You may not have guessed it, but Texas, yes the one in the United States, is brimming with activities for all types of Explorers. If Texas isn’t on your adventure bucket list, it’s time to think again!


I was born in Texas, and as a kid growing up in America’s second largest state, I remember watching thunderstorms roll in from the garage and having block party barbeques. But little did I know that beyond the brick houses was an outdoor oasis waiting to be explored!

Texas is vast, diverse and offers boundless opportunities for adventure. From natural bridges to canoe trips, hiking in national parks, and living out your horseback riding dreams, Texas is a state that’ll have you wondering why you didn’t visit sooner!

Given Texas’ size, the state has seven unique regions:

  • The Panhandle Plains to the state’s north
  • Big Bend Country to the west
  • South Texas Plains, to the – you guessed it – south
  • Hill Country in the middle
  • Prairies and lakes that span central to north-east
  • Piney Woods to the north-east
  • Gulf Coast to the south-east, bordering the Gulf of Mexico

Now that you’re orientated, let’s dive into the adventures that you can take on in each of these unique regions!

Panhandle Plains

1. Horseback Riding in Palo Duro Canyon

Time from Dallas: 4.5 hours
Distance from Dallas: 490km
Cost: $80-$150 USD ($120-$230 AUD)

Head to the second-largest canyon in the country to take in the beauty and ruggedness of the Texas Panhandle. Explore this area from a different perspective than on your own two feet and sign up for a horseback riding tour!


Photo thanks to Travel Texas


There are plenty of one, two, or three-hour excursions riding along the rim of the Palo Duro Canyon. Tours take you through the history of the area, as well as viewing caves, cottonwood trees, cacti, and the iconic Spanish skirts.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned rider, these experiences will leave you in awe of the modern-day Wild West.

Big Bend

2. Hiking in Big Bend National Park

Time from San Antonio: 5 hours 45 minutes
Distance from Austin: 660km
Cost: National Parks Pass required

Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots as Big Bend National Park has over 150 miles (242km) worth of trails for all levels of day hikers and backpackers alike.


@calebjamesfisher on Unsplash


For an easy intro to the area, try the Balanced Rock trail, a cruisey 3.5km trail that takes 1-2 hours to complete. For medium range walkers the Lost Mine Hiking Trail spans 7.7km through wooded grasslands and desert shrubs.

Alternatively, if you want to stretch the legs for the better part of a day, aim for Emory Peak, the 17km hard hike that’s the tallest in the national park and takes 5-7 hours to complete.

Yep, you heard that right, there are mountains in Texas, so don’t forget to pick up your National Parks Pass before visiting!

Read more: Remember to Leave No Trace when hitting the trails

3. Stargazing at Fort Davis

Time from San Antonio: 6 hours
Distance from San Antonio: 668km
Cost: $230 for night viewing at the Observatory

While you’re in the Big Bend area, don’t miss the opportunity to go stargazing. This National Park is a special spot for viewing as it has the least amount of light pollution within any national park unit in the lower 48 states.


Photo thanks to Travel Texas


There are often park rangers or volunteers offering interpretive programs within the Big Bend National Park, so be sure to check out the Ranger Calendar to get the most out of your stargazing experience.

Stargazing, especially in another hemisphere, is such an incredible way to feel the vastness of an area and view different constellations. Look out for Northern Hemisphere specific constellations such as the North Star and the circumpolar constellations (the ones that circle the North Star) including Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia.

Alternatively, about three hours north of the national park is the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, another excellent spot for stargazing. Entrance fees are $5 AUD and guided tours are $15 AUD for day use of the astronomical area. Stargazing is open on certain viewing evenings, with the ability to use the telescope.

Read more: A Guide to Stargazing

Piney Woods

4. Canoeing Caddo Lake

Time from Dallas: 3 hours
Distance from Dallas: 315km
Cost: State Park fee & canoe rental

Paddle through flooded Cypress trees draped with Spanish moss as you canoe along one of the most unique waterways in Texas, Caddo Lake!


Photo by Lazyllama – Adobe Stock


Be sure to keep an eye out for the roughly 220 bird species, including varieties of doves, geese, hummingbirds, goatsuckers, plovers, and sandpipers to name a few. This biodiversity hotspot is habitat to a further 190 tree varieties, 93 fish species, 47 mammals, 46 reptiles, and 20 mussel species venturing from the lake to the bayou!  

With over 50 miles (80km) of trails to canoe through, give yourself at least 3-4 hours to spend exploring the shorter canoe trails, like the 6km Cathedral Paddling Trail. Otherwise a full day booking can easily be spent exploring longer routes or multiple paddling trails like the 14km Hell’s Half Acre Paddling Trail.

The State Park fee has a daily rate of $6 AUD per person in addition to the canoe rental. 

Canoes can be rented daily from Texas State Parks on a first-come first-serve basis to launch out of Saw Mill Pond or if you’re staying at a local accommodation, they rent canoes to visitors from $40 AUD for a half day (4 hours) or $80 for a full day, which can be launched from multiple waterways for more flexibility.

South Texas Plains

5. Exploring the Natural Bridge Caverns

Time from San Antonio: 30 minutes
Distance from San Antonio: 45km
Cost: $45 AUD per person

The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest known commercial caverns in the US. The dramatic 18-metre limestone slab bridge was formed via a collapsed sinkhole and spans the entrance of the cavern.


Photo thanks to Travel Texas


Head nearly 55 metres underground on a guided tour that highlights the impressive natural structure formed through single drops of water verrrry gradually over time.

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time to save a little extra as the prices vary closer to the date booked.

Hill Country

6. Day Trip to the Hamilton Pool

Time from Austin: 45 minutes
Distance from Austin: 47km
Cost: $18 AUD reservation fee & $12 AUD per person fee

The Hamilton Pool Preserve is a majestic jade-green-coloured swimming area below a limestone outcrop and a 15m waterfall. The natural swimming area is situated in a steep canyon, like a grotto. The waterfall may become more of a trickle in drier months, but the pool water level remains relatively constant year round.


Photo from Adobe Stock


The area is home to many native birds, plants, fish, and animals to see throughout your visit. The upper region of the pool is semi-arid, meaning it’s a dry climate subtype and habitat to juniper and Oak savannah, native grasses and plenty of wildflowers. The lower, or  canyon region is home to Red bay, Canyon mock-orange, as well as the Chatterbox orchid.

Canyon wrens are permanent residents to the pool as well, so keep an eye out for those flying around as you dip into this natural landmark. Further along Hamilton Creek, you may even see some Golden-cheeked warblers, Acadian flycatchers, and Louisiana waterthrush.

Reservations are required before visiting which entails an $18 AUD fee for the vehicle, before per person fees ($12 AUD) are charged upon arrival and can only be paid via cash.

Prairies and Lakes

7. Stepping back in time at Dinosaur Valley State Park

Time from Fort Worth: 1 hour
Distance from Fort Worth: 94km
Cost: $12 per person

Feel like you’re entering Jurassic Park as you step into Dinosaur Valley State Park. The area is characterised by a combination of limestone, sandstone, and mudstone, and over the last million years, these layers have been eroded by the Paluxy River, revealing none other than dinosaur tracks. The river’s slowly dissected and chiselled away at twin sets of tracks that were discovered and are identified to be from dinosaurs.

Texas Parks and Wildlife will help you find the best trails and give you resources to differentiate between the Sauropod and Theropod dinosaur tracks.

The area is notable for mud and sand, making late summer the best time to view the tracks when river levels are low. This state park is also a National Natural Landmark to recognise the conservation area and the natural history.

Gulf Coast

8. Witnessing Wild Cranes at Aransas Pass National Wildlife Refuge

Time from Houston: 3 hours
Distance from Houston: 288km
Cost: $7 AUD per vehicle

Whether you’re a casual bird watcher or full blown twitcher, you should pay a visit to the best known wintering home for the last wild flock of Whooping cranes at the Aransas Pass National Wildlife Refuge.

These endangered cranes are also the tallest birds across North America and have a wingspan of over two metres. Population levels decreased to as low as 20 birds in the 1940s, but recent surveys indicate the population has grown to 536 due to the extensive conservation efforts of the refuge, federal and state governments, as well as private landowners.



These Whooping cranes travel over 4,000km from their breeding spot to this wildlife refuge each winter. Immerse yourself with a half-day spent exploring the refuge, learning about the wildlife, wandering the short nature trails, and finishing with a picnic in the area.

As America’s most vast state, Texas has plenty to offer any outdoor enthusiasts! It’s time you added Texas’ seven regions and their bustling experiences to your overseas adventure list, stat! Check out what Texas has in store for you!



Feature image thanks to @rocinante_11 on Unsplash