The Palo Pinto Mountain Range is donning a new designation—a Texas State Park‘! The Texas State Park System celebrates its 100th birthday in 2023. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) purchased the first 3,300 acres of the park in 2011. It takes time and funding to develop a Texas State Park. In 2023, the current Texas State Park supply cannot keep up with nature lover’s demands; almost all of them recommend making reservations.
During the Memorial Day weekend of 2021, 95% of Texas State Park campsites were claimed and 86% of all state parks were completely booked. Today, over 630,000 acres are devoted to Texas State Parks. Is Texas getting a new state park? Yes it is, and it is a whopper of a new state park.
Where Is the Palo Pinto Mountain Range?
Palo Pinto loosely translates into “painted stick”. Native Americans inhabited the Palo Pinto region 10,000 years before the year 2,000, and they lived a nomadic lifestyle. The climate warmed up over the Americas 4,000 years before the year 2,000. At that time, the Native Americans began to grow squash, corn, and beans and follow the buffalo after the harvest. In the late 1500s, Spanish explorers were the first Europeans in the area.
The Palo Pinto Mountain range lies in western Palo Pinto County, ten miles north of I-20 and SH 16. The range is 100 miles west of Dallas, 70 miles west of Fort Worth, and 70 miles east of Abilene. Palo Pinto is a tiny town that serves as the Palo Pinto county seat on US 180 about ten miles northeast from the new Texas Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.
People are asking Texas Outside, “What is the new state park near Fort Worth?”, and “What state park is opening in 2023 in North Texas?” That would be the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. The TPWD reports that its new park will have a soft opening in late 2023. The Palo Pinto Mountains State Park is Texas’ first new state park in 25 years.
When Will the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Open?
Developing a new Texas State Park requires quite a bit of time from start to finish. Palo Pinto Mountains State Park first emerged in 2010-2011, when TPWD began acquiring land for it. TPWD purchased 3,300 acres in the Palo Pinto Mountains from private property owners with funds it received from selling a few acres of TPWD property in their Eagle Mountain State Park near Fort Worth.
The TPWD has scheduled a soft opening for late 2023, with a grand opening slated for early 2024. TPWD has completed 90% of the development as of this writing. The TPWD will update their Palo Pinto Mountains State Park web pages as they get closer to definite opening dates. But at this writing, there is no known bulls-eye target for its grand opening date.
What Will the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Offer its Visitors?
The TPWD can pack a big punch of amenities into nearly 5,000 acres. Regular visitors to the 89 Texas State Parks, Historic Sites, and Natural Areas will tell you that Texas’ state parks are clean, well-maintained, and well-staffed with informed employees. Many of them offer ranger and junior ranger programs, which include teaching about nature via the arts of drawing and writing about nature and observing nature by taking visitors on guided hikes and nature tours.
So far, the TPWD has announced that the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park’s amenities include an extensive network of multi-use trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Its trails lead to remote areas of the park with panoramic vistas. It has RV sites, walk-in tent sites, primitive camping areas, and picnic areas with playgrounds.
Tucker Lake, covering 90 acres, sinks into the center of the park. James Miller, assistant superintendent of the park, reported in March 2023 that this new state park offers 59 campsites. Twenty-five have water and electric for RVs overlooking Tucker Lake. Twelve tent sites are walk-in campsites with water available, restrooms, and a parking lot within 100 yards. Twelve are primitive backpack-in sites with composting toilets and no water or electricity. You must pack everything you brought with you back out. Please only leave footprints.
The Palo Pinto Mountains State Park dedicates ten equestrian campsites with water, electricity, an asphalt parking pad, and two pens for unloading your horse/s. Most of the 12-mile trail network is for hiking, biking, and horseback riding and a three-quarter-mile section that is ADA accessible. There is a pavilion to rent for events and the park headquarters building featuring an interpretive area for educating visitors about the history, plants, and animals of the region, plus a retail space.
The Palo Pinto Mountains State Park’s entrance is located on the east side of Tucker Lake, off of FM 2372 and most easily accessible through the town of Strawn, Texas. Strawn is four miles north of the junction of I-20 and SH 16. Not too many roads cross the Palo Pinto Mountain region. Road signs will lead you straight to the park.