1. Hiking at Big Bend National Park.
Big Bend National Park, one of the few N.P.’s in Texas, is hundreds of miles away from major cities, in the southern part of the state along the Rio Grande River. You could easily spend a season or a year or more hiking, exploring and camping here. If you’re not looking for a long hike, the Boquillas Hot Springs are accessible less than a mile from the Hot Springs Road trailhead. Meanwhile, one of the best places in Texas for a sunset is through the Window, a pour-off in a cliff overlooking the Chisos Basin and reached by hiking through Oak Creek Canyon from the campground.
2. Swimming in Hamilton Pool.
When Austinites are not hiking Enchanted Rock or stopping in Llano for some Cooper’s BBQ, you can find many of them going for a dip in one of Texas’ most iconic watering holes. Deep in the hill country but still easily accessible by car, Hamilton Pool is probably the most well known for being fed by a 50-foot waterfall.
3. Horseback riding with Palo Duro Riding Stables.
I always feel more in touch with my Texas roots when I’m sitting on a leather saddle on a horse, clutching the reins in my hand and waiting for my steed to figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing. Do this in Palo Duro Canyon, the closest natural wonder the Lone Star State has to the Grand Canyon, and you’ve got an exciting summer adventure.
4. Tubing on Lake Travis.
Even locals who frequent Barton Springs and Deep Eddy, know there are greater bodies of water with more opportunities to beat the Texas heat nearby. Try tubing, and remember that there aren’t a lot of places in Texas suitable for taking a speedboat out. Lake Travis, close to Austin is a welcome opportunity for a wet weekend adventure.
5. US-90 road trip
The US-90 takes travelers past colorful cliffs and through small towns loaded with character and history. Marfa is best known for its outlet stores, art and culture scene, good food and mysterious lights. The little community of Marathon has a visitor center in which you’ll find comments from hundreds of international travelers passing through rural Texas. In addition, it isn’t a bad choice for a lunch stop at the 12 Gage Restaurant. And big attractions like Big Bend aren’t too far away by Texas standards.
6. Rafting through Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande.
Santa Elena, while not the Grand Canyon, towers over those running the Rio Grande River on rafts, and is easily accessible with a booking on Big Bend River Tours. Rafting offers glimpses into Mexico before you disembark and finish the trip with a drive through Big Bend National Park.
7. Impromptu bluebonnet stop
It doesn’t matter where you’re going in Texas — between Dallas and San Antonio, out east towards Shreveport, or even near San Angelo, at some point in the spring, you’re going to find an ocean of Bluebonnets spreading out across the plains.
8. Stargazing at Fort Davis.
West Texas near Big Bend is one of the darkest spots in the country. You don’t really need a telescope to see the Milky Way and appreciate views of Venus and Jupiter, but they host star parties at nearby McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis just in case you want more.
9. Visit Padre Island National Seashore.
Most people don’t associate Texas with sandy beaches or any wildlife aside from rattlesnakes and armadillos, but South Padre Island could educate them. Although plenty of the island has been developed with fancy hotels and overpriced restaurants, a completely uninterrupted open stretch of shoreline exists on the northern Padre Island. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to make the drive.
Scarborough Fair may get all the glory in North Texas, however, to those in the south-east near Houston, there’s no better place to experience the outdoors than in the woods near Todd Mission. From feeling like you’re a knight in shining armor watching the joust, to listening to the antics at the Ded Bob Show, you’ll find yourself taking full part in this medieval — yet Texan — celebration.