East Texas is home to a wide variety of fun outdoor activities and attractions for the entire family.
Choose between zoos, animal parks, ziplines, train rides, camping, swimming, scuba parks, water parks and much more!
Included on this page are highlights of some of the more popular outdoor activities in this part of Texas.
Whether you are touring in South East Texas, around Beaumont, or in Upper East Texas in Texarkana, or elsewhere in the area, there are many outdoor things to do for adults and children alike.
Texas State Railroad
A popular East Texas attraction is the well known Texas State Railroad, which has a rail station in Rusk and one in Palestine. Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers across the celebrated rails of the Piney Woods Route between the quaint East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk on a 50-mile roundtrip adventure.
This quintessential daytrip, only a few hours from the metropolitan communities of Dallas and Houston, will create a memory that will last a lifetime.
The Grapeland Safari features over 400 zebras, kangaroos, camels, turtles, emus and other animals roaming freely on 60 acres, all visible from the comfort and safety of your own vehicle.
The drive-thru safari is privately-owned, by the Herring family, and been in operation since 2005. There is also a petting zoo and gift shop.
The Safari is located at 13440 U.S. Highway 287 N, Grapeland, Texas, 75844, on the east side of the highway. Phone 936.687.5292.
For more information, visit ...
The Caldwell Zoo in Tyler is an accredited institution, and participates in many breeding projects.
Animals born at the zoo include giraffes, flamingos, black rhinoceros, giant anteaters, and many others.
The 85-acre zoo containing more than 2,000 animals representing 250 species from East Africa, North America, and South America.
The zoo includes a children's petting pen, two aquariums, picnic areas, a café that overlooks an African savanna and gift shops with original African items. The zoo also has seasonal presentations including a bird show, alligator feedings, giraffe feedings, and elephant demonstrations. The Caldwell Zoo is located at 2203 Martin Luther King Blvd Tyler, TX 75702. Phone 903.593.0121
For hours of operation, ticket information, and other details, we recommend you visit the official website of the Caldwell Zoo.
Sea Rim State Park
Offering more than five miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beach shoreline, Sea Rim State Park is where the marsh meets the surf, making it prime binocular-hunting grounds for numerous species.
Bring a kayak or canoe (or rent one at the park) and paddle along one of its paddle trails, or comb the sand for sea treasures that wash up on the shore.
Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin
The Ellen Trout Zoo is owned and operated by the City of Lufkin which is responsible for its daily operation.
The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and houses over 800 mammals, birds and reptiles from around the world. The Zoo has now been accredited since September of 1983 and was the fifth zoo in Texas to receive accreditation.
Call 936-633-0399 for more information.
Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari
Cherokee Trace Drive-thru Safari is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. See over two dozen exotic and endangered species that thrive in an open habitat similar to their native territory.
At your own pace, enjoy a self-guided drive through the hills and open savannahs of this 300-acre preserve. The safari is located at 1200 CR 4405, about 12 miles east of Jacksonville, Texas. Phone 903.683.3322
Tyler State Park
Tyler State Park is located just north of Tyler, 2 miles north of Interstate 20 on FM 14, then into the park on Park Road 16.
This beautiful 985 acre park in the rolling hills features a 64 acre lake, campgrounds, hiking trails, pavilions, cabins, mountain biking, nature studies, canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, bike boats, jon boats, park store and much more.
At Tyler State Park, you can boat, fish, swim in the lake, hike, mountain bike, picnic, geocache, camp, bird watch and study nature. Explore the Pineywoods on more than 13 miles of trails. Don’t miss the Whispering Pines Nature Trail, laid out more than 70 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary
Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary near Tyler offers visitors and volunteers many opportunities to learn about endangered animals.
Located north of Tyler, and just north of Tyler State Park, at 17552 FM 14. Home to over 40 rescued big cats. Phone 903.858.1008
Another popular outdoor attraction is the New York Texas ZipLine Adventure, located near the community of LaRue, Texas, about 15-20 minutes east of Athens.
Each ZipLine Tour lasts approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Choose between a 6 ZipLine Tour or the newest 9 ZipLine Challenge Tour with a 1500 ft. line with 2 cable sky bridges leading to a 40 foot zip tower.
Tours are available for ages 5 and up. Certain restrictions apply. A "ground school" coaches those new to the sport.
The ZipLine is located at 7290 CR 4328, LaRue, Texas 75770. Phone 903.681.3791
Black Beauty Ranch
Black Beauty Ranch, located in Murchison, is one of America’s largest and most diverse animal sanctuaries providing permanent haven to over 600 domestic and exotic animals comprising over 40 different species. Founded in 1979, today the ranch spans over 1,400 acres.
Residents include tigers, bears, primates, kangaroos, bison, horse, farm animals and more that were rescued from research laboratories, the pet trade, roadside zoos and other circumstances of cruelty and neglect.
The Ranch is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and is a member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance and the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance. It is located at 12526 County Road 3806, Murchison, TX 75778. Phone 903.469.3811
To respect the peace and privacy of the animals, the sanctuary only provides prescheduled tours to the public, on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Tour times may vary and seating is limited. Reserve your tour by calling 903.469.3811, ext. 112.
Caddo Lake State Park
Caddo Lake is a 25,400 acres lake and wetland on the border between Texas and Louisiana, in northern Harrison County and southern Marion County in Texas and western Caddo Parish in Louisiana.
The average depth of the lake is 8 to 10 feet with the deep water in the bayou averaging about 20 feet. The lake contains 71 species of fish, and it is especially good for crappie and largemouth and white bass.
The denseness of the swamp creates an inviting maze for paddlers in kayaks and canoes. On the Texas side, at Caddo Lake State Park, there are 10 kayak/canoe trails, with names like Hell's Half Acre, Cathedral Trail, Old Folks Playground and Turtle Shell Trail. The trails are marked, and maps are provided.
For more information on the park, located at 245 Park Road 2, Karnack, TX, phone 903.679.3351
Water Park at the Villages - southwest of Tyler, on Lake Palestine - (903) 534-8400.
Splash Kingdom Water Park - near Canton on Interstate 20.
Athens Scuba Park
The Athens Scuba Park is a world-class dive site, attracting SCUBA divers from across the USA, and the world. A 35-foot deep, 8-acre spring-fed clay pit at the park is on the grounds of the old Harbson-Walker brick factory, one of the area's first industries.
The spring-fed warm waters boast an average visibility of 35’ that can peak at 70’. Natural white clay was excavated for use in making refractory bricks for fire places from the late 1800s until the 1960s.
Opened in 1987, the park features underwater wrecks of buses, airplanes, and boats, plus caves and other locales suitable for both recreational diving, and the training of new divers.
Mineola Nature Preserve
The Mineola Nature Preserve consists of 2,911 acres on Loop 564 along the Sabine River, and has facilities including wetlands, numerous hiking and equestrian trails, bee hives, extraordinary bird-watching, and more for the outdoor enthusiast.
More than a dozen man-made ponds are located on the property as well as walking trails and pavilions.
The preserve is open daily, from 7 a.m. to sunset. It is home to 193 species of birds, wildlife, buffalo and longhorn cattle. Pullen Pond at the preserve includes water habitats and outdoor classrooms that can be used as teaching opportunities: small ponds, waterfalls and dams, a running stream, wetlands, and deep water and shallow water concepts. . Details at Texas Parks & Wildlife and the Preserve website
Big Thicket National Preserve
The Big Thicket is an area of dense forest located north and northwest of Beaumont.
This 97,000 acre National Preserve protects a unique environmental confluence of swamps, coastal prairies, piney woods, plant life and animals.
Established in 1974, Big Thicket National Preserve protects a biologically significant portion of the Piney Woods of southeast Texas.
For more information visit the Big Thicket website at NPS
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Popular Athens area attractions include the widely known and visited Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC), combining outdoor education with a production fish hatchery of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. TFFC houses a hatchery, laboratory, aquarium, and education center focusing on underwater wildlife in the state’s freshwater streams, ponds and lakes. Dive shows and tram tours are offered at designed times.
The Center is located about four miles east of Athens and 75 miles southeast of Dallas. The main entrance is at 5550 F.M. 2495, Athens, Texas 75752. Phone 903.676.2277
Sabine National Forest
Located in the pineywoods of east Texas, the 160,656-acre Sabine National Forest is the easternmost of the four national forests in Texas and forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana.
The forest is situated on the western slopes of the Sabine River watershed within Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Jasper, and Newton counties.
Trail Between the Lakes
The Trail Between the Lakes is a 28-mile hiking trail that winds through the southern half of the Sabine National Forest.
Located in the southern Sabine County, it extends from Lakeview Recreation Area on Toledo Bend Reservoir to State Highway 96 within sight of the easternmost point of Sam Rayburn Reservoir.