Texas usually conjures images of cowboys, riding off into the great unknown with the sun on their backs and mountains in the distance. The truth is not quite up to snuff, but beautiful nonetheless. The Lone Star State has several distinct ecosystems, each providing a number of natural wonders for its residents to enjoy. From out of the way places to cool off in the summer to landscapes with no sign of civilization, here are some spots that prove Texas is as impressive as you think it is.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
Palo Duro Canyon
Well outside of West Texas, East Texas, and almost every sign of civilization in the Panhandle lies Palo Duro Canyon, the closest substitute for the Grand Canyon the Lone Star State has within its borders. In addition to the cascading colors of the Southwest, the canyon is home to the Texas Outdoor Musical during the summer months and an amazing Cowboy Breakfast courtesy of the Elkins Ranch, sure to be the best preparation for a day of hiking
Big Bend National Park
Lots of tourists come through nearby Terlingua for the chili cookoff, but Big Bend National Park has its own set of attractions for west Texas. Hot spring pools in the ruins of a village lie at the end of one trailhead. Hikers can even legally cross the border on foot at Rio Grande Village, entering Mexico at Boquillas.
Night Sky at McDonald Observatory
The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Though this is true at so many places across our home state, the song might as well have been written after looking through the telescopes at McDonald Observatory. As one of the darkest places in Texas, this spot is uniquely situated to give amazing views of the Milky Way, Saturn’s rings, and the craters on the Moon.
Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs PoolAustin, United StatesYou’ve probably not experienced anything like Barton Springs, unless you live in a large city and your city has a spring-fed pool very close to the city center. Like I said; unusual.
Barton Springs is one of a kind and feeds the “unique Austin” feel. It’s a rather large pool, so plenty of room for the whole family if you want. Since it’s spring-fed, the temperature stays close to the same temperature all year, which is nice in the summer. Very refreshing!
Great place to take the family to chill and cool down on a hot afternoon. They even have lifeguards and a diving board. The thermal springs are kept at a nice 68F. Just be careful when walking in the pool and around the pool it can get slippery.
Sam Rayburn Lake
Texas hill country may not be at the top of the tourist’s list to visit for the Lone Star State, but it really should be. Wimberley is one of those quaint little towns with shops selling bits of Americana you only think exist in storybooks. Not too far from the town limits is a swimming hole famous for a drop off the closest Texans will see to the Great Barrier Reef. At only 100 feet deep, there’s still a little risk involved with exploring the network of underwater caves; several people have died after being trapped or forced to remove their oxygen tanks.
Hueco Tanks State Park
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic SiteEl Paso, United StatesOne of the best places in Texas, if not the country, for bouldering. There are also some well preserved rock paintings. #history #climbing #hiking
Most people come to this part of West Texas for a chance to do some quality bouldering; there’s even a Hueco Rock Rodeo attracting some of the best climbers in the world for a competition in February. However, there’s something for the history and art scholars as well: rock art very well preserved, created long before Texas became a state.
Another favorite swimming hole for Austinites is Krause Springs. If you time it just right, you can go for a morning swim, hike Enchanted Rock in the afternoon, and finish up in Llano for some of the best BBQ in Texas. With two massive swimming pools and 32 springs around the campground, this summer escape offers far more room for Texans to cool off.
Caddo Lake State ParkKarnack, United StatesYou can rent a canoe, rent a camp site, canoe through the swap to your little island ( more like floating land) and spend a night or 2 with some wild wolfs. But beware there are alligators in the water! #texas #camping #canoeing
East Texas needs to be represented for some of the natural wonders of the state as well. Behind the pine curtain, the Lone Star State slowly transforms in some of the wetlands we associate with Louisiana, and the parks and lakes are no exceptions. In contrast to the wide-open spaces of Big Bend, Caddo Lake sits under the protection of old Cypress trees. Just watch out for alligators.
Seminole Canyon State Park
The border regions of Texas are so undisturbed and remote it’s no surprise natural wonders like Seminole still exist for those crazy enough to make the drive. This state park is the last point at which the highway runs alongside the Texas-Mexico border; from then on westward, it’s all open country and small roads leading south until El Paso. Like Hueco Tanks, Seminole is famous for a wide array of Native American pictographs, and the canyon provides a formidable yet picturesque natural land border with Mexico.
Lonesome Highway, Guadalupe Mountains
The view speaks for itself. As travelers, there’s no more addictive a sight than the open road unfolding before us. Texas has those in spades, but this is one of the few spots where the mountains lie in the distance, taking travelers back to a time when people on horseback had to brave the elements to traverse the west.