AUSTIN (KXAN) — From mountains and canyons to forests and swamps, the vast scale of Texas provides so many natural wonders.
Across the Lone Star State, there are 87 state parks, natural areas and historic sites currently operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The first parks were opened to the public in the 1930s and the newest, Old Tunnel State Park, opened in 2012. TPWD also has plans to develop five sites into future state parks.
Fairfield Lake State Park, meanwhile, is set to permanently close at the end of February.
TPWD splits the state into seven ‘natural regions,’ each of which is home to several state parks. The Prairies & Lakes region is home to 22 parks, more than any other region. The South Texas Plains region is home to the fewest, with seven parks.
Across the system, state parks welcomed more than nine million visitors in Fiscal Year 2022. The Prairies & Lakes region recorded the most visitors, with more than 3.1 million across its 22 parks.
The Hill Country region welcomed more than 2.3 million visitors across 16 parks, while the Pineywoods and Panhandle Plains regions each saw more than one million visitors.
State parks in the Big Bend Country region saw the fewest number of visitors, with around 464,000. Those numbers do not include visitors to Big Bend National Park, which alone saw more than half a million visitors in 2021, a record high for the park.
But which individual state park gets the most visitors? Explore for yourself using our interactive table below, or keep scrolling to see our top 10 countdown.
Top 10 most-visited Texas state parks
10. Inks Lake State Park
TPWD calls Inks Lake State Park a Hill Country gem, with “sparkling blue water, colorful rock outcrops and striking sunsets.” The park welcomed 232,690 visitors in FY 2022.
9. Guadalupe River State Park
While many people enjoy swimming at Guadalupe River State Park, TPWD says the park is more than just a swimming hole, saying “beautiful scenery and colorful history await.” The park welcomed 238,841 visitors in FY 2022.
8. Dinosaur Valley State Park
TPWD says dinosaur footprints were left in the mud at the edge of an ancient ocean. At Dinosaur Valley State Park, you can literally walk in their tracks. The park welcomed 243,001 visitors in FY 2022.
7. Brazos Bend State Park
If you’re looking for a “wild” experience, TPWD says to check out Brazos Bend State Park, calling it a “nature lover’s paradise.” The park welcomed 272,837 visitors in FY 2022.
6. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Climbing the giant granite dome “is almost a rite of passage for Texans,” TPWD says. But there’s more to the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area than just the dome. “The scenery, rock formations and legends are magical, too!” The park welcomed 307,686 visitors in FY 2022.
5. Cedar Hill State Park
Just 20 miles from downtown Dallas, Cedar Hill State Park feels like “a world away from the city,” TPWD says. The park includes a lake, a working farm from the 1800s and rugged limestone hills. The park welcomed 324,420 visitors in FY 2022.
4. McKinney Falls State Park
TPWD says McKinney Falls State Park, within the city of Austin, features “rugged beauty.” Onion Creek flows over limestone ledges and trails wind through the Hill Country woods. The park welcomed 335,332 visitors in FY 2022.
3. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is referred to by TPWD as the “Grand Canyon of Texas.” In fact, it’s the second-largest canyon in the U.S., behind only — you guessed it — the Grand Canyon. The park welcomed 442,242 visitors in FY 2022.
2. Garner State Park
Swimming, dancing and hiking are some of the highlights at Garner State Park. TPWD says
“fun traditions and beautiful scenery” bring people back time after time. The park welcomed 517,317 visitors in FY 2022.
1. Ray Roberts Lake State Park
TPWD calls Ray Roberts Lake State Park a “natural playground.” You can escape the bustle of the DFW Metroplex and “get back to nature.” The park welcomed 885,173 visitors in FY 2022.
Stay tuned — we’ll be counting down the top 10 least-visited state parks next week!