Exploring Houston’s Spectacular National Parks: Unmissable Escapades in 2023

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The extensive and breathtaking landscape of Houston possesses a considerable portion of Texas’s natural resources. Sprinkled with a few national and state parks, this region demonstrates that there is more to this place than mere deserts. Enriched with exotic plant life and a prosperous population of untamed animals, these Houston national parks are an excellent destination for every nature enthusiast and wildlife lover exploring this city in Texas. Where one park may be filled with a dense forest, another may lead you across rocky hills and large rocks to provide you with the most astonishing panoramas. Overall, the four national parks mentioned below will not disappoint the thrill-seeker within you.

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4 Must-Visit National Parks In And Around Houston

Situated in and around the city of Houston, these national parks in the Houston area offer something distinct to every visitor and are certain to captivate you!

1. Big Thicket National Preserve

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Often called the American Ark and a biological crossroads of North America due to its intricate biodiversity, this remarkable nature reserve and protected forest region is one of the finest national parks to explore in Houston. It is among the very few places in Texas where significantly different species and forms of life coexist harmoniously. While it also shelters various unique species of plants and animals, it is this aspect of coexistence that attracts people here and leaves them amazed.

The Big Thicket National Preserve located in southeast Texas is also renowned for providing over 40 miles of hiking trails, activities like canoeing, kayaking, camping, and countless opportunities for birdwatching. In terms of animal life, the park features a diverse combination of pine, hardwood, and cypress forests, along with lush meadows and various blackwater swamps that entice a variety of water birds.

Location: FM 420, Kountze, TX 77625, USAEntrance fee: NonePark hours: Open every dayVisitor center hours: 9 AM – 5 PMNearby accommodations: Relax Inn Motel, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Super 8, The Stagecoach InnDistance from Houston: 157 km

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2. Padre Island National Seashore

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The Padre Island National Seashore boasts the title of being the longest expanse of undeveloped barrier island in the world with pride! It’s a unique national park near Houston that welcomes visitors with the most extraordinary and stunning sights. Separating the Gulf of Mexico from the hypersaline lagoon Laguna Madre, this national reserve astonishes travelers with its awe-inspiring white sand beaches stretching up to 70 miles, along with picturesque sand dunes, picture-perfect prairies, wind tidal flats teeming with life, and pleasantly warm ocean water. This warm water in turn provides excellent opportunities for visitors to go for a swim, fish, sail, and windsurf.

Once within the boundaries of this park, travelers can engage in a variety of other activities as well, including beachcombing, birdwatching, wildlife spotting, camping, and much more. In addition to the 70-mile coastline, the protected areas within this park serve as safe nesting grounds for the rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and provide shelter for over 380 species of birds, both resident and migratory. Aside from its natural treasures, its rich history and the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554 also contribute to making it one of the finest national parks near Houston. The park is conveniently located just a 15-minute drive away from downtown Corpus Christi.

Location: 20420 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418, USAEntry fee: The following fees are charged per vehicle.

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 every day of the week

Places to stay nearby: Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort, Best Western Padre Island, Passport Inn Corpus Christi, Motel 6Distance from Houston: 387 km

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Sheldon Lake State Park

3. Sheldon Lake State Park

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The Sheldon Lake State Park and reservoir is just as impressive as the other national parks in Houston due to its vast size and diverse range of ecology it supports. The main attraction of the Sheldon Lake State Park in Houston is the artificial reservoir that was created during World War II to obtain fresh water for shipbuilding and shipping industries. It was later acquired by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which transformed it into a designated waterfowl sanctuary and public fishing site known as Lake Houston.

Currently, Sheldon Lake is one of the largest areas for birdwatching in the US thanks to its abundant bird population. The latest SLSP bird checklist has reported that over 249 species of birds currently inhabit the park, a number that increases each spring with the arrival of migratory birds seeking temporary refuge here. It is essentially Texas’ most expansive colony of inland waterbirds and a true delight for birdwatchers who are captivated by the constant sights and sounds of avian life in this colony, particularly around the west levee. Currently, 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 avian observation, the lake also functions as an excellent location for angling ever since the lake had been stocked with assorted breeds of fish in order to enhance the reservoir’s functionality for recreational fishing. It is among the numerous favored activities to engage in within this park. Amidst the numerous breeds of fish in the lake, the most prevalent ones include catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish.

Location: 14140 Garrett Rd, Houston, TX 77044-6418Entrance fee: NoneOperating hours: 8 AM – 5 PMAccommodation options nearby: Scottish Inns & Suites, Candlewood Suites Kingwood, Clarion Inn, Best Western Plus Houston Atascocita InnDistance from Houston: 26 km

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