Down in Central Texas, we have an extensive network of parks to explore the broad range of wildlife and enjoy the state’s natural beauty. Many of these parks are located less than 70 miles from Austin, making them great for a weekend camping trip or a day of. All of the state parks have unique qualities and histories, whether it’s stargazing parties on beautiful Enchanted Rock, winding hiking trails in the Lost Pines, visiting the home of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, or hiking around or swimming in one of the numerous lakes and rivers we boast here in Central Texas. Order a state park pass and discover all the natural and historical wonders Central Texas has to offer!

1. McKinney Falls State Park

The Definitive Guide to State Parks near Austin - McKinney Falls State Park - Realty Austin

Located on the southeastern edge of Austin around the convergence of Onion and Williamson Creeks, the McKinney Falls State Park features bald cypress trees and vibrant wildflowers supported by flowing waters from the two creeks. The park is named after one of the first 300 settlers who came to Central Texas with Stephen F. Austin. The park is open for a variety of activities including camping, hiking, fishing, and swimming.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Open daily 8 am – 10 pm

Directions: McKinney Falls State Park is located 13 miles south from the State Capitol in Austin on U.S. Highway 183. Take the McKinney Falls Parkway exit straight to the park entrance.

Pro Tip: One of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas, fondly known as “Old Baldy,” is found in McKinney Falls. Make sure to stop by and visit him! Back to top.

2. Bastrop State Park

Just a short drive from Austin, the Bastrop State Park is found in the “Lost Pines” of Central Texas. The plentiful natural resources made Bastrop perfect for early settlers, which is why Bastrop is believed to be one of the oldest towns in Texas. This national historical landmark has stone cabins for camping, fishing on the Bastrop State Park Lake, and opportunities for canoeing and golfing.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Check website

Directions: From Austin, take Highway 71 east to Texas Highway 21. Bastrop State Park is located one mile east of Texas Highway 21.

Pro Tip: If you prefer to enjoy nature from inside the car, you can take a scenic drive (read: field trip on wheels) between the Bastrop and Buescher State Parks. The 12-mile expedition trails through the beautiful Lost Pines of Central Texas. Call the park ahead of time for more information. Back to top.

3. Pedernales Falls State Park

The Definitive Guide to State Parks near Austin - Pedernales Falls State Park - Realty Austin

The Pedernales Falls State Park in Blanco County is located along the banks of the Pedernales River. The wildlife in the park is typical of the Texas Hill Country, with white-tailed deer, armadillos, and raccoons. Most activities are centered on water-related recreation like swimming, tubing, and wading.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Open daily

Directions: Travel west on U.S. Highway 290, then north on FM 3232 for 6 miles. The park is located 32 miles from downtown Austin.

Pro Tip: Although most visitors of the Pedernales Falls State Park are interested in river-related activities, the park is also great for family hikes. The duck pond and the easy, 7-mile Wolf Mountain Trail makes the park a perfect day trip with the kids. Back to top.

4. Lockhart State Park

Tucked away in Caldwell County, the Lockhart State Park has an array of great outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy fishing in Clear Fork Creek, taking a leisurely hike, or picnicking by the creek. The 263.7-acre park was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1935 and 1938 and still maintains some of the original structures built. History buffs can visit the site of the Battle of Plum Creek a few miles from the park itself.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Open daily

Directions: To reach the park, take U.S. Highway 183 south to FM 20. Travel southwest on FM 20 for 2 miles to Park Road 10. Continue 1 mile south on Park Road 10.

Pro Tip: Lockhart State Park is home to the only staff-operated, 9-hole golf course in the Texas Park System, so pack up your golf clubs and rent an electric cart for $10. Back to top.

5. Buescher State Park

Less than 10 miles from the Bastrop State Park, the Buescher State Park also sits within the Lost Pines ecosystem. The Lost Pines represent the westernmost loblolly pine trees in the United States. Buescher State Park boasts fishing, camping, hiking, and more. Additionally, cabins are available for nightly rentals for a weekend getaway.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Check website

Directions: From Austin, travel on Highway 71 east toward Bastrop. Then take FM 153 north to enter Park Road 1.

Pro Tip: Non-motorized boating is allowed on the lake, so bring your canoe or kayak along. Even if you don’t own one, you can rent one from the park. Back to top.

6. Blanco State Park

Blanco State Park in Blanco County surrounds a mile of the Blanco River. Most activities revolve around the river like swimming, boating (electric motors only) and fishing. The park has tubes and canoes available for rental. Every year, the Blanco State Park hosts the Blanco Classic Car Show on the third Saturday in May.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Open daily

Directions: Drive 48 miles west on U.S. Highway 290 to U.S. Highway 281, then take 281 south for 8 miles to Park Road 23.

Pro Tip: Blanco State Park offers a variety of interpretive and educational programs like Nature Study and Kayaking 101. Check the events calendar for scheduled programs. Back to top.

7. Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historical Site

The Lyndon B. Johnson State Park was built just across the river from the LBJ Ranch. The visitor center is the focal point of the park, containing memorabilia from President Johnson’s presidency and interactive displays. Additionally, the park is known for its wildlife exhibition of contained buffalo, longhorn, and the famous wildflower display. As of May 2014, the park is now home to part of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd.

Entrance Fee: No entrance fee

Hours: Check website

Directions: Take U.S. Highway 290 west toward Johnson City. The park is located 14 miles west of Johnson City on Park Road 52.

Pro Tip: Make sure you visit the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead, a living history farm. Interpreters are clothed in 1918 period clothing and participate in household and farm chores that would have been done at the time. They also conduct tours for visitors and show how the tasks are performed. Back to top.

8. Longhorn Cavern State Park

In the heart of the Highland Lakes, Longhorn Caverns are a pleasant 68 degrees year-round. The natural landmark cavern has served as a shelter since prehistoric times. Legend says that the infamous Sam Bass buried his $2 million loot in Longhorn Caverns. Guided tours start around 10:30 am and are offered throughout the day. The tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Entrance Fee: Access by tour only, contact the park for more info

Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk

Directions: From Austin, travel north on U.S. Highway 183. In Liberty Hill, turn onto Highway 29 west toward Burnet. Once you reach Burnet, turn left onto Highway 281, and then take Park Road 4 for 6 miles.

Pro Tip: It’s recommended that you wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for your comfort and safety. The tour is over a mile round trip of walking and the floors of the caverns are often wet. Back to top.

9. Inks Lake State Park

Discover the beauty of the Texas Hill Country at Inks Lake State Park. The park has 1,201 acres of recreational facilities next to Inks Lake on the Colorado River. Visitors can explore the park by camping and backpacking, and can also enjoy water recreational sports.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Check website

Directions: The park is located 9 miles west of Burnet. From Austin, take U.S. Highway 183 North, and then turn onto Highway 29 west to Burnet. Take Park Road 4 for 3 miles to park entrance.

Pro Tip: Inks Lake stays at a constant water level all year, so droughts do not affect water-related activities. You’re able to swim, boat, or scuba dive on Inks Lake regardless of droughts in Central Texas. Back to top.

10. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

There’s a reason Enchanted Rock is called magical and mystical. The massive pink granite dome rising out of the Texas Hill Country has amazed people for thousands of years. Surrounding Enchanted Rock itself, there are beautiful scenery and rock formations to visit as well. You can hike, rock climb, and picnic around the whole Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Entrance Fee: Check website

Hours: Open daily 8 am – 10 pm

Directions: Take west U.S. Highway 290 from Austin all the way to Fredericksburg. Turn right onto Ranch Road 965 for 18 miles to park entrance.

Pro Tip: Join in on one of the Rock Star Parties where you can learn about constellations and maybe even see a shooting star! The rural sky and elevation makes Enchanted Rock one of the best public spaces for stargazing in Central Texas. Back to top.

Map of Austin’s State Parks

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