Did you know that Texas has the country’s second largest canyon? Or that there’s a river where you can see actual dinosaur footprints? Our state’s great State and National Park systems boast these and more.

The largest national park in Texas, Big Bend, is over 1,200 square miles, which is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. This is one of the most diverse parks, as far as terrain goes, with desert trails that lead through patches of beautiful flowering cactus, mountainous hikes through the Chisos Mountains, and tranquil paths beside the Rio Grande River. Located along the US and Mexico border, Big Bend has been a part of the nation’s park system since 1935. Its location is ideal for birdwatching year round, because it is along a migration route. Biking and horseback riding are hiking alternatives that allow you to cover more ground and see more of the park. Another experience unique to Big Bend is the beautiful night sky where you can see more than 2,000 stars. Big Bend has the least amount of light pollution than any other park in the contiguous United States.

Everyone knows the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but did you realize that the second largest canyon in the US is right here in Texas? Located in the appropriately named city of Canyon in the Texas panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon State Park has over 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails to explore. Visitors can camp in RV lots or tents or stay in several of the park’s cabins. Guided horseback tours along the canyon floor are perfect for the whole family. A highlight of your visit might be the nightly performance of the show TEXAS at the park’s amphitheater about the history of our state and its settlers complete with jokes, singing, dancing and a fireworks show.

Just southwest of Fort Worth, you’ll discover a gateway to prehistoric times at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. Here you can swim and wade in the shallow Paluxy River and step inside the ancient footprints of Sauroposeidon proteles and Acrocanthosaurus dinosaurs that were first discovered in the early 1900s. Summertime is the best season to view the tracks, as the water levels are at their lowest and those tracks normally under the river’s water are exposed. Visitors can camp at several sites around the park or bring a picnic to enjoy at the pavilion for the day. Fishing and mountain biking are other popular activities at this State Park.

To find out more about National Parks nearby, visit https://www.nps.gov/state/tx/index.htm and for State Parks, visit http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/.