Texas manages 89 state parks and state natural areas under Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TWPD.) Perennially popular Garner State Park, located on the banks of the Frio River, and Palo Duro Canyon State Park consistently top the list of most-visited Texas State Parks. According to TPWD, Garner State Park received 517,000 visitors in 2022, and Palo Duro Canyon State Park was a close second with 442,242 visitors that same year. Outdoor enthusiasts don't hear much about the least-visited Texas State Parks, but the parks rank at the bottom of the list.
According to TPWD, these 10 parks were Texas's least visited state parks in 2022. These parks have landed on the bottom of the pile because of their out-of-the-way locations. Here's what they offer and why you should consider making the extra effort to include these remote parks in your plan for outdoor exploration in Texas.
The Least-Visited Texas State Parks and Why They're Worth Checking Out
These 10 least-visited Texas State Parks are ranked in order of highest to lowest number of visitors records in Fiscal Year 2022.
Estero Llano State Park
Estero Llano State Park is located in the south Texas city of Weslaco and welcomed 27,007 visitors in 2022. Cars are not allowed inside the park to protect the wildlife that lives in the park. There's plenty of parking at the visitor's center; after that, guests can explore on two feet or two wheels – bicycles are permitted.
A birder's paradise, Estero Llano State Park is home to 340 species of birds and is part of the Rio Grande Valley's World Birding Center. Watch more elusive birds from the park's Indigo Blind and explore wetlands, ponds, woodlands, and thorn scrub over more than five miles of trails.
Lake Colorado City State Park
This west Texas park between Midland and Abilene saw 21,414 visitors in 2022. Recreation in Lake Colorado City State Park centers around 1,618 acre Lake Colorado City. Boating, fishing, swimming, and paddling are permitted here. The park also has 100+ campsites and nine cabins.
Lake Colorado City State Park has a boat ramp and a fishing pier. Contact the park to inquire about water levels before planning a visit.
Mission Tejas State Park
This park in Texas' piney woods received 18,586 visitors in 2022. Mission Tejas State Park is located at the north end of the Davy Crockett National Forest, midway between Dallas and Houston.
The park has 8.5 miles of trails that take visitors through the tall pines and past historic spots, such as remnants of the El Camino Real, a log home built by pioneers in the early 1800s, and structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Visit during early spring and be treated to the dogwood trees in bloom. And, even though Texas isn't known for spectacular leaf peeping, the fall colors that decorate the woods later in the year draw visitors to this off-the-radar Texas State Park.
Fort Boggy State Park
TPWD describes Fort Boggy State Park as a “tranquil patchwork of woods, fields, and water located on the edge of East Texas. This park, located halfway between Houston and Dallas, received 17,693 visitors in 2022.
Activities at Fort Boggy include fishing, swimming, and no-wake boating on 15-acre Sullivan Lake and exploring the 3.5 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Kayaks are available for rental. Overnight visitors can rent a primitive campsite or one of eight rustic cabins.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
This remote park that stretches along the Rio Grande in far west Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, welcomed 16,909 visitors in 2022. Nicknamed by TPWD as “The Other Side of Nowhere,” this park offers rugged landscapes and outdoor fun for the truly adventurous.
Float or fish in the river or explore the park's 238 miles of trails. Big Bend Ranch State Park is an International Dark Skies Park, making this a prime place to see stars sans light pollution.
Check the park's website carefully for weather warnings and vehicle requirements, and make sure you're well-stocked and prepared for a visit since services are not just around the corner if something goes wrong.
Resaca de la Palma State Park
Resaca de la Palma State Park is located on the southern tip of Texas, 10 miles from Brownsville. The park, which TPWD describes as a peaceful refuge for wildlife and people, received 11,206 visitors in 2022.
Featured activities in the park include watching wildlife from one of four over-water platforms or biking through the park's eight-mile network of trails. Bicycles and binoculars are available to rent at the visitor's center.
Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Located in Brackettville, Texas, 150 miles north of San Antonio, Kickapoo Cavern State Park had 8,434 visitors in 2022.
In addition to the park's namesake, the park has 19 other known caves. Guided cave tours are available. Otherwise, entry into the caves is prohibited. The park is also home to Stuart Bat Cave, where visitors can observe evening bat flights in spring and summer.
Birding and hiking are other popular pastimes. The Armadillo Lookout Trail leads to a panoramic view of the southwestern area of the park. Binoculars are available for rent at the visitor's center.
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Fort Leaton State Historic Site is on the Texas-Mexico border, 58 miles from Terlingua. There were 5,527 recorded visitors to Fort Leaton in 2022. Once an old west supply post, today's visitors can take a self-guided tour and explore restored buildings and grounds to glimpse what life was like in a border town in the 1800s.
The fort also serves as the western entrance to Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Devil's River State Natural Area
Devil's River State Natural Area welcomed 5,017 visitors in 2022. The Devil's River is one of the most pristine rivers in Texas. Accessing the river requires a one-mile hike from the parking lot, but paddling enthusiasts say it is worth the extra effort.
In addition to paddling, primitive camping, swimming, and fishing are permitted at Devil's River State Natural Area. Visit the park's website for information on necessary permits.
Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area
Seven hundred people visited Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area in 2022, giving it the honor of least-visited Texas State Park.
Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area is in Rocksprings, Texas, 131 miles northwest of San Antonio. Home to one of the state's largest colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats, watching the bats emerge for their nightly feeding is the biggest draw for visiting Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area.
Nightly tours take place from May through October when the bats are in residence. Reservations are required.
Taking the road less traveled means extra preparation
Check the individual park's website for entry fees and reservation information while planning your visit.
This article was produced by Ripped Jeans and Bifocals and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.