Article Summary: National Parks Near Dallas
National Parks near Dallas. There’s so much more to the Lone Star State than the Dallas Cowboys. In this article, More Than Just Parks goes deep in the heart of Texas.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Dallas is home to more than a dozen neighborhoods and districts that each have their own distinct vibe and attractions. From spectacular museums and performing arts venues in the Arts District, to the buzzing nightlife of live music at cool bars in Deep Ellum, Dallas has a place for everyone.
It’s also a place that has some amazing national parks within a day’s driving distance.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to the Lone Star State then one book that I highly recommend is: Texas Bucket List Adventure Guide: Explore 100 Offbeat Destinations You Must Visit!
Now let’s go ahead with 5 wonderful reasons why you’ll want to hop in your car and make a day’s drive from Dallas to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Dallas
National Parks Near Dallas
- Best National Parks Near Dallas
- More National Parks Near Dallas
- National Parks Near Dallas FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near Dallas
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near Dallas
1. Big Bend National Park
Distance From Dallas: Seven hours and 39 minutes (535 miles) via I-20 W.
It’s a full day’s drive from Dallas to Big Bend National Park, but well worth the trip. This magnificent park, which is often referred to as Texas “gift to the nation,” is famous for its natural resources and recreational opportunities. It’s also rich in cultural history.
Big Bend National Park is a vast wilderness that encompasses over 800,000 acres of land and is one of the largest national parks in the country.
The park is known for its diverse landscape, which includes rugged mountain ranges, sprawling deserts, and scenic canyons, as well as the Rio Grande, which forms its southern boundary. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, camping, backpacking, rock climbing, and river trips.
Check Out The Chisos Mountains
One of the main attractions of Big Bend National Park is the Chisos Mountains, which rise abruptly from the surrounding desert floor and provide a stunning backdrop for visitors. The park is also home to a variety of unique plant and animal species, including black bears, mountain lions, and numerous bird species.
In addition to its natural beauty, Big Bend National Park has a rich cultural history, with evidence of human habitation dating back over 10,000 years. The park is home to several ancient Native American rock art sites and the ruins of early homesteads, stagecoach stops, and military outposts.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure in the great outdoors or simply want to escape to a peaceful and scenic destination, Big Bend National Park has something to offer everyone.
2. Big Thicket National Preserve
Distance From Dallas: Approximately four hours (267 miles) via I-45 S.
Big Thicket National Preserve covers over 100,000 acres of land and is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the country.
The preserve is named after the “Big Thicket,” a dense thicket of forest, wetlands, and prairies that provide habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species.
The Big Thicket is home to a unique mixture of species from both the eastern and western parts of the United States, including many rare and endangered species. Some of the notable plant species found in the preserve include carnivorous pitcher plants, giant cane, and the purple pitcher plant.
The Park Is A Valuable Habitat For Wildlife
The Big Thicket also provides a valuable habitat for wildlife, including numerous species of birds, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, and mammals, like the American black bear and the Texas pine snake.
The preserve is also a popular destination for outdoor recreation, with opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, fishing, and canoeing.
In addition to its biological diversity, the Big Thicket has a rich cultural history, with evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years. The preserve is home to several historic sites, including cemeteries, churches, and homesteads, as well as the locations of important events in the state’s history, such as the “Wild Horse Desert” and the “Steamboat Era.”
3. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Distance From Dallas: Seven hours and 32 minutes (508 miles) via I-20 W.
It’s a long car drive from Dallas, but it’s a magnificent national park. In 2022, Guadalupe Mountain National Park celebrates its 50th year as a national park. You can join the celebration with some wonderful hikes and backpacking trails where you will be treated to the beauty of the American Southwest.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park covers over 80,000 acres of land and is known for its stunning scenic beauty and unique geological features.
The park is home to the highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, which rises to an elevation of 8,751 feet and provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The park is also known for its impressive fossilized reef system, which was once part of an ancient sea and is now preserved in the form of towering cliffs and canyons.
The Park Is Home To A Diverse Array Of Plant & Animal Life
In addition to its geological wonders, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, including many species that are unique to the area. Some of the notable species found in the park include black bears, pronghorns, and various bird species, such as the peregrine falcon.
The park offers numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, and scenic drives. The park is also home to several historic sites, including the ruins of an old mining town, as well as the remnants of a Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach station.
Whether you’re an avid hiker, a nature lover, or simply someone looking for a beautiful and peaceful escape, Guadalupe Mountains National Park has something to offer everyone. With its unique combination of scenic beauty, geological wonders, and rich cultural history, it is truly one of the crown jewels of the national park system.
More National Parks Near Dallas
4. Hot Springs National Park
Distance From Dallas: Four hours and 22 minutes (287 miles) via I-30 E.
Hot Springs National Park is a protected area located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The park was established in 1921 to preserve the unique geothermal hot springs that have been sought after for their therapeutic properties for thousands of years.
The hot springs in Hot Springs National Park have been used for healing and relaxation by Native American tribes for centuries, and by the late 19th century, the city of Hot Springs had become a popular destination for people seeking the health benefits of the hot springs.
The arrival of railroads and improved transportation helped to spur the growth of the city and its reputation as a health resort.
As the popularity of the hot springs grew, concerns arose about the exploitation and commercialization of the resources. In 1832, the federal government set aside a portion of the hot springs for public use, and in 1877, the Hot Springs Reservation was established to protect the hot springs from private development and to ensure public access to the thermal waters.
Today The Park Is A Popular Tourist Destination
In 1921, the Hot Springs Reservation was renamed Hot Springs National Park and was officially established as the country’s 18th national park. Today, Hot Springs National Park is a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year who come to soak in the hot springs, enjoy the natural beauty of the park, and learn about the rich history of the area.
The park offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing, as well as a range of cultural and historical resources, including the Fordyce Bathhouse, which served as a hub of activity and entertainment during the early 20th century, and the Grand Promenade, a historic walkway that offers stunning views of the park and the city of Hot Springs.
RELATED: 6 SURPRISING Oklahoma National Parks
5. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
Distance From Dallas: Approximately eight hours (543 miles) via I-35 S.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is a protected area located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The refuge was established in 1946 to provide habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, and to conserve the unique natural resources of the region.
Laguna Atascosa covers over 97,000 acres and includes a diverse range of habitats, including freshwater marshes, tidal flats, dunes, and coastal prairies.
This variety of habitats provides a home for a wide range of wildlife, including over 400 species of birds, as well as threatened and endangered species such as the ocelot and the Gulf Coast jaguarundi.
An Important Stopover For Migratory Birds
The refuge is also an important stopover for migratory birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and neo-tropical migrants. The refuge provides habitat for nesting, resting, and feeding during these birds’ long journeys between their breeding and wintering grounds.
In addition to its wildlife and habitat, Laguna Atascosa is also significant for its cultural and historical resources. The refuge encompasses lands that were once used by the indigenous Karankawa people, and by Spanish and Mexican settlers.
Today, the refuge provides opportunities for wildlife observation, fishing, hunting, and environmental education, and is a popular destination for birdwatching and wildlife photography.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is a unique and valuable resource, and plays a critical role in the conservation of the Rio Grande Valley’s diverse wildlife and habitats.
By protecting and managing these important natural resources, the refuge helps to ensure the survival of a wide range of species and contributes to the preservation of the region’s rich cultural and ecological heritage.
RELATED: 16 SURPRISING Texas National Parks
National Parks Near Dallas FAQ
The closest national forests to Dallas are Angelina National Forest in East Texas and Ouachita National Forest in Oklahoma. There are lots of hiking and backpacking opportunities in both, but it’s a drive. And of course Texas has many great state parks that are day-trip distance from Dallas.
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Dallas?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Dallas
List Of National Park Sites Near Dallas
- Big Bend National Park
- Big Thicket National Preserve
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Hot Springs National Park
- Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
To Learn More About The Lone Star State:
- Official Guide to Texas State Parks and Historic Sites: New Edition by Laurence Parent.
- Texas Bucket List Adventure Guide: Explore 100 Offbeat Destinations You Must Visit by John Mallon.
- Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans by T.R. Fehrenbach.
- History of Texas: A Captivating Guide to Texas History, Starting from the Arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in North America through the Texas Revolution to the Present by Captivating History.
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested joining the adventure, sign up below!