The Lonestar State is not only big, it’s diverse: Texas is made up of 10 ecoregions that range from the arid High Plains to the lush Gulf Coast. How many ecoregions of Texas have you explored? Whether you’re a seasoned Texas traveler or new to the state, TenXTen highlights hikes from each ecoregion of Texas for inspiration about where to explore.
1. The Piney Woods – El Camino Real de los Tejas: Mission Tejas State Park near Grapeland displays the state’s natural and social history on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail. Hike in the shade of towering longleaf and loblolly pine forests that provide habitat for endangered species like the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, and pay a visit to the site of the first Spanish mission in Texas, Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, established in 1690. To get involved with conservation in the Piney Woods region, follow @texaslongleaf
2. Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes – Heron’s Walk Trail: Galveston Island State Park offers many different habitat types to explore, from dunes to grasslands and from freshwater to bayside habitats. The Heron’s Walk Trail goes through the bayous, marshes, and salt flats that make this region so unique, offering hikers the chance to see wading birds like herons, cranes, and egrets. At 1.4 miles round trip, the Heron’s Walk Trail leaves time and energy to explore the park’s freshwater ponds, a popular hangout for alligators.
3. Post-Oak Savannah – Lake Fayette Trail: Historically dominated by oaks, the Post Oak Savannah ecoregion was shaped by wildfires and bison migration. As conditions changed, the ecoregion’s flora and fauna shifted to include cedar elm and sugarberry, which hikers can enjoy just outside of Fayetteville at the Lake Fayette Trail. This trail connects several parks along the lake shore, affording the opportunity to see wildlife like Armadillos and a variety of native Texas birds.
4. The Blackland Prairies- Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve: Texas is home to the endangered Blackland Prairie ecosystem, only 1% of which is intact globally. The Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve outside Allen is one place to see preserved and restored Blackland Prairie habitat and the wildlife that its rich variety of soils supports.
5. The Cross Timbers- Bittern Marsh Trail: The Cross Timbers ecoregion contrasts the grassy expanse of nearby prairie habitat with its forests of blackjack and post oaks. The trail network at Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) is a great place to see the mixed wetland and forest habitat of the ecoregion. LLELA includes the Bittern Marsh Trail, which starts at the shore of Lewisville Lake and takes hikers through a hardwood forest to a marsh. Wetland animals hikers are likely to see include frogs, turtles, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, and ducks.
6. The South Texas Plains – Estero Llano Grande Trail: Rare plants like the black lace cactus and regional species like the Rio Grande Frog can be found in the South Texas Plains ecoregion.
Scout for these natural beauties and more at Estero Llano State Park, where you can also visit a World Birding Center location for field guides and birding information. At certain times of the year, you can see colorful migratory birds like the Roseate Spoonbill alongside the thorny beauty of cactus and mesquite.
7. The Edwards Plateau- Flint Rock Loop Trail : The Edwards Plateau region is famous for its rocky limestone terrain, creeks and rivers, and sweeping Hill Country views. These are prominent features of the Flint Rock Loop Trail at McKinney Falls State Park. This moderate trail takes hikers across Onion creek and into a forested area, and leaves time and energy to enjoy the park’s waterfalls, swimming, and fishing.
River Bend Nature Center in Wichita Falls offers trails through its 15 acres of preserved forest and wetland habitat, a live butterfly enclosure, and the Ruby N. Priddy Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, where visitors can see over 100 native species in recreated Rolling Plains ecosystems.
9. The High Plains – Rock Gardens Trail: While Palo Duro Canyon is known for the iconic Lighthouse rock formation at the end of the Lighthouse Trail, the canyon has more than one rock worth seeing.
The Rock Gardens Trail gets its name from the boulders scattered over nearby hillsides where lizards and snakes enjoy basking, and this trail takes hikers to the rim of the canyon for a spectacular overview of the country’s second-largest canyon.
10. The Trans-Pecos- Paso del Norte Trail: As part of the Chihuahua Desert, the Trans-Pecos region is distinctive in its landscape and ecology. Spanning 68 miles, The Paso del Norte Trail puts the region’s desert landscape and wildlife like Burrowing Owls on display, and benefits the binational community of El Paso through access to biking and hiking trails as well as paved trails through urban sections.
The ten Texas ecoregions support a biodiverse state flora and fauna population and offer something for everyone to connect with through exploration and conservation. Where will you start?