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14 Beautiful State Parks Near Dallas

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The Big D is one of Texas’ tourist hotspots in its own right, but not all of its visitors know that the many state parks near Dallas present a stunning array of natural wonders and rich history just a few hours’ drive outside the bustling city limits.

State parks near Dallas Pinterest graphic

Up ahead, we’re running through all of these lovely North Texas state parks, some quite well-known and others that offer more off the beaten path adventures.

From family-friendly destinations to hiker heavens to beautiful boating lakes, almost any landscape can be found not too far from Dallas.

We’ve got a breakdown of what to do and see in each spot, as well as some tips on native wildlife to keep an eye out for.

So keep reading to plan your next big city escape at one of these spectacular state parks!

If you’re looking for other opportunities to explore, check out our list of 18 epic weekend getaways from Dallas, which includes even more nature adventures as well as some nearby cities in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and central Texas that are well worth a visit.

14 Beautiful State Parks Near Dallas

Texas is packed with state and national parks, all of them beautiful, but these Dallas state parks may just take the cake.

On a visit to The Big D, not only can you explore one of the American South’s best and brightest cities (after all, there are so many things to do in Dallas!), but also all of these natural wonders just a short drive from downtown!

Here are all the highlights, must-sees, and need-to-know prices for planning your next outdoor adventure.

1. Cedar Hill State Park

Painted bunting at Cedar Hill State Park
Painted bunting at Cedar Hill State Park

With its cool, tranquil lake, smooth hiking and biking trails, and whopping 350 campsites, Cedar Hill State Park has a little something for everyone.

Two ecosystems meet at Cedar Hill, so visitors can experience prairies full of gorgeous native grasses and wildflowers as well as craggy limestone hills. Wildlife, particularly birds and fish, are plentiful and easy to spot with a careful eye.

Meanwhile, history buffs will enjoy the Penn Farm Agricultural History Center, a working farm from the mid-1800s whose buildings are still standing.

This site is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Dallas, so it can easily be made into a day-trip, but there are enough activities to fill up a weekend.

Entrance costs $7 per adult for a daily pass and $5 for overnight. Children 12 and under get in free.

2. Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park; an epic weekend getaways from Dallas.

Perhaps no state parks near Dallas are quite as much fun for all ages as Dinosaur Valley, a place as entertaining as it is beautiful.

Get carried away in a fascinating past and imagine a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, leaving footprints that you can still step in today as you hike the park.

These dinosaur footprints and tracks can be found throughout the Paluxy riverbed, which was once an ancient ocean, so be prepared to get wet as you splash along.

The landscape itself feels prehistoric and can be fully explored through miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, paddling, and more.

This destination also scored a spot on our list of the top road trips in Texas, so you know it’s worth a visit.

Entrance costs $7 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

3. Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Stand up paddle in Lake Mineral Wells

On the 1 ½-hour drive from Fort Worth and Dallas to Lake Mineral Wells, you can watch as the gray of the city shifts into lush green scenery.

This state park is definitely geared towards more active visitors, who can hike various trails that range in difficulty, meandering along the lakeside or plunging into the woods.

Lake Mineral Wells also boasts one of the only natural rock climbing sites in the area, as well as canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards for rent so you can cool down on the water after a hike or climb.

Entrance costs $7 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

4. Ray Roberts Lake State Park


One hour north of Dallas, Lake Ray Roberts is one of the most popular spots for city dwellers to spend their weekends hiking, fishing, and horseback riding.

The lakeshore boasts sandy beaches that feel more like a seaside getaway than landlocked central Texas and are perfect for swimming.

The park also encompasses woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, which means you have the chance to spot some of Texas’ most incredible wildlife, from graceful willows along the water to armadillos and roadrunners on land. In the winter, bald eagles often come to nest.

Entrance costs $7 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

5. Cleburne State Park

Bluebonnets in Texas

Tranquil and quiet with its clear spring-fed lake and gentle forest trails, Cleburne is an excellent place to rest and recharge just an hour outside of downtown, and makes an excellent road trip from Dallas.

If you can, make the trip in early spring, when the fields are full of Texas’ state wildflower, the bluebonnet.

Still, hiking, boating, and nature watching are excellent all year round, and those that are looking for a bit more adrenaline can try the park’s 6-mile mountain biking loop.

Entrance costs $5 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

6. Eisenhower State Park

Mallard swimming at the lake of Texoma, Texas
Mallard swimming at the lake of Texoma, Texas

The ultra family-friendly Eisenhower State Park is a lovely spot for swimming, picnicking, and just spending time outdoors. It’s located right near the Oklahoma border, just over an hour’s drive from Dallas.

Fishing is one of the most popular activities, and you can easily rent equipment from the park if you don’t have your own.

On land, more than four miles of trails await. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for native wildflowers and ancient fossils along the way.

And if you’re tired of hiking and biking, the park also offers a backcountry area where you can drive ATVs or dirt bikes.

Check the events schedule before you go, as there are several ranger-led programs like stargazing and Dutch oven cooking.

Entrance costs $5 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

7. Fort Richardson State Park

Hiking trail in Fort Richardson State Park

Many state parks near Dallas showcase the area’s natural beauty, but at Fort Richardson, you can travel back in time through Civil War-era history.

Built in 1867, Fort Richardson is still home to seven original buildings that have since been restored and opened to visitors, including a hospital, officer’s quarters, and bakery.

After your visit, venture out on a nine-mile hike, bike, and equestrian trail that travels through the woods and along the banks of several scenic creeks and lakes. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and swim or fish along the way.

Fort Richardson is just a 1 ½-hour drive only, making it perfect for a day trip from Dallas.

Entrance costs $4 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

8. Possum Kingdom State Park

Wakeboarding Girl

The Possum Kingdom, about three hours west of downtown, is one of the best state parks near Dallas for water sports. Wakeboards, kneeboards, water skis, and tubes are all available for rent.

Once you’re tired out from all the fun, spend the night at one of the park’s air-conditioned cabins or lakeside campsites, and wake up to stunning views and another full day of outdoor activities.

With some of the most transparent water in the region, Lake Possum Kingdom also offers a rare chance to snorkel or scuba dive in North Texas.

Entrance costs $4 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

9. Fairfield Lake State Park

Close-up bald eagle

Fairfield Lake is home to some of the most beautiful sunset scenery in Texas, capturing all the colors on its calm surface, and only 1 ½ hour outside of Dallas.

Long occupied by Native Americans and early farmers like many other Dallas state parks, it also has a rich history.

Boating, fishing, and swimming are all excellent ways to spend a summer day at Fairfield Lake, and there are opportunities for nature watching in any season. From November-February, you may even spot a bald eagle, the national bird of the United States.

Entrance costs $4 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

10. Palo Pinto Mountains State Park


Unlike the other parks on this list, Palo Pinto is still relatively undeveloped. Tucker Lake, which rests at the heart of the land, is already open to the public, but the surrounding area is not yet under construction.

Fishing, boating, and birdwatching are all popular activities out on the water, and motorboats are prohibited, so there’s no noise to disturb your secluded wilderness experience.

Even though it doesn’t have any hiking opportunities yet, Palo Pinto’s rugged landscape, featuring plateaus, canyons, and wooded hills, is breathtaking to observe from the lake.

Once it is fully accessible, the park will include extensive trails and viewing spots for some of the state’s brightest night skies.

It is located a 1 ½-hour drive from downtown Dallas and not too far from many of the charming central Texas towns tourists love to visit.

11. Lake Whitney State Park

Bluebonnets in Texas in Lake Whitney State Park near Dallas

Lake Whitney is 1 ½ hours from downtown Dallas and rests just off the mighty Brazos River’s main body.

It’s home to abundant wildlife, and along the walking trails, you can often spot white-tailed deer, armadillos, wild turkeys, and a number of other native species.

In the spring, a carpet of vibrant wildflowers covers the fields, starring electric bluebonnets and fiery Indian paintbrushes.

When it comes to campsites near Dallas, it doesn’t get much better than this. The sites are lakeside, easily accessible, and perfect for family vacations.

Entrance costs $5 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

12. Lake Tawakoni State Park

Cougar on Lake Tawakoni State Park near Dallas

Sandy shores, gorgeous groves, and an abundance of wildlife are all highlights of Lake Tawakoni State Park, which rests an hour to the east of Dallas.

It’s known as a “fisherman’s paradise,” and tournaments are held throughout the year. On land, foxes, bobcats, and even cougars have been spotted.

In what some would consider a fun fact and others simply terrifying, Lake Tawakoni State Park is also known for being home to the largest spider web ever recorded.

Don’t worry–for squeamish visitors, the 37,879-acre reservoir is spider-free and mostly just full of friendly fish.

Entrance costs $5 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

13. Cooper Lake State Park

Geocaching at Cooper Lake State Park

Just 1 ½ hours from downtown, this is one of the best state parks near Dallas for a leisurely weekend of camping and outdoor fun.

Creeks run on both sides of Cooper Lake, providing almost limitless fish, hike, bike, and boat opportunities.

If you happen to have your own horse, the park offers equestrian trails and even equestrian campsites for multi-day adventures.

For another unique activity, try geocaching! Choose one of the hidden items logged on, plug in the GPS coordinates, and let the hunt get underway. Once you make a find, add your name to the log and leave it for other adventurers to discover.

Entrance costs $5 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free.

14. Purtis Creek State Park

Beautiful young couple kayaking on lake together

Purtis Creek is known for its prime fishing, and cozy campsites tucked away from the intense Texas sun. Largemouth bass are plentiful but strictly catch-and-release, while catfish can be taken home for dinner.

The park offers both primitive campsites that require a trek in more accessible water and electricity options.

There are ample opportunities to canoe, kayak, and picnic the days away. Even if fishing isn’t for you, Purtis Creek will impress with its tranquil vistas.

The park is only an hour outside of downtown, so make it a day trip or extend for the weekend and explore some of the surrounding small towns.

Entrance costs $5 per adult for a daily pass, but children 12 and under get in free. You can also pay an extra $2 for an overnight fishing permit.

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