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These LCRA Parks are perfect for a road trip out of Houston

by Staff

Lake Bastrop North Shore Park

Lower Colorado River Authority/Handout

When the weather is nice and outdoor adventure beckons, Houstonians have top-tier choices of where to spend their time. Most are familiar with Texas’ state and national parks; however, another park system in the Lone Star State has several close-to-Houston green spaces worth visiting. 

From kayaking in lakes, bays, and the Colorado River to fishing, bird watching, and zip lining, LCRA parks offer a variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Each park provides different styles of accommodation, including campsites, RV hookups, cabins, and glamping opportunities. LCRA parks are pet-friendly and allow leashed pets in common areas, but only two, Black Rock Park and Lake Bastrop South Shore Park offer pet-friendly accommodations.  

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Unlike Texas Parks and Wildlife, which is funded by tax dollars, LCRA Parks are maintained by park fee revenue. Admission to most LCRA parks is free for children under 12, $5 for adults, and $2 for seniors and disabled parkgoers. Annual park passes are available for between $100 to $240, depending on the pass type. 

In addition to many outdoor adventures, LCRA parks offer a packed events calendar of curated activities. For a nominal fee, guests can participate in classes on outdoor survival skills, archery, mountain biking, campfire cooking, and so much more. 

With so many parks to explore, we’ve rounded up three that should be at the top of your road trip bucket list. Whether looking for adventure, stunning landscapes, or simply relaxing in nature, there is something for everyone. 

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Erich Schlegel via LCRA/Handout

Located just two hours southwest of Houston, Matagorda Bay Nature Park is the southernmost park in the LCRA system. A great place to take in beautiful beach sunsets, the park is located at the crossroads of the Colorado River and the Gulf of Mexico, making the flora and fauna of the area ecologically diverse. In addition to rest and relaxation, activities include birdwatching, fishing, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, and boating. Guests can also enjoy non-motorized watercraft rentals and mini-golf. 

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The park offers a variety of accommodations, including newly built bungalows that sleep groups of 6 to 8. The bungalows are decorated with a coastal vibe and include fully equipped kitchens, private decks, and gas grills. Visitors can also rent airstream campers, enjoy RV campsites with full hookups, and waterfront campsites. 

Pro Tip: For the ultimate beachcombing experience, kayak across the river during low tide to find a beach brimming with untouched shells of all shapes and sizes and keep an eye out for Texas’ state shell, the lightning whelk.

McKinney Roughs Nature Park

McKinney Roughs Nature Park

McKinney Roughs Nature Park

Lower Colorado River Authority/Handout

Birders, hikers, and mountain bikers can customize their adventure at this park, only two and a half hours northwest of Houston. Visitors can explore 16 hiking trails and 18 miles of multi-use trails rated for all experience levels. Adventure seekers can fly through the trees with Zip Lost Pines or enjoy horseback riding, mountain biking, and UTV tours. The park offers serene bird viewing areas for visitors looking for calmer options.

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With a bunkhouse that sleeps up to 10 and a large group hall with a commercial kitchen, the park is excellent for large gatherings, special events, and family reunions. Don’t worry about hauling bedding and towels from home; they are included with an overnight stay. 

Pro Tip: McKinney Roughs Nature Park is the only LCRA park location that offers a Challenge Course and rock climbing wall. The versatile challenge course provides three levels of activities, while the rock wall is a great way to test your climbing skills. 

Lake Bastrop North Shore Park

Lake Bastrop North Shore Park

Lake Bastrop North Shore Park

Lower Colorado River Authority/Handout

Those wanting a Texas-sized glamping experience should check out Lake Bastrop North Shore Park which offers tent camping, RV amenities, and Glat USA glamping options about two hours northwest of Houston. The glamping accommodations sleep up to six and include a selection of cabins and safari-style tents equipped with air conditioning and heating, a dining area, a mini fridge, and a portable propane stove. 

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Watersports are popular at the park, including pier fishing, swimming, rafting, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and pontoon boat rentals. Mountain bikers and hikers will find plenty of beginner to intermediate-level trails to choose from. Visitors can enjoy mini golf, a playground, and plenty of designated picnic spots. 

Pro Tip: Got a little adventurer on your hands? Both Lake Bastrop North and South Shore Parks offer Corcl rentals. The small round paddle boats make it easy for little ones to paddle quickly and easily through the water using a kayak paddle. 

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