Outdoor Activity of The Month

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Let's Go Biking- February

Biking is a great way to be active in the outdoors for the entire family. Hitting the trails is easier than ever for all skill levels with so many all-weather-trails in most urban areas. All-weather-trails have a more durable surface than a mountain bike trail or a BMX track. No matter what type of trail your prefer, each can take you on a journey in nature.

Before you jump on your bike and ride off into the sunset, take the time for a few safety checks. First, know your limits and plan a route that is suited to you and your biking companions. Second, make sure your bike is in good working order and your tires are properly inflated. Third, take the time to make sure your helmet is adjusted properly. Fourth, review the rules of the park and make sure you yield to horses and foot traffic.

Here are some great biking trails for all levels. See how many you and your family can explore in the month of Feb. You can find more biking trails at www.naturerockstexas.org.

Lake Mineral Wells Trailway: This 20 mile trail is a converted 1899 railroad...

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Camping with Families- November

What is it that makes camping special to you? Maybe it’s because the majority of us spend our lives sleeping in cozy beds surrounded by four solid walls that sleeping outside on the ground feeds our inner animal and satisfies our need to be connected to nature.

Camping with other families is a great way to share in the planning, gear and even cooking. It's also a great way for parents to be able to relax when the kids are engaged with each other. But even if you can't find another family to camp with, we hope you will explore the natural wonders of Texas, gaze up at the stars and cook a meal over an open flame.

There are many resources to help you and your family or even a larger group get out to camp. The National Parks Foundation wants to give ever family who has a 4th grader a National Parks Pass, Texas Parks and Wildlife always allows children 12 and under in for free, and bigger groups can get a...

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Exploring the Skies at Night- October

As day dwellers, the nighttime is something that we rarely get to fully appreciate. It surrounds us with a whole new array of wildlife and the cape of darkness that covers everything is an unreal feeling. The night sky in particular is a magical wonder that can make us realize a number of things. Looking out into the sea of endless stars, you may realize how small we are in comparison with the rest of the universe.

The stars seem to speak to us and invite us to a higher level of understanding. Dark skies serve to illuminate the reality that civilization does so well to cover up. For those of you that are longing for that reality and to escape the city lights, here is a list of some of the best places to go in Texas to appreciate the night:

Big Bend National Park- This park is one of the largest, most remote, and least-visited national parks in the lower 48 United States. Its great distance from major urban centers renders the skies over Big Bend among the darkest in North America.

...

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Family Floating Adventures- September

Summer is a great time to be on the water in Texas either kayaking, canoeing, tubing or boating. With all the recent rains, the rivers, lakes and bays are full and ready for families to get out and enjoy them. Before you head out for a family adventure here are some tips to make sure you enjoy the water safely.

1. Make sure someone knows where you are going and it is best to file a trip plan that has a map where you will be recreating.

2. Make sure all family members, including yourself, has a proper fitting life jacket.

3. Check your craft for leaks.

4. Make sure the lake, river or bay that you are visiting is open. With all the recent flooding and heavy rains, many boat launches are still closed.

5. Stay clear of debris piles in the water and near the shore.

6. Check the weather.

7. Make sure you and your children know how to swim.

You can find even more safety tips at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website.

TPWD and the National Park...

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30 Places to Swim and Keep Cool This Summer- July

Texas is known for hot summers. But did you also know that Texas has some amazing lakes, swimming holes, beaches and rivers to cool off in? Before air conditioner a few of these swimming holes where the only way for people to keep cool during the long hot summers. Your family can still enjoy their natural splendor while splashing around in the cool waters.

Much of the state had good rains this spring which means many lakes and rivers are finally full and ready to enjoy. Please read the swimming safety tips and make sure you, and your family know your limits when swimming. Many lake, river and beach areas do not have posted lifeguards.

Below are 30 great swimming spots to enjoy for 30 days of activity in the summer.

Central Texas:

Barton Springs- Austin, TX- spring fed pool

Deep Eddie Pool- Austin, TX- spring fed...

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Texas Nature Challenge- June

Take your family on a journey this spring and summer to some of the coolest outdoor sites in Texas, including 14 state parks. By participating in this year’s Texas Nature Challenge, families or teams visit certain sites throughout the state and record what they see, do or make.

Texas A&M Forest Service and other outdoor agencies, including Texas Children in Nature, organized TNC to help families discover amazing nature spaces within their communities. Children today spend an average of seven hours a day indoors and only minutes playing in nature, but research shows children are healthier, happier and smarter when they learn and play outdoors.

“Many people consider nature to be a far away place and don’t see it as something they have a daily connection with already,” said Jennifer Bristol, director of Texas Children in Nature. “TNC gives families a reason to get outdoors and learn what nature exists in their own community.”...

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Art in Nature

From Walt Disney to Monet, artist near and far have looked to nature to inspire them. Art can be a watercolor painting or a simple arrangement of rocks and sticks, or a photo. It's easy to find inspiration when the world is in bloom in Texas during the spring when the land is painted with greens, blues, reds and yellows.

Creativity is an important part of a child's development that supports critical thinking and fine motor skills. Being creative can mean everything from telling stories, making music, building sand castles or forts, taking photos, drawing, sculpting or where ever a child's imagination takes them.

Here are some of the best places for kids and adults to get inspired:

Austin: The best place to find art and nature blended together is at the Contemporary Art Museum of Austin / Laguna Gloria. For decades the museum offers trails that meander through live oak groves with art installations positioned randomly along the walk. They even offer "Action Pack" for kids to explore with, art...

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Let's Take a Bike Ride

Biking is a great way to get out and enjoy nature as a family and Texas has miles of easy to advanced trails to explore. Whether peddling down an urban bike path or exploring a single track on a mountain bike, biking offers a different perspective of nature. We would like to highlight some of the best family friendly places to go for a bike ride in your community.

Austin:

The Southern Walnut Creek Trail is Austin's first Urban Trail. The trail is open for public use and begins at Govalle Park in East Austin and ends in the vicinity of Johnny Morris Road and Daffen Lane. The trail is approximately 7.3 miles in length and consists of a 10' wide concrete trail with 2' shoulders. The trail meanders along the Walnut Creek and offers nice birding and a view of the city not otherwise seen by many. https://austintexas.gov/page/walnut-creek-trail-system-update-january-15-2016

Caprock:

Caprock Canyon State Park and Trailway has 16 miles of...

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Get Off the Couch with Geocaching

Worried your child is spending too much time with media? Can’t get them off the couch to go play outdoors? Don’t despair, you are not alone and there is a cool way to change that trend.

Geocaching is a great way to get kids outdoors and let them keep an electronic device in their hand. Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt! People hide geocaches everywhere—from just down the street to the most remote wilderness areas. There are about 2 million geocaches worldwide and many are hidden in your state parks.

What is a geocache?

Geo means earth and cache means hidden item. Geocaches range from very small (like a film canister) to large (such as a metal lunch box). Many are camouflaged, but they are not buried. Geocaches hold things like a log book to sign your name, tradable items for kids and adults, and more.

How do I find a geocache?

Use a GPS unit or smartphone app to find the coordinates (the exact location) of a geocache nearby. Then set out on your adventure, enjoying the...

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Its Hot- Let's Go Swimming

Texas is known for hot summers. But did you also know that Texas has some amazing lakes, swimming holes, beaches and rivers to cool off in? Before air conditioner a few of these swimming holes where the only way for people to keep cool during the long hot summers. Your family can still enjoy their natural splendor while splashing around in the cool waters.

With all the rains of the spring rains of 2015 many lakes and rivers are finally full and ready to enjoy. Please read the swimming safety tips and make sure you and your family know your limits when swimming. Many natural swimming areas do not have posted lifeguards.

Below are 30 great swimming spots to enjoy for 30 days of activity in the summer.

Central Texas:

Barton Springs- Austin, TX- spring fed pool

Deep Eddie Pool- Austin, TX- spring fed pool

...

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Boating and Floating

July is a great time to be on the water in Texas either kayaking, canoeing, tubing or boating. With all the recent rains, the rivers, lakes and bays are full and ready for families to get out and enjoy them.

A few tips before you jump in:

1. Make sure someone knows where you are going and it is best to file a trip plan that has a map where you will be recreating.

2. Make sure all family members, including yourself, has a proper fitting life jacket.

3. Check your craft for leaks.

4. Make sure the lake, river or bay that you are visiting is open. With all the recent flooding and heavy rains, many boat launches are still closed.

5. Stay clear of debris piles in the water and near the shore.

6. Check the weather.

You can find even more safety tips at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website.

Now you just have to find the perfect place to visit that has access to the type of water you want to enjoy....

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Family Picnics in the Park

The National Park Service wants to see "Every Kid in a Park" and so do we! But we would also love to see every family in a park. Picnicking is one of the many ways you can turn "family time" into an outdoor activity.

May's Outdoor Activity of the Month is picnicking. So gather the family and friends together to come up with creative ways to share a meal together at your favorite park or explore a new natural area. Picnicking is a low key way for multiple generation relatives to gather together to spend time in nature, share stories and slow down to just be together. Here are some fun ways you can spice up your picnic events.

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Take the Perfect Photo

Capture memories of your time in nature, from magnificent sunsets to playful moments with family and friends. Below we have some suggested places to go to capture get images in nature with your family. There are so many parks and green spaces that you can also visit via or other website www.naturerockstexas.org.

Beaches/Ocean

Galveston Island State Park, Galveston

Sea Rim State Park, Sabine Pass

Mustang Island State Park, Port Aransas

Birds

McKinney Falls State Park

World Birding Centers

Canyons

Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque

...

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Let's Go Biking

There is almost a right of passage for a child in learning how to ride a bike. Once a child learns to ride, they will have a lifelong option for getting into the outdoors and exploring trails, back roads and even their own neighborhood in an exiting way.

Texas has so many great places to spend some time riding bikes as a family, with friends or just on your own. No matter where you chose to ride, always wear a helmet. Bring a map, and carry plenty of water, extra snacks, and bike repair equipment. Consider wearing reflective clothing and lights to help motorists see you. Happy cycling!

Austin:

Pace Bend Park- single track

Walnut Creek Metro Park- single track and dirt bike

Buescher State Park- single track and road biking

...

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First Day Hikes

Don’t procrastinate on your New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Head outdoors and hit the trail on Jan. 1 at one of the dozens of Texas state parks hosting First Day Hikes.

New Year’s Day events earlier this year attracted more than 1,500 people, who covered almost 6,000 trail miles in 59 Texas state parks. The hiking and paddling events were part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes occurring in state parks throughout the nation to help people get a healthy jump on the New Year.

Jan. 1, 2015 will mark the fourth consecutive year that Texas state parks will participate in the nation’s First Day Hikes initiative, which is being coordinated by the National Association of State Park Directors. This past New Year’s Day, for the first time, First Day Hikes took place in all 50 states, drawing nearly 28,000 people who hiked 68,811 miles. First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a Massachusetts state park.

“Our third annual First Day Hikes initiative...

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Fall Camping Fun

November and December are such great months to camp in Texas. The weather is cool enough to camp under the stars and enjoy a campfire. Most families think they have to take a long road trip to find a great place to camp, but in reality there are many wonderful parks that allow camping that are close to most metropolitan areas. State Parks are a good place to start looking, but you might also consider- Army Corp of Engineer Parks, National Parks and Recreation areas, County Parks, River Authorities, National Forest, and private campgrounds.

First time camping can be intimidating. Texas State Parks offers the Texas Outdoor Family program that teach families everything they need to know about camping and empower them with outdoor skills that will last a...

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Texas Paddling Trails

Texas has thousands of miles of rivers, lakes and coastline that for families to enjoy exploring via paddling in a canoe, kayak or standup- paddle board. The Texas Paddling Trails is a program to develop public inland and coastal paddling trails throughout the state and support these trails with maps, signage, fishing and wildlife-viewing information, and more! These trails provide well-mapped accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for all levels of paddling experience. The paddling trails team is continually working with new community partners, so check back often for new trails to paddle, fish, and explore.

Recommended Safety Tips

  • always make sure every person in the water craft has a lifejacket,
  • never paddle alone,
  • always file a "float plan": tell someone where you are going and when you are expected to return,
  • check weather forecasts,
  • carry a map of the stream or chart of the bay so you can find your location at any time,
  • carry a...
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Grab Your Fishing Pole and Get Outside

Fishing in a Texas State Park or local Neighborhood Fishin’ lake stocked with fish is fun, affordable and a great way for family and friends to be together in nature. Texas has miles of coastlines for saltwater fishing and hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams for freshwater fishing that can be enjoyed year-round.

Where to Fish

· Texas State Parks: over 70 parks offer fresh or saltwater fishing from shore, pier or boat. Everyone fishes for free (no licenses are required) and many state parks parks offer tackle-loaner programs and special fishing classes and events.

· Local Neighborhood Fishin’ lakes:...

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April is for the Birds

Did you know that “birding” is the most popular sport in the United States? Over 51 million people bird watch in their backyards, state and local parks and even at birding competitions! April is a great time to get outdoors with your family, and birding is an activity the whole family can enjoy— even while hiking, biking or picnicking.

Texas has over 630 species of birds that either live year-round here or migrate through in spring and fall. Some of the best places to view migrating and year-round birds are at near-by Audubon or nature centers, State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges or along the miles of coast line of the Gulf Coast. Many parks and nature centers host guided bird walks, workshops and other birding events. South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley is also home to the World Birding Centers that offer some of the...

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Biking in Texas

Did you and your family make a commitment to be healthier and more active this year? Well- you are in luck. This month’s Outdoor Activity of the Month is – Biking! So step out your front door, strap on your helmet and start pedaling. In addition to the miles of bike paths in the cities, most local, state and national parks also offer hundreds of miles of bike trails that range from easy to extreme.

When biking with your family, make sure you choose a trail that is right for your skill level, take snacks and water, wear your helmet and make sure to take plenty of breaks at points of interest. Meandering along a bike path is a great way to explore in nature and see things from a different perspective.

Here are some recommended bike paths or trails around the state that range from beginner to extreme:

San Antonio River Trail- 15 miles of biking and walking trail that travels along the river to the...

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Let's Go Hiking

The Outdoor Activity of the Month for January is Hiking! If you made a new year’s resolution to get fit and be outside more, then Texas is the place you want to be. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails throughout the state that range from short nature walks, to aggressive overnight camping trips. Plan your next hike at a state park by exploring a state park webpage Links to trail maps are on the right-hand side of the page. Remember to pack extra food and water, clothing, a flashlight and a trail map. Keep your parks beautiful by following the Leave No Trace principles, including staying on the trails and discarding trash.

Family-friendly Hikes

Trails suitable for parents and children, keep an eye out for "Nature Trails" and "Interpretive Trails," which generally take less than an hour to hike. Also consider Geocaching to add excitement to a family hike. You can find all sorts of family- friendly walks at...

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Family Gatherings

‘Tis the Season for Family Gatherings at your state or local parks.

Spend a weekend at one of the 70 state parks or many local parks that offer group facilities and create a new holiday tradition in the great outdoors. Serve turkey and all the trimmings in a park recreation hall equipped with a full kitchen or gather near a roaring fireplace in an open-air pavilion to sing carols and rejoice in the season.

Just in time for the holidays, Texas Parks and Wildlife is hosting an outdoor cooking contest that will run until Dec. 8. Submit your favorite recipes for a chance to win a Texas Outdoor Family workshop of your choosing for up to six people. The dishes can be anything from appetizers to entrees to desserts that can be prepared outdoors or made at home. A panel of judges will choose the top 10 entries and feature them on TPWD’s website and the...

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Let's Go Camping!

If enjoying cool, crisp evenings snuggled up to a crackling campfire or simply pitching a tent beneath the stars with your family sounds appealing, then head to a Texas State Park, National Park, National Forest or nearby neighborhood park where you can watch the leaves turn and shooting stars light up the heavens while making lasting memories.

Texas State Parks and other local parks offer a variety of ways to stay overnight — comfortable cabins, screened shelters or the ideal campsite for your tent or RV. Reservations fill up quickly during this popular camping season, so book your next overnight trip today with TPWD, LCRA,...

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History is Better Outside!

History and cultural treasures come alive in Texas State Parks this October! From playing land/sea/air games aboard the historic Battleship Texas, to getting a taste of the outdoors at a living history farm, or hiking to view 10,000 year old rock art— bring your family closer to the rich cultural history of Texas!

But that’s only the beginning. Many state parks offer guided tours of 19th century missions, military frontier forts, and Civilian Conservation Corps structures or special history events and presentations— like The First Regular Army or “Buffalo Soldiers”. Plus, October is Texas Archeology Month, and Texas State Parks feature some of the best Native American pictographs in the nation.

Find a list of featured historical events and locations

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Beat the Heat: Get Out and Swim!

Don’t let the hot weather discourage you from enjoying nature. Instead, take advantage of this Texas heat by going for a refreshing swim! Join the thousands of Texans who take their families swimming at local and state parks to beat the heat. After all, swimming is a blast and has a whole range of health benefits for you and your children! For example, swimming can be a factor in preventing childhood obesity and has been linked to reduced juvenile diabetes. Additionally, studies show that kids who play and learn outside are “healthier, happier, smarter.”

Don’t know where to go swimming yet? Whether you’re looking to go swimming in a lake, creek, river, the ocean or a good old swimming pool, Texas State Parks have got you covered. With over 60 places to swim in...

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July is Paddling Month

Keep cool this summer and have fun with your family! Go paddling in a state park or along a designated Texas Paddling Trail. On the water, it’s easier than ever to experience a closer view of wildlife and scenery! Many state parks offer places that will rent you the equipment you need: canoes, kayaks, and life-jackets, as well as teach paddling basics. There are 57 designated Texas Paddling Trails provide well-mapped, accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for all levels of paddling experience. Visit the TPWD paddling website for trail maps and photos, info on canoe/kayak rentals, directions to designated access sites and fishing and wildlife information.

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April is Birding Month

Did you know Texas has over 630 species of birds, more than any other state? April is a great time to get outdoors with your family, and birding is an activity the whole family can enjoy— even while hiking, biking or picnicking. Texas state parks are some of the best places to view birds, and many host guided bird walks, workshops and other birding events. Visit the calendar to find a birding event near you.

Find out where the birds are in your neck of the woods.

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