Texas

8 Beautiful Places in Texas That Are Worth a Visit

From award-winning architecture to iconic natural vistas, here are some of the most beautiful places in the Lone Star State

As a nature-loving hiker who also loves grand architecture, Texas provides me with a lot of opportunities to explore beautiful spaces, and to get away from the routine even if it is just for a weekend. Summer, winter, spring, fall…no matter what is the season, there are beauties across the Lone Star State that are worth a visit.

Here are eight of the places that most makes my eyes shine in the state. Check out these hidden (and not-so-hidden) treasures in Texas, and try not to be surprised by the wide range of beauty you’ll experience!

1. A Lake Near Austin to Escape The Summer Heat

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Many Texas visitors (and locals) flock to Lake Travis near Austin to escape the summer heat. The lake is one of the most popular in the state, and gets quite crowded during peak vacation seasons. However, nearby Inks Lake State Park is just as beautiful and usually much less packed.

Explore miles of hiking trails through shady hills, go scuba diving, rent a picnic pavilion, or go fishing on the lake. One of the park’s best hidden gems is Devil’s Waterhole, which rewards hikers with scenic waterfalls and tranquil waters. It’s only a short hike to get to the waterhole. Look for trail signage, and you’ll soon be wading under lush waterfalls when Valley Spring Creek is flowing freely.

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2. A Museum With One of The Best Examples of Modernist Design in The U.S.

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Located in Fort Worth, the Kimbell Art Museum is considered one of the most outstanding examples of modernist architecture in the current era. This Louis I. Kahn-designed building is as well-known as the globally recognized art collection it houses. Concrete, aluminum, travertine, and white oak combine to create one of the best examples of modernist design in the U.S. The museum also features a newer Piano Pavilion designed by another famed modernist architect, Renzo Piano. Taken together, they form one of the most celebrated museum campuses in architectural circles.

If modernist architecture draws your eye, be sure to also visit the Modern Art Museum situated directly across the street. Designed in 2002 by award-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando, it rivals the reputation of the Kimbell. You’d be hard pressed to find three more compelling examples of modernist work in one city.

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3. A Park Near Amarillo With an Impressive Canyon And Many Trails

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Second only to the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one of the country’s most expansive canyon formations. Near Amarillo, the park boasts 30 miles of hiking and equestrian trails along with camping and glamping spaces. (Yes, go glamping!) In the summer, the park also hosts nightly outdoor music performances.

If history is your thing, or you’re traveling with curious kids, the ranger program offers a host of events throughout the year. Learn about the history of the park and how the formations were formed, or schedule a driving tour with a ranger. Whether you hike, bike, or ride a horse, the park has vistas that rival its Arizona counterpart.

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4. A Beautiful Waterfall in The Big Bend National Park

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There are many beautiful spots in Big Bend National Park (and they’re extremely popular with tourists and locals alike). One of the lesser known, yet most beautiful, is Cattail Falls. The trail to the falls forks off from the popular Oak Spring Trail. Once you’re off Oak Spring, the falls are about a mile and a half from the fork. There won’t be a ton of water in the dry fall and winter months, but during the rainy season in spring and early summer the falls can be quite dramatic.

Tread carefully along the trail. Although it is an official trail, it isn’t frequented all that much. Poison oak has been known to creep up among the brush, so always be aware where you’re stepping and wear light hiking pants or tall socks, if possible, to help prevent possible exposure.

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5. An Impressive Cavern Not Far From San Antonio

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Situated halfway between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park, the Caverns of Sonora have some of the most visited cave formations in the world. This privately-owned cavern features unusual, crystal-like formations called helictites and coralloid growths. The names aren’t nearly as beautiful as the glistening mineral formations they describe.

The gift shop offers guided tours every day except Christmas, plus there is space to pan for gemstones, and even a small RV park on the grounds. Local school groups plan tours during the school year, but the caves are generally not crowded. Photographers should ask about taking a photography tour. These tours move more slowly and allow tripods for taking brilliant still shots of the formations.

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6. A Preserve With Lush Hiking Trails and a 50-Foot Waterfall

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Another limestone cave formation was created by water flowing from Hamilton Creek, just outside of Austin. The Hamilton Pool Preserve features a 50-foot waterfall and is so popular with locals it requires advance reservation (sometimes weeks in advance in summer). While this may not be a “hidden” gem to locals, it is still not widely known among tourists. It’s also one of the most beautiful waterfall formations in the country.

Beyond the waterfall, the preserve is known for its lush hiking trails filled with rare native fauna. It’s a prime location for bird watching, as it’s part of the larger Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

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7. A Natural Area Perfect For Stargazing in Texas

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Stargazing is the most popular year-round activity at Lost Maples State Natural Area, but the park is best known for its spectacular fall foliage that rivals the northeast U.S. This Texas maple grove is impressive any time of year, especially because the absence of light pollution makes it a perfect place to see the stars. But the park really shines in the cooler late-fall months when the maples turn golden then fiery red.

The park has 10 miles of trails for hikers to explore. Beyond hiking, there are the Sabinal River and Can Creek for fishing (no permits required!), or go birding and spot endangered birds that flock and nest in the area. There is no cell service in the park, so everyone has time to power down and tune into nature.

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8. One of The Most Instagrammed Buildings in The U.S.

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It might seem strange to include the State Capitol Building in a list of beautiful places, but this 1888 Neo-Renaissance building in Austin is one of the most Instagrammed buildings in the country. Built with locally sourced (and highly unusual) red granite, the building gives off a stunning glow at sunset. There’s a reason so many photography sessions occur around the building as soon as the sun starts to go down.

The interior was designed with just as much eye-catching detail. From ornate domes to delicate plaster work, the building is one of the most beautiful in the country. Guided and self-guided tours are free and offered daily through the tour guides office.

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