Spring approaches, and in many parts of Texas, that means it’s time for people to put aside their Texas online defensive driving course, step out of their homes for a day or two and enjoy the outdoors. All too soon, the crushing heat and humidity of summer will arrive, so spring is a great time to explore the top three Texas state parks.
An hour outside of Fort Worth, dinosaurs once roamed. Their tracks are still visible at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose. You can even camp and sleep where those dinosaurs once slept. The tracks are in the riverbed of Paluxy River, so try to visit when it hasn’t rained recently, allowing the river to dry and the tracks to be seen. Any science-minded child would be fascinated with such a discovery, and adults might have even more fun than the kids!
To entertain children that are a little younger, there is also the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center less than fifteen minutes away from Dinosaur Valley. While it’s not a state park, it is one of the most fascinating and fun places to visit in the area. Fossil Rim allows you to take your own safari, driving through a wildlife conservancy where dozens of different species of animals make their homes. Even if you’ve just spent hours or even the night at Dinosaur Valley, the whole family could certainly enjoy a drive through Fossil Rim, where you might try to spot an emu, giraffe, zebra, or perhaps the adorable but elusive black-footed cat.
An hour south of Houston, visitors can find some relief from the humidity by venturing down to Galveston Island. Here, visitors can swim in the ocean or fish in the bay. This beautiful beach offers all the waves and fun in the sun of most beaches, plus fishing and paddling. Perhaps most importantly for swimming aficionados in the state of Texas, there are no alligators on or around Galveston Island, so the water is safe to splash in to your heart’s desire. Another benefit of a visit to Galveston Island is the gorgeous drive down the coast once you’re nearing your destination.
One cannot talk about Texas state parks without bringing up Big Bend Ranch. A long-time favorite of countless born-and-raised Texans, Big Bend is for those who really want to get away from the city and get into nature. It’s hundreds of miles away from the closest major population center, El Paso. Once visitors leave the highway, there are miles of unpaved back roads before reaching the center of Big Bend Ranch. Visitors might consider bringing or even renting a vehicle with 4-wheel drive to manage the bumpy backroads, but once they get there, they’ll find that the drive was beautiful, and the park is well-worth the dust on their vehicles.
Big Bend Ranch is located just a few miles west of the more famous Big Bend National Park and features trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. People wishing to ride should know that they need to bring their own horses and water for those horses, as there is no potable water anywhere they’d be riding. There are, however, several horse-friendly campsites that offer pens, so the horses won’t be cooped up in trailers or tied to hitches for their whole adventure in the park. Another popular feature of the park is access to the Rio Grande, where visitors can raft, canoe, or fish. Possibly the best offering from Big Ben Ranch is the stargazing. Big Bend Ranch is one of very few parks to be designated an International Dark Sky Park, so travelers will be able to see the incredible vastness of the sky in a way that is only possible far from the bright lights of the city.
Any of these parks would make great vacation spots, or even day trips for those close enough. No matter where you go, just remember your sunscreen and, maybe even more importantly, your bug spray!