The vast and stunning terrain of Houston is in possession of a fair share of Texas’s natural resources. Dotted with a few national and state parks, this region proves there’s more to this place than mere deserts. Enriched with exotic flora and a wealthy population of wildlife roaming free, these Houston national parks are a great place to check out for every nature lover and wildlife enthusiast visiting this city in Texas. Where one may be replete with a dense forest, the other might take you over rocky hills and boulders to give you the most amazing views. All in all, the four national parks listed below won’t disappoint the adventure seeker in you.
4 Unmissable National Parks In And Around Houston
Located in and around the city of Houston, these national parks in Houston area offer something unique to every visitor and are sure to leave you beguiled!
1. Big Thicket National Preserve
Often referred to as the American Ark and a biological crossroads of North America owing to its complex biodiversity, this extraordinary nature reserve and protected forest area is among the best national parks to visit in Houston. It’s among those very few places in Texas where starkly different species and forms of life live in harmony. Though it also houses various rare species of flora and fauna, it is this factor of coexistence that draws people here and leaves them in awe.
The Big Thicket National Preserve located in southeast Texas is also known to offer over 40 miles of hiking trails, activities like canoeing, kayaking, camping, and endless opportunities for birdwatching. In terms of fauna, the park has a huge combination of pine, hardwood, and cypress forests, along with lush meadows, and various blackwater swamps inviting a variety of water birds.
Location: FM 420, Kountze, TX 77625, USA
Entry fee: Nil
Park timings: Open on all days
Visitor center timings: 9 AM – 5 PM
Places to stay nearby: Relax Inn Motel, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Super 8, The Stagecoach Inn
Distance from Houston: 157 km
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2. Padre Island National Seashore
The Padre Island National Seashore wears the crown of being the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world with pride! It’s a one-of-a-kind national park near Houston that greets visitors with the most unusual and gorgeous sites. Separating the Gulf of Mexico from the hypersaline lagoon Laguna Madre, this national reserve blows travelers’ minds with its breathtaking white sand beaches stretching up to 70 miles, along with scenic sand dunes, picture-perfect prairies, wind tidal flats brimming with life, and soothingly warm ocean water. This warm water in turn offers excellent opportunities to visitors go swimming, fishing, boating, and windsurfing.
Once in this park, travelers can go for various other activities as well, including beach-combing, birdwatching, wildlife sighting, camping, and much more. Other than the 70-mile coastline, the protected areas inside this park include safe nesting grounds for the rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtles as well as providing shelter to more than 380 bird species, both resident and migratory. Other than the natural treasures, it’s rich history and the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554 also make it one of the best Houston national parks. The park is a mere 15-minute drive away from downtown Corpus Christi.
Location: 20420 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418, USA
Entry fee: The below mentioned fee is on per vehicle basis.
1-day pass – INR 685/-
7-day pass – INR 1,370/-
1-year pass – INR 2,740/-
Bicyclists and pedestrians – INR 685/-
motorcycle for a day – INR 480/-
Timings: Open on all days of the week
Places to stay nearby: Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort, Best Western Padre Island, Passport Inn Corpus Christi, Motel 6
Distance from Houston: 387 km
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3. Sheldon Lake State Park
The Sheldon Lake State Park and reservoir is no less than the other national parks in Houston owing to the enormous area it covers and the diverse array of ecology it supports. The prime attraction of the Sheldon Lake State Park in Houston is the man-made reservoir that was created during World War II in order to procure fresh water for shipbuilding and shipping industries. It was later sold to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that converted it into a designated waterfowl sanctuary and public fishing site called Lake Houston.
Currently, Sheldon Lake happens to be one of the biggest areas for birdwatching in the US owing to the huge population of bird species in this park. The latest SLSP bird checklist had reported that over 249 bird species currently reside in the park, a number that is boosted each spring by the migratory birds taking temporary shelter here. It’s essentially Texas’ largest inland waterbird colony and a true delight for birdwatchers who are thrilled by the nonstop sight and sounds of aviaries in this colony, especially around the west levee. At present, the colony is home to more than 2,200 herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills, ash-throated and vermilion flycatchers, anhingas, Neotropic cormorants, fish crow, Le Conte’s sparrows, grasshopper sparrows, ibis, canvasbacks, and Ross’s goose. During the migratory season, the Purple Gallinule, American Bittern, and Least Bittern can also be spotted near the lake.
Other than birdwatching, the lake also serves as a great spot for fishing ever since the lake had been stocked with different species of fish in order to improve the reservoir’s utility for recreational fishing. It’s among the many popular things to do inside this park. Amongst the many species of fish in the lake, the most common ones include catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish.
Location: 14140 Garrett Rd, Houston, TX 77044-6418
Entry fee: Nil
Timings: 8 AM – 5 PM
Places to stay nearby: Scottish Inns & Suites, Candlewood Suites Kingwood, Clarion Inn, Best Western Plus Houston Atascocita Inn
Distance from Houston: 26 km
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4. Big Bend National Park
Justifying its name, the Big Bend National Park protects what is probably the largest Chihuahuan desert ever! Nestles into a 90-degree arc in the river of Rio Grande, this desert is even larger than Rhode Island! Other than the ‘big’ factor, this reserve is a place of contrasts. You’ll find extremes of everything from the weather, terrain, to the species of flora and fauna found here. While the park is blazing hot in the summer months, it is frigid cold in winter. When it comes to the terrain and landscapes, you’ll find everything from dry open deserts, rough and jagged mountains, to lush green river valleys, proving that this biosphere can support a number of diverse landscapes and life forms all at once.
Other than contrasting weather conditions and terrain, you can also spot a number of Big Bend is also home to big predators like the Mexican black bears and a considerable number of mountain lions roaming free and untamed in this rugged sanctuary. The park has over 200 miles of hiking trails that makes it a hiker’s paradise! The park offers everything from short one-day hikes to multi-week treks in varying difficulty levels. These delights in addition to the other popular activities here including horseback riding, camping, and birdwatching together make this area one of the best national parks in Houston, Texas. The park is home to the rare Colima Warbler species of birds that is found nowhere else in the entire USA.
Location: Big Bend National Park, TX, USA
Entry fee: INR 1,700 per vehicle | INR 1,370 per motorcycle
Timings: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
Places to stay nearby: Chisos Mountains Lodge, Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast, Terlingua Ranch Lodge, Posada Milagro
Distance from Houston: 906 km
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Do you know of any more awesome Houston national parks? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, plan an exciting getaway to the US with your homies so that you can check out these amazing natural reserves and have an adventure of a lifetime! And don’t forget to share your fabulous experience with us once you’re back!
Glacier National Park Yellowstone National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park
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