Houston’s location near the ocean makes for perfect beach excursions. Catch your lunch and throw your sea bounty on a portable grill on the beach, or head inland for some truly epic nature trails. So hit the surf and hike the turf in any of these perfect places to enjoy nature around Houston, Texas.
Galveston Island State Park
Drive an hour south of Houston for the largest stretches of beaches, biking, and bird watching in Texas. For family fun, plant your toes in the sand at Stewart Beach, which offers snacks, souvenirs, restrooms, and showers. Drive further southwest along the island’s south shore for the best beach picnicking in Texas. A $5 entry fee gives you beach access, camping, hiking, kayaking, and bird watching. The 2013-acre park packs in nine nature trails and a huge stretch of beaches where you can pitch your tent right along the beach.
For a quieter beach experience, drive another half hour southwest along the island road until you reach Surfside Beach, a tiny beach town with gorgeous white sand beaches and a population of 500. Buy a pass to park directly on the beach, or visit on foot for free. You can rent a little beach house for the night and spend some quality time sampling a variety of fresh surf-and-turf options from seafood grills and burger bars.
Stephen F. Austin State Park
Take a 30-minute drive from Houston to Stephen F. Austin State Park, a 12-acre stretch of hiking and bike trails along the Brazos River. This peaceful patch of nature offers camping, fishing, and exploration of the original Texas colony founded by, of course, Stephen F. Austin. There’s even an 18-hole golf course nearby to practice your putting.
Sam Houston National Forest
For those who really like to lose themselves in nature, visit Sam Houston National Forest, a 163,000-acre forest 50 miles north of Houston. Extra-sturdy hikers can trek the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail. Go fishing or take a dip in Lake Conroe, or put on your Indiana Jones hat and explore archeological sites with a 12,000-year human history. Camp out in a designated camping area, but be sure to wear highly visible clothing during hunting season in November and December.
With a name like Dripping Springs, you know you’re about to get wet. Hike along the trails through lush landscapes until you reach Hamilton Pool, a natural pool created when the ceiling collapsed over an underground river, revealing an enchanted grotto with a 50-foot waterfall. After your refreshing plunge, cool off your thirst with some craft beverages back in town, and satisfy your post-hike hunger with the famous barbecue bounty at The Salt Lick BBQ. Dripping Springs is a three-hour drive from Houston.
To make the most out of your nature excursions, consider staying in the town of Magnolia. This quiet community is full of small-town charm and is conveniently located between Houston National Forest and Austin State Park.
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