We all know Texas is LARGER THAN LIFE, and so are the amount of things to do in this country-sized state! There’s an endless amount of roadside attractions (after all Route 66 does come through here) as well as historical locations (can we say the Alamo?) – but there are also so many beautiful places to exist in nature for nature lovers to relax and get in touch with Mother Earth.
Let’s be honest – the city of Houston alone has so many beautiful places to explore, but sometimes you’re just itching to get away from it all just a little bit. Maybe you just need some new geocaching locations!
Depending where you are located of course in the Houston area, below are some nature lover hotspots within an hour, three hours, six and twelve hours from Houston.
The nature lover’s road trip ideas from Houston are by no means an exhaustive list – these are just some great starter points to get your road trip research going! I do NOT list “hiking trails” below because since they are all in nature it is assumed all locations have some sort of hiking or walking areas.
Nature Lover Locations One Hour or Less from Houston
Don’t have time or money to take an extended vacation or road trip? Explore the natural beauty of the surrounding Houston area! All of these locations are great for a quick walk or light hiking!
Here is a list of nature lover’s destinations that are within an hours drive from Houston:
- Hermann Park (the Houston Zoo is located here!)
- Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (maintained garden area)
- Lake Houston Wilderness Park (great spots for camping!)
- Sam Houston National Forest (great for camping, birdwatching & fishing! Don’t miss the Chinquapin Trail!)
- Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens (maintained garden area)
- Galveston Island (beaches, fishing, kayaking & birdwatching! Side note – while more touristy & lively area, nearby Kemah Boardwalk also offers beautiful views & attractions)
- San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site (historic site with walking trails)
- Buffalo Bayou Park (biking trails and kayaking with a skyline view of Houston)
- Brazos Bend State Park (nature center, wildlife, biking, fishing, observatory & camping)
- Armand Bayou Nature Center (coastal marsh environment – great for birdwatching!)
- Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center (diverse ecosystems, handicap friendly trails, playgrounds, historic village, nature center)
Explore Nature Three Hours or Less from Houston
Itching for a break from the stress of life and want to feel like you’re getting a real vacation not too far from home? These are some great road trip destinations that will surround you with calmness and nature just a few hours from the Houston area.
Here is a list of nature lover’s destinations that are within three hours drive from Houston:
- Big Thicket National Preserve (diverse plants, animals and ecosystems including forest, swamp and prairie!)
- Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (known for its whooping cranes!)
- Rockport Beach Park
- Goose Island State Park
- McKinney Falls State Park (waterfalls, swimming & fishing!)
- Lost Maples State Natural Area (beautiful hiking & landscape photography spot!)
- Stephen F. Austin State Park (fishing & picnic along the Brazos River!)
- Matagorda Bay Nature Park (kayaking, birdwatching, and wildlife in coastal marshes!)
- Lake Livingston State Park (boating, fishing, & camping – one of Texas’ largest lakes!)
Mother Earth’s Nature Six Hours or Less from Houston
Are you ready to really kick back and settle in for at least a few days? These road trip ideas will give you plenty of scenic views and variety!
Here is a list of nature lover’s destinations that are within six hours drive from Houston:
- Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (historic unique monolith, climbing, camping, cave)
- Guadalupe River State Park (tube floating, camping, bike, bike, horseback riding, fishing)
- Padre Island National Seashore (beaches, birdwatching, sea turtles)
- Caddo Lake (cypress trees & Spanish moss with diverse wildlife, canoe/kayaking & camping)
- Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas (dig & keep diamonds, camping, fishing)
- Cedar Ridge Preserve (Audubon nature preserve area)
- Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana (pine forest with over 600,000 acres, horseback riding, carnivorous plant bogs, fish, camp)
- Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana (largest swamp & wetlands in the United States)
- City Park, New Orleans (beautiful mix of trails, art, beignets, wildlife, and children’s areas)
- Fontainebleau State Park, Louisiana (small beach and boardwalk in marsh & camping)
Soak in the Beauty of Nature Twelve Hours or Less from Houston
Eventually you need a good long vacation away from the normal routine. Hop in the car and plan out some of these unquestionably epic and adventurous road trips!
Here is a list of nature lover’s destinations that are within twelve hours drive from Houston:
- Gulf Islands National Seashore – This stunning destination of over 200 square miles requires a post all to itself and will require further research than I have time to break down in this post. Look up some of our favorite destinations and outdoor recreation in Davis Bayou, Biloxi, Gulf Shores, Fort Pickens & Pensacola, Navarre, Destin, etc.
- Louisiana Gulf Coast Beaches (camp & fish right on the beach for free at Holly Beach and Rutherford Beach or for around $20 at Cypremort Point)
- Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico (stunning cave system, bat flight, diverse wildlife)
- Mississippi Petrified Forest (unique geologic location set around trails & camping)
- Desoto National Forest, Mississippi (ATV, camping, bike, canoe, horseback riding, fish, beach)
- Talladega National Forest, Alabama (bike, camp, fish, horseback riding, hunt, ATV, boat, swim)
- Big Bend National Park (camping, mountains & desert, ruins, limestone cliffs, hot springs, pictographs)
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park (2nd largest canyon in the US, bike, wildlife, geocaching, geologic locations, camping, ziplining, cave, horseback riding, amphitheater)
- Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas (9 historic bathhouses, thermal springs, geological formations, wildlife, camping, mountain tower, fish)
- Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge (refuge for endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes & other migratory birds)
- Daulphin Island, Alabama (ferry service; beaches, historic cannons & blacksmith shop & mounds, bird sanctuary, forest & swamp, aquarium, marsh boardwalk, fishing)
- Tuskegee National Forest, Alabama (camping, bird watching, swimming, canoeing, biking, hunting, horseback riding)
- Waterfalls in Alabama (scenic waterfalls in Alabama list here)
What are you waiting for?! Grab your keys, head out your front door and GO! Connect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors. There is no shortage of beautiful views to help settle you into a zen place again.