself. It has quickly become one of our absolute favorite Texas State Parks. Our kids absolutely love the Crystal Cave hike! This hike is considered “challenging” according to Texas State Parks but our kids made it up the climb, into the cave, and back down all on their own. The views from the cave were incredible. The entire state park is incredible. We have been back to this park several times since this trip to swim, play, and finish all of the hikes.
Devils River State Park:
We woke up on Lake Amistad and enjoyed the morning relaxing before driving to Devils River State Park. We picked this park because it is the most pristine, untouched river in the entire state of Texas. It is tied for first place for our favorite Texas State Park.
Getting to Devils River is an adventure all in itself. I think that’s why we enjoyed this park so much. It is about an hour and half drive from Lake Amistad in Del Rio. The entire last hour of the drive is 22 miles on a rocky, unpaved road. We’ve done this kind of drive many times before, but let me tell you if you’ve never done it - you have to go 5-10mph on rocks. Big rocks, small rocks, flat rocks, sharp rocks, swerving to avoid rocks, sliding down rocky terrain… it’s an adventure. But we knew it would be worth it. Once you get to the end of the 22 miles - you have to drive another mile to get to the parking area for the 1+ mile hike to the river. It is remote. It is pristine. The park ranger told us that day we were the only people in the park. We had the whole place to ourselves!
Of course we spent the entire day at the river. Pictures and written descriptions just don’t do it justice. The hike from the parking area is in full sun (AKA HOT). There is nothing when you get there. Just the you and the river. And some wildlife. We set our stuff up on the bank of the river near some tall grass. We were all hanging out when we heard a loud tromping noise through the grass. Honestly, I thought it was a large animal of some kind coming our way. We inched towards it to see what it was - and the sweetest little armadillo face popped out of the grass! It was the cutest thing. One of our favorite memories there. We admired him for a while until he retreated back into the grass.
Big Bend Ranch State Park:
Big Bend Ranch State Park is not to be missed if you’re in the area of the National Park. The Closed Canyon trail is a treat for everyone. The canyon walls get more and more narrow as you hike in. The sunlight patterns are incredible. Keep in mind if you go in the summer - it is HOT. The scenery makes this park one of our most favorite parks. It is remote and will definitely grab your attention.
Monahans Sandhills State Park
We stayed the night near this park so we could wake up early and spend the whole morning exploring before the LONG drive back home. If it fits your trip and you can make it to this park - do it. You climb up onto the sandhill and look out to rolling sandhills as far as the eye can see. Our kids absolutely fell in love. I highly, highly recommend this park. A definite for families with kids!
This is a shortened version of a longer trip. Each area of Texas has special and unique features from North Texas, to central Texas, and far west. You cover lakes, rivers, mountains, canyons, deserts, and more. Our kids couldn’t believe the entire time we never left the state! What are your favorite Texas State Parks?
THINGS TO CONSIDER FOR THIS TRIP
- Texas State Parks require a day-pass reservation for visiting the park. These must be reserved in advance! I was able to book passes as I planned and mapped out our trip, about a month in advance. Keep that in mind when planning! Passes do sell out and you will not be allowed to enter without a pre-purchased day pass.
- Rivers are flowing bodies of water. Everyone - even the strongest swimmers - need a life jacket. Our kids love these lifejackets found here.
- It is extremely important to cover snake etiquette with young kids before setting out. Learn more about snakes here.
Necessities when hiking 6 miles in the desert:
- First aid kit
- Salty snacks
- Lip balm.
Kids must haves for this trip:
- TEVAS hurricane sandals found here.
It is also important to note: at all times on this trip we had a stocked cooler full of cold water and food. Always buy more jugs/gallons of water than you think you’ll need. Many of the parks (especially the remote ones) do not have water refill stations. Texas late Spring and Summers are HOT.
AND HAVE FUN!
This article was written by Melissa Cowser. You can find more helpful adventure tips and tricks on Melissa's Instagram @bravefamilyadventures.