The State of Texas enjoys a global reputation, and there are Texas outside trips awaiting you. Its Lone Star flag is the most recognized U.S. state flag world-wide. Texas offers four major metropolises with five major cities, each with its own special and individual personality. But Texas is big. Most of the Lone Star State offers exciting adventures for outdoor sportsmen and women and nature lovers. Some of the most unique outdoor adventures in Texas can only be had in Texas. 

Does Texas Have Outdoor Activities?

You can hang your hat on a big ol’ Texas “Yes”, with some of the best outdoor places to visit in Texas and the world. The U.S. National Climatic Data Center splits Texas into ten climate divisions, and five of them rarely see temperatures below 50°. This allows for year-round outdoor adventures in approximately half of the Lone Star State. Texas Outside chose the following outdoor destinations as uniquely one-of-a-kind outdoor Texas experiences.

Our Favorite Texas Outside Trips

The YO Ranch Headquarters

If you visit Texas for the Texas culture, there is one singular outdoor destination that epitomizes Texas and its outdoor completeness. The YO Ranch Headquarters is a historic Texas institution since 1880 and before. The YO Ranch lies at the brink of the Texas Hill Country and the very edge of West Texas as a historic reminder of the American West. This slice of Texas heaven is what Texas was, is, and will continue to be. At the YO Ranch, big skies offer vast starry views and stunning sunrises and sunsets, which look down below at dozens of animal species, cowboys, horses, and the most valued U.S. exotic species in hunting. 

The YO Ranch Headquarters offers guided tours of all the animal compounds (with even giraffes and capybaras), rented UTV and ebike riding in designated areas, with cabins, a swimming pool, and the finest Texas cuisine. Horseback riding tours will be back soon. This Texas Outside writer learned how to make perfect Chicken Fried Steak at the YO Ranch Headquarter’s kitchen 35 years ago. Call 830-640-3222 for information and to make reservations.

Palo Duro Canyon

Texas boasts two National Parks, 21 National Wildlife Refuges, and 87 State Parks and Natural Areas. Gracing the High Plains of West Texas is one of the most beautiful and unbelievable, the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, only second in the U.S. to the Grand Canyon in beauty and size. Explore 800 feet to the bottom of the canyon, miles upon miles of biking, hiking, and equestrian trails, and visit the Canyon Gallery for historical video productions, archeological and nature exhibits and shopping. 

Shop for Texas books, Southwest art, handmade Native American pottery, handmade Navajo, Zuni, and Santo Domingo silver and turquoise jewelry, handmade hunting knives, and a large selection of hard to find regional tools that are Comanche and Kiowa beaded, t-shirts, and hats. 

Palo Duro Canyon Weather

Temperatures can reach 120° on the canyon floor, so you need to carry water. Weather conditions can change in a flash, so floods are dangerous. You might see the elusive mountain lion or bobcat, but for sure birds and animals, including coyotes, mule deer, quails, rabbits, roadrunners, sheep, skunk, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and woodpeckers. Do a day trip, tent or RV camp, or rent a cabin or a luxury cabin. 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg is an exfoliation dome, meaning it has layers like an onion and is the largest pink granite monadnock (isolated hill or ridge or erosion-resistant rock rising above a level land surface produced by erosion over a long period) in the United States. It comprises a series of granite domes that include Little Mountain, Turkey Peak, Freshman Mountain, Buzzard’s Roost, and Flagpole Mountain. Enchanted Rock is so popular that it is best to make a reservation up to 30 days in advance because reservation slots book quickly. It is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it also closes when filled to capacity.

History of Enchanted Rock

This park lies in big sky country and is called “enchanted” based on a few 1800 era legends. You can hire a rock climbing guide or take a hike with a park ranger. The Enchanted Rock Cave is on the back side of the dome up the Summit Trail. You need flashlights and shoes/boots with soles that grip because the cave is difficult to explore. When in the cave, follow the spray painted arrows through tight spaces as you explore. Enchanted Rock offers 35 campsites with water and 20 primitive campsites. 

One Enchanted Rock legend portrays an Indian lady who saw her tribe killed by an enemy. She threw herself off the top of Enchanted Rock, and her spirit haunts the rock still. Another one tells a romantic story of a Spanish soldier who rescued his lover right before Comanche Indians were about to burn her at the base of the rock.

Caverns of Texas

Over 5,600 documented caves wind through Texas’ underground offering wonder worlds of spectacular stalagmites, stalactites, and columns. You can explore 13 caverns in the Texas Hill Country where almost 3,000 Texas caves are located. 

These caverns are the Armen’s Cave in Austin, Bracken-Hill Country Nature Preserve and Bracken Bat Cave, both northeast of San Antonio, Caverns of Sonora in Sonora, Cascade Caverns in Boerne, Cave Without a Name in Boerne, which hosts concerts, Inner Space Cave in Georgetown, Kickapoo Cavern State Park, northeast of Del Rio, Longhorn Cavern State, a few miles east of Kingsland, Natural Bridge Caverns Nature Preserve, northeast of San Antonio, Robber Baron Cave in San Antonio, Whirlpool Cave in Austin, and Wonder World Cave & Adventure Park in San Marcos. 

Get Wet at Texas Lakes

Texas sports approximately 150 recreational lakes, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The most interesting and lovely lakes for a Texas outside trip are Lady Bird Lake south of downtown Austin, Possum Kingdom Lake in Palo Pinto County south of Graham, and Caddo Lake in Louisiana and Texas north of Shreveport, Louisiana, and east of Jefferson, Texas. 

Lady Bird Lake

Texans call Lady Bird Lake is the “Crown Jewel” of Austin. It is a small reservoir south of Central Austin on the Colorado River that runs through Austin, Texas. No motorboats allowed on its five-mile stretch! Canoes, dragon boats, kayaks, paddle boards, and rowing boats rule Lady Bird Lake. First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, governor and President LBJ’s wife, still considered the First Lady of Texas, worked to beautify this lake’s shorelines. 

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is over 10 miles long and runs entirely around Lady Bird Lake. Its boardwalk is popular for watching sunrises and sunsets and views of the Austin skyline. Largemouth bass fishing is excellent and sunfish angling is good. Sip a cool drink on a riverboat cruise. Lady Bird Lake is so gorgeous and a slice of heaven in the middle of the Texas’ capitol city. 

Caddo Lake

Did you know that Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas? It is hauntingly serene, and full of fish and critters, including alligators and lots of bugs in a rural and rustic area. Caddo Lake looks and feels completely different from most Texas man-made lakes with sloughs, soft, shallow shorelines, fluctuating shoreline zones, permanently flooded bald cypress forests, and seasonally flooded bottomland floodplain forests. It also has deeper open water with abundant underwater debris. Many choices are available for tent and RV camping at Caddo Lake. 

You will find most of the camping opportunities on the Texas side, but Louisiana has the Earl G. Williamson State Park. There are a few restaurants on the western edge of Caddo Lake. Fishing is the chief attraction on the lake. Water sports and skiing are allowed in limited areas, only in the boat channels, and only in the area below Turtle Island. People love Caddo’s canoe and kayak paddle trails for fishing and wildlife watching. It hosts plenty of boat launches and some are public, some are in private parks, and some charge fees. Boating on the lake is like gliding through a bayou fairytale.

Possum Kingdom Lake

Possum Kingdom Lake snuggles itself into the foothills of the Palo Pinto Mountains about 100 miles west of Ft. Worth, Texas. Possum Kingdom Lake is home to the famous Hell’s Gate, Devil’s Island, and the state-wide popular Possum Kingdom Annual Hell’s Gate Fourth of July Fireworks Show in Texas. Hell’s Gate and Devil’s Island, the landmarks that characterize this lake, lie at the confluence of the Brazos River and Jowell Creek, and define the crowded party cove on Possum Kingdom Lake. Hell’s Gate is located on the southernmost arm of Possum Kingdom Lake. 

Cliffs, 90–feet-tall, between the shoreline and on Devil’s Island surrounded by 26-feet-deep water form Hell’s Gate. The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series held several events on Devil’s Island. Cliff diving is popular all around Possum Kingdom Lake. This lake is in an extremely rural region, and restaurants dot its encompassing shoreline with miles of hiking trails and a large area for ATVs. Possum Kingdom Lake twists and turns on the Brazos River and is shaped like a double-tailed snake with a bunch of arms and hundreds of coves. Load up your fishing gear, hook up your boat, and head to Possum Kingdom Lake because the fishing is excellent and there is plenty of room for pleasure boating. 

Floating on Texas Rivers

Every summer across Texas families and parties of friends load up with coolers of food and drinks, head to the calm rivers of Texas, tie together their inner tubes, rafts, and coolers, waterproof speakers, and spend a day or days lazily floating through some of the most amazing nature Mother Earth displays. Floating a river in a tube, kayak or canoe is one of the best Texas outside trips you can take. You can pack tents and camping supplies on floats too. Some of these Texas floats are over 100 miles long!

Plenty of river taxis on some of these rivers will rent floats, drop you off at your entrance point, and pick you up after your float. Or, you can park at your entrance point, and have them pick you up to take you back to your vehicle. The different authorities governing these rivers enforce strict rules, but they differ on what they do and do not allow you to float with, but none of them allow glass containers, and some are BYOF, or bring your own float.  

Where To Float

Check out the Blanco River in Blanco in the Blanco State Park between San Antonio and Austin, Colorado River access near Columbus, the Comal River in New Braunfels, the Guadalupe River in Canyon Lake, New Braunfels, San Antonio, and San Marcos, the Frio River in Concan in West Texas, The Medina River near Bandera, the Perdernales River from Austin to Fredericksburg in the Perdernales Falls State Park,  the South Llano River, northwest of Austin near Junction, and the Trinity River near Fort Worth with live music from June to August. 

The Brazos River is 841 miles long, and you can float on it and its tributaries from these access points:

  • DeCordova Bend Dam to Brazos Point Crossing near Glen Rose and Cleburne, 
  • Below the dam at Possum Kingdom Lake at the SH 16 Boat Ramp to US Highway, 
  • 180 US Highway 281 to FM 1884 near Granbury and Mineral Wells,
  • Lake Whitney Dam to SH 6 between Hillsboro and Waco, 
  • SH 6 Bridge Waco to SH 7 Marlin,
  • SH 7 to FM 979 in Falls, Milam, and Robertson Counties,
  • FM 979 to SH 105 near Brenham, Navasota, and Millican,
  • SH 105 to US Highway 90 / IH 10 near near Brenham, Hempstead, Bellville and San Felipe,
  • US Highway 90 / IH 10 to FM 1462  near Bellville, San Felipe, Rosenberg, Richmond and Sugarland just west of Houston,
  • FM 1462 to the Gulf of Mexico near Rosharon, Angleton, West Columbia, Brazoria, Lake Jackson and Freeport ending just south by southwest of Houston.
  • The Little River from FM 436 to FM 437 starting near Belton at the confluence of the Lampasas and Leon Rivers, then flowing southeast to the FM 437 crossing in Milam County between Rogers and Davilla
  • The Little River from FM 437 to FM 1600 starting between Rogers and Davilla, then flowing southeast to the FM 1600 crossing between Rockdale and Cameron
  • The Little River from FM 1600 to US Highway 190 FM 1600 to US Highway 190
  • The Lampasas River from FM 1047 to Rumley between Waco and Austin 
  • The Lampasa River from Rumley to Youngsport between Waco and Austin
  • The Lampasa River from Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir to Little River Confluence between Waco and Austin
  • The Leon River from nearby towns include Hico, Halilton, Evant, Adamville, Copperas Cove, Killeen, Temple, Belton, Waco and Salado at three access points
  • The Paluxy River from Bluff Dale to Big Rocks City Park in Glen Rose
  • The Salado River from Main Street in Salado Access to FM 1123
  • The Bosque River from SH 108 to Waco flowing from near Stephenville to its confluence with the Brazos River at Waco
  • The Nolan River from South Nolan River Road in Cleburne to Nolan River Park Boat Ramp

Go Fishing All Over Texas (Or In the Gulf of Mexico)

Freshwater Texas

Inland Texas is bursting with freshwater lakes and rivers for excellent fishing for the most popular game fish, largemouth bass, followed by smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, Texas panfish: crappie, bluegill, and various sunfish, carp, gar, walleye, and trout. Sunfish, yellow bass, and carp have no daily bag limits.

Texans will argue over which is the best lake or river for which freshwater fish. Every authority listing the best lakes in Texas for fishing references different lakes. Texas has over 150 recreational lakes, mostly in East, Central, North, and South Texas, and several in West Texas. Most of them offer excellent to good angler productivity for several of the fish species mentioned above. So the only two questions to ask yourself are, “What fish do I want to catch and what part of Texas produces that fish?”

The Gulf of Mexico

The Texas Gulf Coast stretches for about 370 miles from the Sabine River delta on the east to the Rio Grande River delta on the west. Bait fish are most active at dawn and dusk on the coast, so those are good times to fish. Fishing for tarpon, speckled trout, snook, and red and black drum is best from May to October. Redfish peak from September to December with the biggest bull catches. King mackerel is available from April to October. 

Dawn and dusk from May through August are the best windows for speckled trout. Prime cobia season is July to October. Largemouth bass are productive in spring and fall. Sailfish fishing is best in June to September. Flounder are active May to June and October to December. Blue marlin season is June to August. Angle for grouper April to June. Catch red snapper from May to September. 

Saltwater Species

Blacktip, bull, hammerhead, and tiger sharks, plus 11 more shark species swim the Texas coastal waters. Low tide is the least productive time to fish from a boat or on the shore. Night fishing is extremely productive. Cobia and other deeper water species move closer to the shore at night. 

There are countless piers and docks along the gulf coast of Texas. There are also miles and miles of beaches that you can fish from span the coast. Tons of fishing charters will take you out on the gulf for a guaranteed catch. Rain and tropical storms near the shore and offshore affect fishing. High winds and rain are dangerous and it is difficult to fish in those conditions. 

Get Primal—Hunt in Texas

Texas has acres upon acres of public hunting grounds, and hundreds of private hunting leases and exotic animal hunting leases. Great hunting opportunities thrive in every region of Texas. But first, you need to be aware of the laws enforced by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). Every hunter, including out-of-state hunters, born on or after Sept. 2, 1971, must successfully complete a Texas Hunter Education Training Course. Proof of certification or deferral is required to be on your person while hunting. Minimum age of certification is 9 years. You can take these courses online. 

Hunting Regulations

If you were born on or after Sept. 2, 1971, and you are:

  • Under 9 years of age, you must be accompanied. 
  • Age 9 through 16, you must successfully complete a hunter education course or be accompanied.
  • Age 17 and over, you must successfully complete a hunter education course. Alternatively you can purchase a “Hunter Education Deferra” and be accompanied.

Native deer species in Texas are mule deer and white-tailed deer, and exotic imported deer are sika and axis deer. Deer season runs from November to January with different start and end dates in different regions. 

Hunting License

A hunting license is required of any person, resident or nonresident, of any age, to hunt any animal, bird, frog or turtle in Texas, except the following:

  • Coyotes, if the coyotes are attacking, about to attack, or have recently attacked livestock, domestic animals, or fowl.
  • Feral hogs on private property with landowner authorization.
  • Fur-bearing animals, if the hunter possesses a commercial trapper’s license.
  • Depredating fur-bearing animals, if a landowner, resident or non-resident, or landowner’s agent is taking fur-bearing animals causing depredation on the landowner’s land. No portion of the nuisance fur-bearer may be possessed, sold or retained for any purpose.

For all hunting license and hunting information, please refer to TPWD’s website.

Kendall Davis
Author: Kendall Davis

Author: Kendall Davis Company: Lumini Services Kendall currently lives on the shores of Lake Texoma in Texas. She traveled across two-thirds of the U.S. for many years camping at lakes, rivers, and three oceans before motels and hotels if at all possible, and she continuously saw God's presence in nature. Writing for Lakehub allows Kendall to share her experience with God's creations.

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