What is the most-visited state park in Texas? Here’s the top 10 countdown for 2023

AUSTIN (KXAN) — From mountains and canyons to forests and swamps, the vast scale of Texas provides so many natural wonders.

Across the Lone Star State, there are 86 state parks, natural areas and historic sites currently operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The first parks were opened to the public in the 1930s and the newest, Old Tunnel State Park, opened in 2012. TPWD also has plans to develop five sites into future state parks.

Fairfield Lake State Park, meanwhile, closed to the public on June 4, after the property was sold to a private developer.

From state park to private development: The twisting timeline of Fairfield Lake

TPWD splits the state into seven ‘natural regions,’ each of which is home to several state parks. The Prairies & Lakes region is home to 22 parks, more than any other region. The South Texas Plains region is home to the fewest, with seven parks.

Across the system, state parks welcomed more than 9.2 million visitors in Fiscal Year 2023, a 4.3% decrease from the previous fiscal year. The Prairies & Lakes region recorded the most visitors, with more than 3 million across its 22 parks.

The Hill Country region welcomed more than 2.2 million visitors across 16 parks, while the Gulf Coast and Panhandle Plains regions each saw more than 1 million visitors.

State parks in the Big Bend Country region saw the fewest number of visitors, with around 420,000. Those numbers do not include visitors to Big Bend National Park, which alone saw more than half a million visitors in 2022.

But which individual state park gets the most visitors? Explore for yourself using our interactive table below, or keep scrolling to see our top 10 countdown.

Top 10 most-visited Texas state parks

10. Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Galveston Island State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

“No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge at Galveston Island State Park,” according to TPWD. Activities include strolling along the beach, fishing and coastal birdwatching. The park welcomed 198,576 visitors in FY 2023, a 146% increase over FY 2022.

9. Inks Lake State Park

Inks Lake State Park. (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Inks Lake State Park. (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

TPWD calls Inks Lake State Park the gem of the Hill Country, with “sparkling blue water, colorful rock outcrops and striking sunsets.” The park welcomed 227,711 visitors in FY 2023, a 2% decrease from FY 2022.

8. Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Dinosaur Valley State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

TPWD says dinosaur footprints were left in the mud at the edge of an ancient ocean. At Dinosaur Valley State Park, you can literally walk in their tracks. The park welcomed 246,889 visitors in FY 2023, a 2% increase over FY 2022.

7. Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Brazos Bend State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

If you’re looking for a “wild” experience, TPWD says to check out Brazos Bend State Park, calling it a “nature lover’s paradise.” The park welcomed 254,054 visitors in FY 2023, a 7% decrease from FY 2022.

6. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

Climbing the giant granite dome “is almost a rite of passage for Texans,” TPWD says. But there’s more to the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area than just the dome. “The scenery, rock formations and legends are magical, too!” The park welcomed 294,485 visitors in FY 2023, a 4% decrease from FY 2022.

5. McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
McKinney Falls State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

TPWD says McKinney Falls State Park, within the city of Austin, features “rugged beauty.” Onion Creek flows over limestone ledges and trails wind through the Hill Country woods. The park welcomed 309,649 visitors in FY 2023, an 8% decrease from FY 2022.

4. Cedar Hill State Park

Cedar Hill State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Cedar Hill State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

Just 20 miles from downtown Dallas, Cedar Hill State Park feels like “a world away from the city,” TPWD says. The park includes a lake, a working farm from the 1800s and rugged limestone hills. The park welcomed 338,598 visitors in FY 2023, a 4% increase over FY 2022.

3. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is referred to by TPWD as the “Grand Canyon of Texas.” In fact, it’s the second-largest canyon in the U.S., behind only — you guessed it — the Grand Canyon. The park welcomed 374,154 visitors in FY 2023, a 15% decrease from FY 2022.

2. Garner State Park

Garner State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Garner State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

Swimming, dancing and hiking are some of the highlights at Garner State Park. TPWD says
“fun traditions and beautiful scenery” bring people back time after time. The park welcomed 475,898 visitors in FY 2023, an 8% decrease from FY 2022.

1. Ray Roberts Lake State Park

Ray Roberts Lake State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)
Ray Roberts Lake State Park (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)

TPWD calls Ray Roberts Lake State Park a “natural playground.” You can escape the bustle of the DFW Metroplex and “get back to nature.” The park welcomed 879,081 visitors in FY 2023, a 1% decrease from FY 2022.

We also looked at the least-visited state parks across Texas. Check back soon for the top 10 countdown.

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