Lake Somerville State Park Sunset views

9 State Parks Near Houston – Under Two-Hour’s Drive

Houston is a large, urban city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t escape to nature with just a short drive. There are a number of incredible state parks near Houston to help you get your outdoor fix. In under two hours, you can be hiking, biking, boating and more. Plus, this is Texas, so even the drive is enjoyable, with beautiful countryside views of ranches, farms, fields, and, of course, lots and lots of cows.

State Parks Near Houston

Huntsville State Park

Huntsville State Park is a beautiful 2,000 acre park just over an hour north of downtown Houston, bordering the Sam Houston National Forest. With 21 miles of trails, you can hike, bike, or horseback ride for hours without getting bored.

Huntsville State Park Hiking Trails

Lake Raven is a 210-acre lake within Huntsville State Park where you can swim, fish, or paddle. Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats are available for rent at the park, or feel free to bring your own boat. Motorized boats are allowed but only at idle speed.

Huntsville State Park Lake Raven Boat Rentals Kayaks Paddle Boats Canoes

There is a separate area of the lake roped off for swimming, available 10 am to 8 pm. There is a beach entry so it’s perfect for little kids. Be aware, there are alligators in this area.

Huntsville State Park Lake Raven Swimming Area

If you’re visiting with little kids, you’ll be happy to know there’s a small playground for kids to play on. When they’re all hot and sweaty, you can head over to the Kona Ice truck for some sno-cones.

Be sure to stop off at the enormous statue of Sam Houston on your way up to the park. While you can’t miss it from the highway, the best way to experience it is to pull off and see it up close!

What Can You Do At Huntsville State Park?

  • Camp – tent sites and screened-in shelters available
  • Hike/bike/horseback ride
  • View wildlife
  • Fish
  • Boat – rent or bring your own
  • Swim
  • Geocache

Huntsville State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $7 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Lake Livingston State Park

Lake Livingston State Park is also close to Houston, a bit west of Huntsville State Park. The drive from downtown Houston is about an hour and twenty minutes.

Lake Livingston State Park Lake View

Lake Livingston is one of the largest reservoirs in the state, at about 83,000 acres! The park itself is on the smaller side, just about 635 acres, but there are still plenty of trails to keep you busy.

Lake Livingston State Park Hiking

The park offers canoes and kayaks for rent on the weekends, from 8:30 – 3:30 PM. At other times, you can rent a kayak from the Paddle EZ self-service rental station. You’ll reserve your rental online and receive a code to unlock your cubby when the time comes. At one point they were renting stand-up paddleboards too, but I didn’t see it on our most recent trip so you might want to confirm.

Lake Livingston State Park Kayaking Kayak Rentals

There is a separate roped-off area for swimming a short walk from the boat rentals. The water is quite deep there so make sure your kids have appropriate swim gear. We put our kids in life vests when swimming in lakes that don’t have a shallow area. There is a beach entry near the boats, but swimming is not allowed during the time boat rentals are active.

Lake Livingston State Park Lake view

If you like to fish, you’re in luck, as this lake is known for its white bass population. The park has three boat ramps, two fish cleaning stations, a fishing pier and bank fishing. You can also borrow cane fishing poles from the park store.

Another thing to note is that the squirrels at this park are quite friendly. They must get fed rather often because we had one literally eating out of my son’s hand.

Lake Livingston State Park Friendly Squirrels

What Can You Do At Lake Livingston State Park?

  • Camp – multiple site options as well as screened-in shelters available
  • Hike/bike
  • View wildlife
  • Fish
  • Boat – rent or bring your own
  • Swim
  • Geocache

Lake Livingston State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $5 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park spans over 2,000 acres and is just over an hour from downtown Houston. The park offers both a beach and bay side, though the beach side is currently closed until 2022.

Galveston Island State Park Beach

The park does not rent kayaks but does offer kayak launches if you bring your own. There are several places to rent a kayak nearby that can deliver to the park for you.

The park offers 4 miles of hiking and biking trails for you to explore.

What Can You Do At Galveston Island State Park?

  • Camp – tent sites as well as lodges available
  • Hike/bike
  • View wildlife
  • Fish
  • Boat – bring your own
  • Swim
  • Geocache

Galveston Island State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $5 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Stephen F Austin State Park

Stephen F Austin State Park is a 663-acre park located just under an hour west of Downtown Houston. The park is located on the banks of the Brazos river, with five miles of hiking and biking trails along the river. Trails close after a rain or when the trail is muddy, so be sure to check before visiting.

The park is also home to the San Felipe de Austin Historic Site, where you can learn about Texas’ early colonists. Fees for the historic site are separate.

  • Adult $10
  • Child (5-14) $5
  • Seniors/Veterans, Austin & Waller County Residents $8
  • Family Ticket (2 adults/2 children) $22
  • Additional family adults $5
  • Additional children $2

What Can You Do At Stephen F Austin State Park?

  • Camp – full hookup, tent sites as well as screened-in shelters and cabins available
  • Hike/bike
  • View wildlife
  • Geocache

San Felipe de Austin State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $5 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Lake Somerville State Park

Lake Somerville State Park is just over an hour and a half west of Houston, near Brenham – which means it’s a great place to see wildflowers and bluebonnets in the spring! The park offers over 40 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.

There are two parts of the park, Nails Creek and Birch Creek, on either side of the lake, connected by the 13-mile Lake Somerville Trailway. The Birch Creek side offers unbeatable sunset views over the lake.

Lake Somerville State Park Sunset views

Lake Somerville spans over 11,000 acres and can be accessed from both Nails Creek and Birch Creek for swimming, paddling, fishing, or boating. Motorized boats are allowed here. Both parks also loan fishing gear and rent canoes and kayaks.

For more information, read our blog post dedicated to Lake Somerville State Park.

What Can You Do At Lake Somerville State Park?

  • Camp – multiple site options available including equestrian sites
  • Hike/bike/horseback ride
  • View wildlife
  • Geocache
  • Boat – rent or bring your own
  • Fish
  • Swim

Lake Somerville State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $4 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Sea Rim State Park

Sea Rim State Park is an hour and forty minutes southeast of Houston, on the Gulf of Mexico. The 4,000-acre park offers five miles of gulf shorelines while the rest of the park is marshland.

Most of the trails in this park are paddle trails, though there is the Gambusia Nature Trail Boardwalk, which lets you explore the marsh on foot. For the paddle trails, you can bring your own boat or rent one at the park. Fishing equipment is loaned at this park as well.

What Can You Do At Sea Rim State Park?

  • Camp – multiple site options, (including some accessible only by boat!) as well as a cabin available
  • Horseback ride/walk along boardwalk or beach
  • View wildlife
  • Geocache
  • Boat – rent or bring your own
  • Fish
  • Swim

Sea Rim State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $3 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park is best known for offering the best glimpses of alligators. Under an hour south of downtown Houston, this park is a popular destination for hiking and wildlife viewing.

Brazos Bend State Park

The park has 37 miles of trails for hiking and biking. There’s also a short nature trail along a boardwalk with an observation deck.

Brazos Bend State Park

The park is also home to a nature center and an observatory. The observatory had been closed for a while but reopened in March 2021. The observatory is part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and requires separate admission.

What Can You Do At Brazos Bend State Park?

  • Camp – multiple site options including screened-in shelters and cabins available
  • Hike/bike/horseback ride
  • View wildlife
  • Geocache
  • Fish
  • Visit the nature center or observatory

Brazos Bend State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $7 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Sheldon Lake State Park

Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center is the closest to Houston because it pretty much is IN Houston – over in Pasadena. Just 30 minutes from downtown Houston, this park spans 2,800 acres along the Sheldon Lake Reservoir.

Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center

This park features two main areas. Boardwalks through the marsh allow you to view the efforts to restore native plants and wildlife that are vital to our ecosystem, while dirt trails through the woods allow glimpses of the lake. It’s important to note that there is no shade along the boardwalks, so if you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll want to avoid the heat of the day.

Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center Boardwalk through the Marsh - State Parks Near Houston

The park also features an 84-foot observation tower, accessible via stairs or a solar-powered elevator. From the top you’ll have incredible views of the prarie, wetlands, lake, and even the downtown skyline and San Jacinto monument.

Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center Observation Tower - State Parks Near Houston

One of the most unique features of this park is its demonstration of alternative, eco-friendly technology. There are signs and explanations showing how the park makes the most of natural resources, like collecting rainwater into large tanks and using that water to irrigate the plants.

What Can You Do At Sheldon Lake State Park?

  • Hike/walk the nature trails
  • View wildlife
  • Fish

Sheldon Lake State Park Admission Fee

  • Free

Reservations recommended.

Village Creek State Park

An hour and a half east of downtown Houston, Village Creek State Park is just north of Beaumont, at the edge of the Big Thicket. Village Creek is one of the few free-flowing creeks in Texas and the park offers plenty of opportunities for swimming and fishing in the creek. Fishing equipment is available to borrow.

The Village Creek Paddling Trail is a 21-mile paddling trail with multiple access points so you can paddle for as long or as short as you’d like, enjoying views of sandy white beaches and the east Texas pines. While the park itself doesn’t rent boats, there are a few nearby outfitters who can provide you with the equipment you need for the trail. Alternatively, you can explore eight miles of land trails on foot or by bike.

What Can You Do At Village Creek State Park?

  • Camp – multiple site options, as well as cabins available
  • Hike/Bike
  • View wildlife
  • Geocache
  • Boat – rent or bring your own
  • Fish
  • Swim

Village Creek State Park Admission Fee

  • 13 years & older : $4 Daily
  • 12 years & under: Free

Reservations recommended.

Vacation Rentals at State Parks Near Houston

A two hour drive can technically be a day trip but if you’d prefer not to drive that long in one trip, and camping isn’t your thing, here are some vacation rentals near these parks for you to consider.

Lake Livingston Family Getaway

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(Image courtesy of VRBO)

This 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house sleeps 15 and comes complete with its own deck and rope swing on Lake Livingston. The property features a boat lift and a hot tub to relax in after a full day of play.

Learn more about this property.

Huntsville Secluded Getaway

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(Image courtesy of VRBO)

This 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom rustic Texas cabin is just 15 miles from Huntsville State Park and is situated on 25 private acres. You’ll enjoy a fire pit, hammock, and trampoline for the kiddos.

Learn more about this property.

Lake Somerville Rockin Star Ranch Getaway in Brenham

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(Image courtesy of VRBO)

With multiple cabins to choose from, Rockin’ Star Ranch is the perfect home base for exploring the Lake Somerville area. Hang out with the cows and the horses, feed the chickens, and go for a hay ride. When you’re done with the rustic experience, jump into the luxurious sparkling pool to cool off!

Learn more about Rockin’ Star Ranch.

Galveston Island State Park Beach Bungalow

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This affordable 2 bedroom bungalow sleeps seven and is just one minute’s walk from the beach. Enjoy your coffee with ocean views from the covered deck, or take the short walk to a secluded beach!

Learn more about this property.

Have you been to any of these state parks near Houston? Which is your favorite?

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