Best Road Trips From Dallas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Best Road Trips From Dallas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Best Road Trips From Dallas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

While Dallas boasts many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, some of the best things to do are outside the city limits. Within just a couple to a few hours, you can be in a variety of different outdoor heavens varying from forests and deserts to lakes and bayous. Texas is huge and features a multitude of different types of landscapes, meaning no matter what you like, there are parks that will spark your interest. Whether that be birding, hiking, fall colors, lakes, swamps, swimming, kid-friendly, etc., there’s a park for you. The best road trips from Dallas are right at your fingertips!

We’ve separated our favorite parks into categories based on distance from downtown Dallas, so times may vary depending on where you live in the DFW metroplex. Some are just a short drive away, while others are better for long weekends or short vacations. Some are best visited in the fall and spring because the Texas summer can be too hot for outdoor recreation, while others are great summer spots and offer many opportunities for taking a dip to cool down. So when planning your outdoor weekend getaway, keep in mind time of year, length of drive, and what opportunities the parks offer so you can best decide which destination is right for you, your family, and/or your friends.

Reader’s Tip: each title is linked to the corresponding park website

Short Drive (1-2.5 Hours)

Tyler State Park

This Texas state park is described as a “tranquil haven in the pines” and is one of the closest parks on the list. It features a 64-acre spring-fed lake, 100 foot tall pine trees, and more. Play in the beautiful water; go fishing for crappie, perch, catfish, and bass; mountain bike; hike on over 13 miles of trails; and bird watch.

Turner Falls Park (Oklahoma)

Just a short drive from Dallas and in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains is Turner Falls Park, located in Davis, Oklahoma. The focal point of the park is Turner Falls, a 77 foot waterfall and swimming hole. You can also swim in the river and visit the Blue Hole Pool – a natural swimming area with slides and diving boards. In addition, you can explore caves, fish, hike, and camp. Note that children 12 and under must use a Coast Guard approved flotation device at all times in the water.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

I will always remember visiting this Texas State Park growing up and it’s one of my favorite places I’ve been. Adults and kids alike can enjoy this beautiful natural area where dinosaurs roamed long ago. Those dinosaurs left footprints in the mud at the edge of an ancient ocean, and these prints can now be found in the hardened rock of the Paluxy River bed and surrounding area. You can paddle the river or explore on foot, swim, watch for wildlife and more in this scenic park.

Medium Drive (2.5-5 Hours)

Beaver’s Bend State Park (Oklahoma)

Beavers Bend State Park is our top pick for fishing since they stock trout and their crystal clear river waters are home to two catch-and-release trophy fishing areas. You’ll have to cross state lines since this state park is in Oklahoma, but it’s well worth the journey. Not only does this park have ample fishing opportunities, but it also offers hiking, canoe trips, river float trips, nature center activities, biking, horseback riding, and much more. On top of that, the park hosts 14,000-acre lake Broken Bow Lake with marina. There’s camp sites, RV sites, a lodge on the lake, and plenty of short term rentals to choose from.

P.S. – Beaver’s Bend State Park is also a great destination for amazing fall colors.

Caddo Lake State Park

This Texas State Park is located in eastern Texas and encompasses 8,253 acres, including Caddo Lake, which is one of the few natural lakes in the state. You can fish for trophy-sized Large Mouth Bass, keep an eye out for some of the 240 species of birds, explore the abundance of bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, or try your hand at canoeing/boating some of the 42 miles of “boat roads” through the maze of channels and waterways. Plus, this is one of the few places in Texas to see alligators in the wild.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Just 35 miles outside of Austin and less than a 4-hour drive from Dallas, Pedernales Falls State Park is a unique geological area – the Pedernales River cascades over layered limestone rock to create the picturesque Pedernales Falls. While the Falls is a focal point for the park, there’s lots more to do in the form of hiking, camping (hike-in, RV, and car camping), fishing, biking, kayaking/canoeing, and horse-back riding.

Less than 45 minutes away is Hamilton Pool, which is part of the Pedernales River and is worth a visit while you’re in the area. Check their website before you go to see if conditions are good for swimming.

Colorado Bend State Park

Perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the State Parks is Colorado Bend. The best part of this park is the 70-ft Gorman Falls, a spring-fed waterfall that’s just a 3 mile round trip hike. Afterwards, cool off in Spicewood Springs, which is a series of spring-fed pools that stay cool even on hot Texas summer days. You can also paddle the river, take a cave tour, and hike or bike over 35 miles of trails. There’s no nearby hotels or cabins, only camping (drive-up, walk-in, or primitive hike-in sites) and vault toilets, so this park is sure to get you back to nature.

A Little Farther (5+ Hours)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

One of our favorite National Parks is Guadalupe Mountains NP, which protects the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef. How cool is it it to be in the desert and to see aquatic fossils from millions of years ago?! Plus, the park has the four highest peaks in Texas. You can hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest peak in Texas at an elevation of 8,750 above sea level. The best way to see this extremely undeveloped park is to camp at the Pine Springs Campground since the closest town is very small and 30 minutes away. There’s bathrooms but no showers so make sure you have your own showering options. You should also visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park while you’re there!

Read more about our visit here.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Have dreams of visiting the Grand Canyon? Palo Duro Canyon is the next best thing as the second largest canyon in the country. In the heart of the Texas Panhandle, you’ll find rugged beauty, seclusion, and a colorful history. Explore the canyon by foot, mountain bike, horse and/or car. The canyon was formed by millions of years of water erosion by strong wind and the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and boasts a descent of some 800 feet to the canyon floor. Because temperatures in the canyon can reach up to 120 degrees in the summer, it is recommended that visitors come in the off-seasons or recreate only in the morning and evening during summer.

Big Bend National Park

At the heart of the park is the Chisos Mountains, which extend 20 miles and is the only mountain range totally contained within a single national park. The park contains three basic habitats: desert (Chihuahuan Desert), river (Rio Grande River), and mountains (Chisos Mountains). While the park is one of the largest national parks in the United States, it has a small annual visitation relative to its size, meaning it offers great solitude and peace in a natural surrounding. Keep in mind that this desert environment can reach extremely high temperatures in the summer, so visiting in spring and fall is recommended.

Other Destinations to Consider

  • Lake Murray (OK)
  • Huntsville State Park
  • Trinity River Audubon Center
  • Heard Museum
  • Enchanted Rock
  • Buffalo River (Ponca, AK)
  • Galveston or Surf’s Side

Do you have your own favorite Texas destination? We’d love to hear more about it!

Don’t see anything on this list that tickles your fancy? Visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/ to learn more about the Texas State Parks or do some research about local parks near you.

About the Author

Ashley Vitiello

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

Stay Connected

with Us


Recent Posts