With its rolling Hill Country, its gloriously beautiful desert plains and scores of rivers crisscrossing the already magnificent landscape, Texas is a veritable wonderland of natural marvels.
Texas is so large that it encompasses nearly every lyric from America the Beautiful, from shining seas to spacious skies to amber waves of grain. We hate to name drop, but the natural wonders in Texas have been documented by National Geographic and the Discovery Channel "Planet Earth" series among many others.
So to celebrate the natural beauty that is all over the Lone Star State, here are 11 of the most beautiful natural wonders in Texas.
11. Palo Duro Canyon
Winding through the Caprock Escarpment in the Texas panhandle you'll find the entrancing Palo Duro Canyon. Formed by a fork of the Red River, Palo Duro Canyon is dotted with natural cave formations and served as inspiration to famous American painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
10. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Located just outside of Llano in central Texas, Enchanted Rock is a pink granite rock outcropping that has been a part of local lore since before European settlers arrived. Native American tribes believed the rock formation to have magical powers, which lead to its naming, "Enchanted" rock.
9. Natural Bridge Caverns
Though Texas is actually home to many natural underground cave systems, Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest in the state. Located outside San Antonio, the caverns were famously discovered in 1960 by four college students from St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
8. The Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This permian-era fossil reef is a reminder that much of what is now Texas was once underwater. The Guadalupe Mountains are home to Guadalupe Peak, which at 8,479 feet, is the highest point in Texas. El Capitan Peak in the Guadalupe Mountains was used as a landmark for pioneer wagon trails during the period of westward expansion. The remains of an old wagon station can still be seen there to this day.
7. Big Thicket National Preserve
Big Thicket is part of Texas's Piney Woods region and an unbelievably beautiful forest land. The preserve lies on the coastal plains of southeast Texas and its biodiversity has led some to call it "America's Ark."
6. Gorman Falls
Located in Colorado Bend State Park, Gorman Falls is an ethereally beautiful water fall surrounded by bright green mosses and lush ferns. The falls are 60-feet high and you have to hike down a treacherous stairway covered in slippery moss to get to them, but it's well worth the trek.
5. Big Bend National Park
The big bend in the Rio Grande created a diverse environment beloved by all nature-loving Texans. The national park is comprised of the Texas side of the Chihuahuan Desert, and boasts beautiful vistas and diverse life forms from ponderosa pine trees to black bears.
4. Jacob's Well
This artesian spring sits just North of Wimberley in the Texas Hill Country. The natural well is about 12 feet in diameter by about 30 feet deep before it curves beneath the surface. The spring is fed by the Trinity aquifer, and is a popular, if hazardous, spot for swimmers and divers. The narrow opening of the well and its curving structure that extends up to 120 feet below the surface has proven fatal for some amateur divers who are unfamiliar with cave diving techniques.
3. Caddo Lake
Stretching out across the east Texas border with Louisiana, the beautiful marshlands of Caddo Lake are almost magical with its bald cypress trees rising skyward out of moss-covered waters. Caddo Lake is one of Texas's few natural lakes, and averages a mere 8-10 feet in depth. The shallow waters make it ideal for fishing among the over 70 species of fish native to the lake.
2. Padre Island National Seashore
Located on North Padre Island away from the havoc of raucous spring breakers, the Padre Island National Seashore spans 70 miles of Texas coastline. According to the U.S. National Park Service, this makes it the "longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world". The blue waters and pristine sands of Padre Island are home to nearly 400 species of birds and one of the world's largest sea turtle populations.
1. Hamilton Pool Preserve
This natural pool in the Texas Hill Country was created thousands of years ago when the surface above an underground river collapsed. This revealed the picturesque grotto that attracts visitors from all over the world. The shade of the cave and of the bald cypress trees that line the pool make it the ideal spot for swimming each hot Texas summer.