From high deserts to the hill country, wetlands and bayous to river bottoms, these seven trails highlight the geographical diversity, natural beauty, and stunning scenery of Texas.
Twin Falls Nature Trail
Families love this accessible half-mile hike to a scenic overlook of the Twin Falls, located in a lush, tranquil corner of the five thousand acres Pedernales Falls State Park. Of course, they also love the nearby Pedernales Falls for which the park is named, and who can blame them? Here, the Pedernales River drops gently over some three thousand feet of ancient limestone stairs, creating a breathtaking series of natural pools amidst a wooded wonderland of cypress, elm, ash, and even pecan trees.
Skyline Drive Trail
4.5 miles of some of the best views of the Davis Mountains State Park? Yes, please! The lightly-trafficked Skyline Trail climbs up ridgelines and down into valleys to provide stunning views of the Davis Mountains, whose fantastic formations were birthed by volcanic activity in the region some thirty million years ago. The Limpia and Keesey creeks have drainages here, providing an essential water source for the amazing variety of plants in the park, such as colorful wildflowers in wetter years. Those plants, in turn, create a cover for a truly wild assortment of animals, from the ever-present javelinas (wild boar) to the park’s elusive mountain lions.
Located in beautiful Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Rancherias Loop is twenty primitive miles of strenuous backpacking through challenging canyons and across high desert mesas. Be prepared for a bit of scree slope scrambling and rock-hopping, and pack your best water filter: while you’re unlikely to encounter other humans on this trail, the two reliable springs along the route are frequented morning and night by herds of wild burros (donkeys); they’re just one species of among nearly fifty different mammals that make their home in the park.
Lone Star Hiking Trail
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and the Lone Star State has got the hiking trail to prove it: at 129 miles, this is the longest (and only!) long-distance National Recreation Trail in the whole state. And while it’s gained some popularity over the years, due in no small part to its dedicated hiking club, it remains a relative unknown compared to its larger, longer thru-hike cousins. If you’re willing to take the road significantly less traveled, to brave the boardwalks of the Big Thicket and possibly an alligator or two down in the bayou, this is your trail.
Hikers hoping to get high in Texas will want to leave Austin for the trail to Guadalupe Peak. Also known as Signal Peak, the state’s highest natural point sits a pretty 8751 feet above sea level and offers incomparable, sweeping views of the Chihuahuan Desert and glacially white salt flats to the tenacious few who complete the strenuous 8.4‑mile out-and-back summit trail. With over three thousand feet of elevation gain through rocky, difficult terrain and perilously near 1500-foot cliffs, high winds at the peak that can gust at upwards of eighty miles per hour, and the unrelenting sun only broken by spontaneous afternoon thundershowers, this trail isn’t for the faint of heart.
Forest Trail, Martin Dies, Jr State Park
This easy one-miler through the heart of the East Texas Pineywoods is a welcome departure from the high desert country. Perched on the northern edge of the Big Thicket, the state park the Forest Trail calls home is verdant with a variety of trees, woody vines, and shrubs: long—and shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, several varieties of oak, cypress, sweetgum, maple, holly, and myrtle, to name just a few. Combine this trail with the two-mile Slough Trail, which features sixteen bridges over the marsh and alligator-inhabited wetlands, to up the challenge and lengthens the adventure.
South Llano Paddling Trail
If you’d be happier in the water than near it, try a paddling trail! Texas is riddled with them, and six of the best miles of kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding can be found along the spring-fed South Llano River. Its easy eddies, riffles, and stretches of light rapid runs through rock gardens create a relaxing and enjoyable journey through a gorgeous riparian woodland and pecan bottom teaming with wildlife.