One of the best ways to experience nature in Texas is to visit a state park. North Texas is dotted with some amazing state parks with diverse landscapes and wildlife. State parks in North Texas range from wide-open spaces rolling hills, and beautiful meadows filled with tall oak trees.
From camping by a clear blue lake to marveling at dinosaur tracks, these parks offer outdoor activities for the entire family. Here are 10 state parks within a short distance of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Cedar Hill State Park
The closest state park to the DFW metroplex is Cedar Hill State Park. It makes a fun day trip if you’re looking to spend the day at the lake with family and friends. The park is 5 miles off of Interstate 20, right outside the city limits of Cedar Hill.
You can spend the day boating and fishing on the 7,500-acre Joe Pool Lake. The swim beach is a great way to cool off and relax in the summer. There’s a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels. Many of the trails are designed for mountain bikes, but hikers are also welcome. If you’re looking to stay overnight, there are 350 developed campsites with electricity and water. Over two dozen areas are designated for primitive camping.
During your stay, be sure to tour the Pen Farm, a historic farmstead from the 1800s. The original house, barns, and farm equipment have been preserved. It’s fun to learn about what pioneer life on the Texas prairie. The farm is surrounded by beautiful scenery with green meadows and lots of trees. It’s a great place to take pictures.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park
Ray Roberts Lake State Park is the perfect weekend getaway from the DFW metroplex. Located just 10 miles north of Denton, this park offers swimming, boating, hiking, fishing, and lakeside camping. Spend the day swimming and lounging at the beach. Cast a line from the fishing pier to hook a largemouth bass. Hike down one of the many trails near each campground. There are several mixed-use trails for biking and horse riding.
The two main campgrounds are the Isle du Bois Unit and the Johnson Unit. Each campground has over one hundred campsites for tents, RVs, and equestrians. Many of the campsites are right next to Lake Ray Roberts. If you’re not into camping, the Lone Star Lodge has views of the lake and is close to the marina.
Cooper Lake State Park
Cooper Lake State Park offers spacious campgrounds, a peaceful wilderness, and tranquil views of the water. The park is a 90-minute drive northeast of Dallas and the perfect weekend getaway. There are plenty of recreational things to do. Take the boat out and spend the afternoon on the lake. Swim and relax at the sandy beach. Picnic under the enormous oak trees. Go on a hike to enjoy nature and the surrounding wildlife. You can even saddle up and ride your horse on the park’s dedicated equestrian trail system.
The two main campgrounds are Doctor’s Creek Unit and South Sulpher Unit. Both offer spots for RVs, tents and screened-in shelters. Air-conditioned and heated cabins can also be reserved. Some of these cabins are near the shoreline.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Some of the best-fossilized footprints of dinosaurs in Texas are found at Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose. The park is fun for all ages and only an hour’s drive from Fort Worth. The tracks are in the bedrock of the Paluxy River. Summer is usually the best time to see the tracks when water levels have receded to their lowest point. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear to walk around on the rocks.
Besides walking where the dinosaurs roamed, there are lots of other outdoor activities. You can go fishing and swim in the Paluxy. If you like to hike, there are 20 miles of trails ranging from easy to moderate. You can bring your bike, horse, or explore the park on foot. The Overlook Trail is worth the hike, giving you an awesome view of the Paluxy River Valley.
For overnight stays, there are 44 campsites with water and electricity. Each campsite also includes a picnic table and a grill. Primitive camping areas are throughout the park. If you’re not planning to camp, Glen Rose is just 4 miles away and has several hotels to choose from.
Cleburne State Park
Cleburne State Park is another hidden gem in North Texas. This kid-friendly park is located on the edge of the Texas Hill Country is about 45 miles southwest of Fort Worth. It’s also close to other area attractions like Dinosaur Valley State Park and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
The park surrounds the Cedar Lake, a 116-acre spring-fed oasis. Visitors can fish the lake by boat, from the pier, or along the trails by the lake. The lake also has a designated area for swimming. There are 13 miles of trails to explore on bike or by foot, ranging from easy to challenging. Trees provide plenty of shade on most of the trails. Be sure to venture down the Spillway Trail to see the small waterfall flowing off a three-tiered spillway. The size of the waterfall depends on the recent rainfall in the park, but it’s a fun hike regardless.
The park’s campsites include water and electricity. Screened-in shelters and small cabins are available to rent. The cabins are primitive but have bathrooms and showers close by.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Lake Mineral Wells State Park is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills full of oak and elm trees. It’s located 45 minutes west of Fort Worth. The main attraction is Penitentiary Hollow, one of the few natural rock climbing areas in North Texas with over 80 climbing routes.
The lake is 640 acres of clear blue water. You can fish for bass and crappie from the shore, by boat, or from one of the six fishing piers. Small boats, canoes, and kayaks can be rented inside the park. In the summer, check out the sandy beach to go swimming and relax by the water. The hiking trails beside the lake are fairly easy to walk down. The terrain can get a little rocky so watch your step. Equestrian trails are located on the north side of the lake.
There’s plenty of options for camping. Over 100 campsites for RVs, tents, and screened shelters are available, including cabins with views of Lake Mineral Wells.
Fort Richardson State Park
The main attraction of Fort Richardson State Park is the preserved military structures and artifacts from the 1800s. Fort Richardson was a military outpost in the 1800s. It protected regional settlers and travelers along the Texas prairie. Indian raids were a serious threat to pioneers making their homestead there or looking to travel west to California. There are all types of historic and interesting things to see and learn about. Make time to visit the old hospital building that’s been restored to its former glory.
The park has campsites for RVs, tents, screened shelters. There are a few primitive cabins with air-conditioning and heating (but no plumbing). Bathrooms and showers are near the campgrounds. A large pavilion includes covered picnic areas and a playground.
Short nature trails run along Lost Creek inside the park. For a longer hike, the Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway is a well-maintained trail for hiking, biking, and horse riding. The trail begins inside Fort Richardson State Park and continues north for a few miles until it reaches the Lost Creek Reservoir. Another trailhead can be accessed on the north side of Jacksboro off Highway 59.
Purtis Creek State Park
Purtis Creek State Park is the perfect place to hang your hammock. You might feel like you’re deep in the Texas woodlands, but the park is only 60 miles southeast of Dallas. It centers around a 349-acre lake that’s stocked with bass and crappie. Boating is allowed at slower speeds. Kayaks can be rented at the headquarters near the park entrance. Hiking and biking trails can be found near the campgrounds.
There are 59 RV spots and other sites for tent camping. What’s nice about these camping spots is how secluded they feel. The sites are in thickly wooded areas that add extra privacy for campers. Each RV site includes a picnic table and a fire pit.
Lake Tawakoni State Park
Another nice place to relax by the water is Lake Tawakoni State Park. The park is a sprawling 376 acres located about 60 miles east of Dallas. Lake Tawakoni is a 37,000-acre lake with 200 miles of shoreline. The lake is well known for its bass fishing, including largemouth and striped bass. It’s also a popular destination in the summer for boating and riding jet skis.
There are around 75 campsites for RVs and tents. Most campsites have plenty of shade along with a picnic table and a fire pit. A few of the sites are near the lake’s edge. Five miles of nature trails run throughout the park. The trails are short and easy and a great place to walk your dog.
Bonham State Park
If you’re looking for a peaceful day at the lake, Bonham State Park is a short 45-minute drive northeast of McKinney. The park is smaller than most state parks in North Texas, so expect fewer crowds. Bonham State Park features a 65-acre lake that’s surrounded by 200 acres of woodlands.
There’s a designated area for swimming, and the park rents canoes and kayaks by the hour. You can fish along the shoreline or by boat. There are miles of nature trails to explore. The covered picnic tables are a great place to have a barbeque. For overnight options, there are about 15 RV spots and some areas for tent camping.