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15 Outdoor Activities That Are Best Enjoyed In Texas

The Great Outdoors have never been greater. If you haven't experienced these wonders for yourself, it's high time you took a trip down to Texas.

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1. Hiking at Big Bend National Park

The largest national park in Texas offers 150 miles of spectacular hiking. The view from the South Rim, pictured above, is one of the signature destinations.

2. Floating the Guadalupe River

dustin larimer / CC BY-SA http://2.0 / Via Flickr: dustinlarimer

Floatin', as it's locally known, is a strong contender for favorite state pastime. Visitors can float many rivers in Texas, but the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers in New Braunfels are the favorites.

3. Go on a Fauna Walk at the Big Thicket

The Big Thicket National Preserve in East Texas was the first area in the country to be dedicated as a National Preserve. The 100,000-acre forest has incredible biodiversity, with nine distinct ecosystems, and is home to numerous orchid and carnivorous plant species, as well as many animals unique to the region.

4. Swimming at Hamilton Pool

K.Muncie / CC BY-SA http://2.0 / Via Flickr: kmuncie

The Hamilton Pool Preserve outside of Austin is perhaps Texas' grandest watering hole. The beautiful limestone formation arcing over the spring-fed waters is a sight to behold. But you better show up early — the park is popular and reaches capacity on weekends.

6. Kiteboarding at South Padre Island

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South Padre is a popular beach destination in South Texas for both families and college students. But if you want to take it to the next level, try kitesurfing. The shallow waters and the wind of the Laguna Madre create ideal conditions for beginners and experts alike. And don't worry, you can get lessons.

7. Spelunking at Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock is a massive bald granite dome rising above the Texas Hill County. While it's fun to summit, real adventurers should bring a headlamp and make it through the rock's 1,000-foot-long cave. It's basically a long tunnel and requires you to crawl and slide for most of the way. But if that's your kind of excitement, you'll be in a subterranean paradise.

8. Rafting the Santa Elena Canyon

Robert Hensley / CC BY http://2.0 / Via Flickr: roberthensley

The Santa Elena is a massive canyon above the Rio Grande that divides Texas and Mexico. Standing at the canyon's mouth, you are buffeted by a strong wind that runs through the canyon. Word to the wise: A raft tour offers the best views of the towering canyon walls. Rafters should also explore the many other whitewater rafting opportunities in Texas for all skill levels.

9. Horseback Riding at Palo Duro Canyon

The Lone Star State has plenty of options when it comes to horseback riding at its many state parks. But Palo Duro Canyon boasts some of the longest rides and the most dramatic scenery in the state.

10. Fishing, Especially Bass Fishing

Larry Johnson / CC BY http://2.0 / Via Flickr: drljohnson

Few people realize that Texas has the most inland water of the 48 contiguous states. There are numerous fishing lakes around the state, but it's the bass fishing that's most well known.

11. Birding at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Texas is one of the top birding destinations in the country, due in large part to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, at which birders can find many tropical bird species found nowhere else in the United States. But that is just the tip of the proverbial beak, as the state offers many other incredible birding destinations worthy of exploration.

12. Flying Kites at the Zilker Kite Festival

GlowJangles / CC BY http://2.0 / Via Flickr: glowjangles

Do you like flying kites? Boy, has Austin got the event for you. The Zilker Kite Festival is a lovely day in the sun, or should we say, day in the shadow of 10,000 kites! Die-hards can enter a variety of competitive kite events.

13. Caving at Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest commercial cave in Texas, which is itself one of the most fecund caving geologies in the world. A basic tour of Natural Bridge showcases the largest and most stately caverns in the development, but there are a variety of more in-depth tours for enthusiasts.

14. Paddling Through the Piney Woods

The Piney Woods region of East Texas is home to the Neches and Trinity Rivers that run through the Big Thicket Natural Preserve. These beautiful and serene waterways are perfect for canoeing trips — either a day paddle or a more ambitious overnight float. Prepare to see vegetation unique to the region and a variety of wildlife come to drink along the river edge.

15. And Lastly, Barbecuing Anyplace You Can Haul a Smoker

Getty Images/iStockphoto Duncan Johnson

If Texas had to pick a number-one outdoor activity, it would be smoking brisket. The beautiful thing about smoking a brisket is you can do it just about anywhere. So go on, and get out there.

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