From red-rock canyons to rugged deserts, towering mountains, beautiful forests, coastal plains, Texas boasts a stunningly diverse topography, allowing it to host some of the country’s most thrilling and awe-inspiring trails. Whether you’re in for a quick getaway from the city jam or looking to immerse yourself with nature on a remote, all-day escape, the Lone Star State has a jewel hidden in its sleeve to cater to your needs.
If you don’t know where to start, here are Texas’ best hiking and backpacking trails you shouldn’t miss exploring. Each one offers something truly special, allowing you to experience some of the best parts of Texas.
Lighthouse Trail (Palo Duro Canyon State Park)
Situated in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the Lighthouse Trail is a legendary trail, named after the picturesque 310-foot-tall natural rock formation that takes the shape of a “lighthouse.” Measuring six miles round trip, this hike is best renowned for its majestic views of the surrounding canyon and the eroded, multicolored cliffs along the pathway.
A popular destination, it’s best to visit it during the off-season, when you can take advantage of the park’s remote location. Hike it in the morning and you’ll relish the beautiful trail in solitude. Adding the variety of wildlife and plant species to see, it’s undoubtedly worth including in your Texas hikes bucket list.
Guadalupe Peak Trail (Guadalupe Mountains National Park)
If you’re ready to test your limits but get rewarded a hundredfold in return, take on the Guadalupe Peak Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Regarded as the “Top of Texas,” its peak is the highest point in the Lone Star State, standing 8,749 feet above sea level. As expected, the 8.5-mile, eight-hour round trip hike posts some challenges and is mighty steep. Along the physical adventure, you’ll enjoy incredible mountain wilderness, spectacular vistas, and the beautiful desert terrain. It’s accessible all year round but sparsely visited by hikers. Be sure to pack the essentials and a lot of guts. This trail is difficult but worth it.
South Rim Trail (Big Bend National Park)
Listed among the most popular hiking and backpacking sites in Texas, the South Rim Trail is Big Bend’s crowning glory. It leads to Emory Peak, which stands 7,825 feet above sea level, making it the tallest point in the national park. Stretching nearly 13 miles, it’s a steep, rough climb, with few changes in terrain at some points. It can be exhausting, but the surreal, panoramic view of Texas and Mexico at the top, makes all the effort fulfilling.
Lone Star Hiking Trail (Sam Houston National Forest)
Winding 96 miles through the Sam Houston National Forest, the Lone Star Hiking Trail holds the distinction as the longest continuous trek in Texas. Traversing swampy woodlands, thick pine forests, and several creeks, the trails provide hikers a different yet equally spectacular view of Texas’ landscape and climate. The trail can take 4 to 10 days to complete, but it’s part of its appeal, allowing backpackers and hikers to experience several days of beautiful nature.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail (Big Bend National Park)
At only 1.7 miles round trip, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail is one of the shortest trails you can take in Texas, but the memory you’ll get after the activity will certainly last a lifetime. A classic river hike at the Big Bend, this trail will let you cross the Terlingua Creek, ascends few stairs and paved steps, and descends again to meet the Rio Grande River. All that happens while 1,500-feet canyon walls tower on both sides, providing a humbling experience with nature. A fairly easy trail, it’s a manageable hiking and backpacking option for families with children.
Gorman Falls Trail (Colorado Bend State Park)
Colorado Bend State Park’s Gorman Falls Trails is a gem in Central Texas. It’s a moderate hike that includes traversing steep sections and tricky and rocky spots, which requires extra caution, especially towards the end. Slowing down rather pays off, as it provides you more time to enjoy the lush plant life and beautiful surroundings. Your true prize, however, awaits at the end – the 70-feet high Gorman Falls. It is made of travertine rock formations that gleam gloriously in the sunlight – a completely grandiose sight that may be hard to find elsewhere in Texas.
Lost Maples East Trail Loop (Lost Maples State Natural Area)
Hard to believe for many but the Lone Star State has a New England-like fall foliage scenery, which you can experience in the Lost Maples East Trail Loop. Situated near Vanderpool, Texas, the trail is part of the Lost Maples State Natural Area located on the Sabinal River, The best time to take the trail is during the months of October to November when leaves from the Uvalde Bigtooth Maples turn into vivid shades of yellow, orange, and red. It’s a rare find in a must-see in Texas.
Summit Trail (Enchanted Rock State Natural Area)
Summit Trail is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area’s most popular and iconic trail. People across Texas, as well as visitors from other states, flock to the area to see the 425-feet pink granite rocky dome that can be witnessed even miles away from the location. Also called a batholith, the Tonkawa Indians attributed the Enchanted Rock with spiritual powers, casting both fear and admiration towards the majestic geological phenomenon. Today, it’s best renowned for its stunning 360-degree views of Texas Hill County.
Caprock Canyons Trailway (Caprock Canyons State Park)
Situated nearly 100 miles from Amarillo, Texas, the Caprock Canyons Trailway is a 64-mile long trail that will take you to some of the most scenic and diverse areas in Texas. Traversing three counties, the whole journey will seem like a revelation given the varied views, including wheatfields, cottonfields, rangeland, a railroad tunnel, and the canyon. Ideal for those who love the outdoors, the trail is tucked away from civilization and solitary at some point. Just be sure to devote extra caution and plan well for your safety.
Lower West Lake Trail (Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge)
Boasting 350-plus miles of shoreline, there just has to be a perfect hiking and backpacking trail near Texas’ coast. Well, you’ll find it at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, nestling along the Gulf and Lower Rio Grande Valley. Its Lower West Trail is one of the gorgeous trails in the protected area, allowing you to experience pristine coastal prairie and the western shoreline. A refuge for hundreds of bird species, watch out for Harris hawks, olive sparrows, green jays, aplomado falcons, and waterfowls abound thriving or visiting the area.
True enough, “”everything is bigger in Texas” not only in terms of big hair, big hats, and big attitudes but also of the vast, diverse landscape it covers. With that, it’s no surprise that the Lone State is blessed with excellent hiking and backpacking trails waiting for you to explore. So, go ahead, pack your essentials, and gear. Then, enjoy all the amazing sights and experiences Texas has to offer.