Day Trippin’ East Texas State Parks

So, you have sheltered-in-place for a couple of months. No trips to Dallas, no club meetings, no hugging or kissing friends and extended family. You have stayed a socially 6-feet away, worn rubber gloves, and made that cute little cotton mask that you wear over your N95 serious protection. You go to virtual meetings, read a lot, binge on Netflix, and turn over the garden…for a third time. You got the ‘Rona Blues. So is it not time for a day trip back to nature to recharge those body-batteries that keep you sane? Uh, yeah.

Did you know that there are ten state parks within approximately a 90-minute drive from Tyler? You can get a day pass, pack a picnic, and enjoy the day trip. Here is a list for you beginning at 12-o’clock North and traveling clockwise around the compass. Note: all mileage is from Tyler city center.

Tyler SP (15 mi.) – Our own local jewel of a park is so familiar to us. After all, we help keep it clean and green. Its 64-acre spring-fed lake and 13 miles of trails offers a breath of fresh air, literally. With three fishing piers and a boat launch, you can fish for crappie, perch, and bass or just float around. Bring your own boat.


Lake Bob Sandlin SP (66 mi.) – Although there are only 3.3 miles of trails to hike, the 9,000-acre lake makes up with some beautifully calming views. As a lagniappe, you can wander over to the Trout Pond to enjoy the purest Zen of the park.

Cooper Lake SP (78 mi.) – Double your fun because this park offers two units at just over 3,000 acres divided by the 19,300- acre Cooper Lake: Doctors Creek on the north-side and South Sulfur on the south-side. Bring your binoculars to sight all kinds of wildlife, including bald eagles, white pelicans, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer. It even boasts a sandy beach for your swimming and sunning pleasure.

Bob Sandlin

Daingerfield SP (80 mi.) – At a bit under 507 acres this park includes 80-acre Lake Daingerfield. you can enjoy a hike around the lake, or just sit, relax, and enjoy the serenity.

Caddo Lake SP (78 mi.) – A wonderfully unique park adjoining Texas only natural lake lined by bald cypress adorned with Spanish moss. With a myriad of sloughs and bayous, and access to the 26,810-acre Caddo Lake, this is a paddlers delight. For you fishermen, it is home to 70 species of fish. Just watch out for the ‘gators, K?


Mission Tejas SP (70 mi.) – Another ETCMN favorite lies just down the road from Caddo Mounds SHS, also near and dear to us. With 8.5 miles of trails one can hike through pinewoods, along an upland forest, and down to the hardwood bottomland. Do not miss the historical structures located there as well.

Martin Creek Lake SP (54 mi.) – Smaller park of 286 acres sitting on a 5,000-acre lake used as a cooling resource for a very large power plant. Offers nice color in fall with l4 miles of easy hiking trails.

Fairfield Lake SP (88 mi.) – Located in the transition zone of ecological regions (Blackland Prairies and Oak Woods & Prairies) this park of 1460 acres is a year-round home to osprey and a winter home to bald eagles. Once used as a cooling lake for a large power plant closed in 2018.


Purtis Creek SP (50 mi.) – Adjacent to a 355-acre lake known for its bass, the park has minimal hiking trails. Nice and quiet, unless it is first Monday in Canton. Still, worth a day trip.

Lake Tawakoni SP (62 mi.) – At 376 acres this is not the largest park, but it sits along a 37,879-acre reservoir of the Sabine River. An early walk along the shore will reward you with plenty of animal tracks including fox, beavers, and maybe cougar. If you are a birder, enjoy the over 200 species of birds here. Should you visit after a huge rain event, you may be lucky enough to see a megaweb. 

Before you go:


  • All reservations must be made on-line through the new reservation system.
  • Limited overnight camping begins Monday, 18 May 2020. Check your reservations if you made those before the coronavirus pandemic.
  • You do not need a fishing license to fish from shore in a state park!
  • Most lake side parks have boat rentals.
  • Always check with the park headquarters before you arrive for information.
Note: Photos taken from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

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