From the rugged canyons of Palo Duro to the lush forests of the Piney Woods, Texas trails each tell a unique story, offering a special blend of challenges, natural wonders, and a charm that makes hiking in Texas extraordinary. Aside from the physical benefits, hiking plays an important role in our mental wellbeing. According to a Stanford study, people who walked in a natural setting for 90 minutes a day experienced positive emotion regulation (anxiety, depression, ADHD, dementia).
If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to get outdoors and enjoy these mood boosting benefits, we’re making it easier with 12 Texas Trails to Hike in 2024. Check out these Texas trails and let us know your favorite!
1. Ratcliff Lake Trail, Ratcliff, Texas
Best Time to Hike: All season
Davy Crockett National Forest located near Crockett, TX, boasts 160,000 acres of East Texas woodlands, streams, recreation areas, and wildlife habitat. Hike the Ratcliff Lake Trail an easy 2.8 mile loop with some sections of trail that walk along the bank of the lake, and the rest traveling through a beautiful forest. Keep an eye out for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Hoodoo in Palo Duro Canyon
2. Lighthouse Trail, Canyon, Texas
Best time to Hike: Spring, Fall, Winter
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, situated approximately 30 miles outside of Amarillo, boasts the second-largest canyon system in the United States. Spanning 120 miles in length, 20 miles in width, and reaching depths of up to 800 feet, the canyon offers a remarkable natural landscape. Embark on the Lighthouse Trail, a 5.8-mile round-trip hike, to immerse yourself in the vibrant hues of the four geological layers and witness unique rock formations known as Hoodoos—created by erosion, featuring a larger rock balanced on a smaller base. Additionally, within the park, you’ll encounter members of the official State Longhorn Herd, showcasing Texas Longhorns, along with the largest population of Palo Duro Mice.
Onion Creek Flowing Over Limestone Edges
3. Onion Creek Trail, Austin, Texas
Best time to hike: Spring
Onion Creek Trail, situated in McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, TX, is a hard surface trail that provides a straightforward and easy-to-follow path. This trail offers a simple and enjoyable hiking experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Along the way, hikers can enjoy views of the falls, adding an extra element of beauty to the trek. Whether you’re a casual walker or a nature enthusiast, Onion Creek Trail is a great choice for a relaxed outdoor adventure only 13 miles from the state capitol.
Rippled Sand Dunes
4. Monahans Sandhills, Monahans, Texas
Best time to hike: Spring, Fall, Winter
Monahans Sandhills State Park is situated in Monahans, often referred to as the Oasis of the West Texas Desert. This park encompasses just a fraction of a vast dune field that stretches approximately 200 miles from the southern outskirts of Monahans to the west and north into New Mexico. Although most of these dunes are stabilized by vegetation, some within the park remain dynamic and actively shift in response to seasonal winds. Towering up to 50 feet in height, these active dunes constantly change shape. While the park doesn’t have designated trails, visitors are encouraged to freely explore its unique landscape.
5. Armadillo Hill & Ike’s Hike Nature Trail, Denison, Texas
Best time to hike: All Seasons
Eisenhower State Park, situated on the shores of Lake Texoma in Denison, seamlessly integrates prairie expanses amidst the Oak Woods and Prairies region’s woodlands. The park features rugged bluffs, picturesque coves, and a rocky lakeshore. Explore the Armadillo Hill & Ike’s Hike natural trail, a moderately challenging approximately 6.5-mile out-and-back route. This trail offers beautiful lake overlooks, multiple access points, some rocky terrain, and excellent opportunities for bird enthusiasts to observe wintering Bald Eagles, pelicans, loons, and various waterfowl.
6. Llano Grande Hiking Trail, Weslaco, Texas.
Best time to hike: Feb-March
Discover the natural beauty of Llano Grande Hiking Trail in 230 acre Estero Llano Grande State Park, an hour northwest of Brownsville. This 1.46 mile scenic trail takes you along a levee with captivating views of Llano Grande Lake. As part of the World Birding Center, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers, offering diverse bird species such as the Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill. The park is adjacent to the Arroyo Colorado, a tributary that branches off from the Rio Grande, it features a shallow lake surrounded by marsh cane, as well as native Rio Grande woodlands and shrublands, adding diversity.
7. The Far Reaches and Twin Oaks Loop, San Antonio, Texas
Best time to hike: Spring
Government Canyon State Natural Area, situated on the northside of San Antonio, spans 12,000 acres and lies on the edge of the Balcones Escarpment. The northern region boasts deep canyons on the eastern boundary of the Edwards Plateau, while the southern section transitions into a broad plain, separated by a forested strip. This wilderness serves as a crucial protector of the city’s drinking water, with most of San Antonio’s water sourced from the Edwards Aquifer. The Far Reaches and Twin Oaks Loop, a 9.0-mile round trip, allows exploration of the area’s geological features, habitat viewing of the endangered species Golden-Cheeked Warbler nesting in Ashe-Junipers, and stunning vistas.
Possum Kingdom Photo by Texas Parks and Wildlife
8. Possum Kingdom Lake View Loop, Caddo, Texas
Best time to hike: All Season
Possum Kingdom State Park, situated just one hour west of the DFW Metroplex in the scenic canyon region of the Brazos River Valley, boasts Lake Possum Kingdom, renowned for its clear and azure waters in the southwest. Explore the 1.5-mile Possum Kingdom Lakeview loop trail, which provides picturesque overlooks of the lake. Considered an easy hike, it typically takes about 32 minutes to finish. After viewing the lake along the trail, head to the water for a day of fishing and swimming.
Dinosaur Track Photo by Texas Parks and Wildlife
9. Black-Capped Vireo Trail via Limestone Ledge Trail, Glen Rose, Texas
Best time to hike: All Season
Dinosaur Valley State Park, located near Fort Worth in Glen Rose, offers a distinctive opportunity to explore the same grounds once inhabited by dinosaurs. Within the park, visitors can walk directly in the footprints left by these ancient creatures. Situated along the picturesque Paluxy River, a tributary of the Brazos River, the park features the Black-Capped Vireo Trail, which is a moderately challenging four-mile loop accessed via the Limestone Ledge Trail.
Southwestern Barrel Cactus
10. El Paso Tin Mines Trail, El Paso, Texas
Best time to hike: Spring
Franklin Mountains State Park in the high desert mountains, is conveniently located 15 minutes from El Paso. Despite being entirely within the city limits, the park harbors a rich and varied ecosystem, hosting a variety of birds (including golden eagles, ash-throated flycatchers, calliope hummingbirds and pyrrhuloxia), reptiles, and small mammals. Notably, the Franklin Mountains serve as the exclusive habitat in Texas for the Southwestern barrel cactus. Spanning over 27,000 acres, the park offers ample opportunities for exploration. Embark on the approximately 6-mile El Paso Tin Mines Trail to witness the remnants of a mining operation dating back to the early 1900s.
Devils River Photo by Texas Parks and Wildlife
12. 12-Mile Loop, Del Rio, Texas
Best time to hike: Summer
Embark on a captivating journey through the Devils River State Natural Area as you traverse the 12-mile loop hike. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural surroundings, taking in the diverse flora (Live Oak, mosses, ferns, herbs and vines) and fish species (Devils River minnow, Rio Grande darter, Conchos pupfish and Proserpine shiner). After the invigorating hike, explore one of the state’s most pristine spring fed rivers. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or seeking a rejuvenating outdoor adventure, this excursion promises a harmonious blend of exploration and relaxation amidst the captivating wilderness.
Uvalde Bigtooth Maple Photo by Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center
12. West Trail, Vanderpool, Texas
Best time to hike: October-November
Explore the West Trail at Lost Maples State Natural Area for a hike through vibrant fall foliage, featuring the stunning Uvalde bigtooth maples. Take in the beauty of steep canyon walls and the Sabinal River as you immerse yourself in the autumn landscape. Located just two hours northwest of San Antonio, it’s an easily accessible destination for nature enthusiasts. Consider making reservations or plan your visit during weekdays due to the area’s full capacity. The West Trail promises a memorable experience to experience fall foliage in our great state.
Our vision is for every business, every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.
Texan by Nature encourages you to explore and hike these 12 Texas trails in 2024 not only for their physical benefits and the important role they play in our mental wellbeing, but also the connection they provide to our natural world and conservation. Whether meandering through urban parks or immersing in the untouched wilderness, these trails promise a mood-boosting, refreshing escape to nature throughout the year. Where will you start first?