1. Caprock Canyons (Quitaque)
Although "hiding" in very plain sight, this beautiful canyon doesn't get nearly enough recognition. It always gets overshadowed by Palo Duro, which is obviously gorgeous, but both are breathtaking in their own right and need to be treated as such. This canyon is much smaller, so you'll be able to see more of it, especially if your time is limited. There's also much more lush greenery to admire as you hike through the park.
2. Westcave Preserve (Round Mountain)
You get two for the price of one here - Westcave is right down the road from Hamilton Pool, which, although no longer a hidden gem, is one of the most beautiful places in Texas. This preserve, however, is definitely out of the public eye. That's a crying shame, because it's simply stunning. A short, guided tour through the woods gives way to this pristine grotto bursting with plant life on all sides. It's a pretty magical place, no doubt.
3. Cattail Falls (Big Bend National Park)
I'd be lying if I said I knew how to access this waterfall, but I'll be darned if I don't try one day. Apparently, a group of hikers stumbled upon it a long time ago after wandering off the path, and since then it's been an elusive spot that everyone else longs to see in person. Pictured above is only the top portion of the falls - below this, it becomes much steeper and extends almost 100 feet down the side of the Chisos Mountains.
4. Medina River (Bandera)
It's easy to overlook certain rivers in Texas since we have so many. Between the Guadalupe, Comal, San Marcos, Colorado, and several others, it's no secret why not everyone has heard of the Medina. It truly is a diamond in the rough with trees lining either side and hanging over the water like a canopy. Plus, the crystal-clear water is an added bonus that many other rivers in Central Texas can't boast.
5. Shangri La Botanical Gardens (Orange)
I've been to plenty of botanical gardens in Texas, and Shangri La always rises above them all. I don't know what it is exactly - maybe a combination of the friendly staff members who are so devoted to teaching Southeast Texas about nature and the diversity of the exhibits. Whatever it is that makes this place so special, I want everyone to experience it for themselves.
6. Possum Kingdom Lake (Caddo)
This water is supposedly some of the bluest in Texas, with over 300 miles of shoreline and plenty of scenic areas to stop and have a picnic or just bask in the tranquility of the gentle lakeside breeze. It's a popular fishing spot, and there are air-conditioned cabins as well as primitive campgrounds for overnight guests.
7. Bracken Bat Cave (San Antonio)
Did you know there's a place with even more bats than the Congress Ave bridge? Bracken Cave holds the largest bat colony in the entire world. Each summer night at dusk, over 20 million of the creatures fill the sky with their presence. And with less of a cult-like following than its counterpart in Austin, you can get a closer view here without being blocked by annoying tourists.
8. Mayfield Park (Austin)
This park lets you get up close and personal with, in my opinion, one of Earth's most majestic creatures - the peacock. It's truly an incredible sight when the males extend their vibrant feathers like a fan and strut around in the hopes of attracting a female mate. There are hundreds of them scattered around the area. I've even seen a few way up high in the treetops!
9. Dead Man's Hole (Marble Falls)
Although it has a rather somber history, Dead Man's Hole serves as both an educational lesson about the Civil War and a way to pay homage to those who perished in its depths. It was a dumping ground used by Confederates to dispose of Union sympathizers. Many years later, sacks of bones were recovered from the hole and analyzed for DNA, but any trace of the humans they once belonged to was long gone.
10. Dinosaur Valley State Park (Glen Rose)
Ever wanted to see how your footprint compares to that of a dinosaur? If so, you're in luck. At this state park, you'll find hundreds of dinosaur footprint fossils preserved in the rock. The kids will have a blast here - I bet some of the footprints are as big as them!
Have you ever been to any of these places? Which one is your favorite? Are there any other hidden gems in Texas that we’ve still managed to skip over?