Because Texas is a huge state, it is home to several of our nation’s great state parks. Diversity of wildlife and plant life is some of what makes these parks so special. The educational activities and chances to relax and take in breathtaking, undisturbed scenery are other reasons to visit one of Texas’s state parks.
Big Bend (not Ben) is located in West Texas, just above the Mexican border. Despite what you may believe about Texas (hot…dry…flat), you may be surprised to find mountains in Big Bend over a mile high and the Rio Grande deep and wide. Hiking and river trips are two of the most common ways to experience to true beauty of this park. If four-wheeled driving is your thing, there are several primitive dirt roads inside the park that pass by historic landmarks, cemeteries and campsites. If you’d rather stick to the well-beaten path, enjoy the views even from an RV or small car from on the park’s paved roads and improved dirt roads.
For American history lovers, a trip to Lyndon B. Johnson National Park is a must. The park is actually the childhood home of our nation’s 36th president. The house is still decorated in the style and spirit of when Johnson himself lived there. Seeing the home gives visitors a picture of what life in the 1920s in rural Texas would have looked like. Self-guided or ranger guided tours will take you past the grave of President Johnson and the “Texas White House” where he conducted much business. After Mrs. Johnson passed away in 2007, the home itself became open to visitors.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a sight to behold. Named after the rugged Guadalupe Mountains, the park offers day hiking and overnight backpacking in the untouched wilderness, but there is much more to this national park. Millions of years ago, water covered the entire area of Northern Mexico, Western Texas and Southern New Mexico. For this reason, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to the largest reef fossil. Thousands come to admire this natural spectacle each year. Birdwatching and wildlife viewing are also very popular here because of the different ecosystems found within the park.
San Antonio Missions National Park is a unique national park and World Heritage Site founded on the same soil where Spanish missionaries sought to bring Christianity to natives living in the area. A long chain of events including drought, attacks from other natives and diseases lead natives to missions just like this one. There are technically four different mission sites within the park. Here, visitors can see each of the buildings where these native inhabitants were converted. As an additional perk, the Alamo is located not far away, so guests can visit this best-known mission as well. The San Antonio River Walk is over 15 miles long and will take visitors right past all four of the missions plus other interesting sights such as Padre Park, Espada Aqueduct, Villa Finale Museum, and many more. Visitors are only limited by their willingness to explore.