20 Things to Do in Huntsville State Park with Kids
Enjoy the outdoors at Huntsville State Park - a majestic forest with a 215-acre lake and 21 miles of trails about an hour north of downtown Houston. Three streams flow into Lake Raven, where you can swim, fish, and boat. Giant trees provide great shade, and there are many beautiful picnic spots. If you love the outdoors, you will enjoy the opportunities to bike, hike, see wildlife, camp, and more.
Ready to go? Check out our list below of 20 ideas for things to do in Huntsville State Park with Kids. And for information on more parks in the Houston area, check out our Guide to Playgrounds and Parks in Houston.
1. Go on a hike
Explore the 21 miles of trails around the park, of varying lengths and difficulty to suit your family’s needs.
- The Loblolly Trail (0.2 miles) and Coloneh Trail (0.8 miles) are two easy trails for smaller legs.
- The Prairie Branch Loop (1.5 miles) and Dogwood Trail (1.8 miles) are moderate trails, with half of the Prairie Branch Loop situated by the lake.
- For a more challenging hike, check out the Chinquapin Trail (6.9 miles) and Triple C Trail (8.4 miles)
2. Freewheel down some hills
Huntsville State Park is a great spot for biking, with most of the trails accessible, apart from the Loblolly Trail and half of the Prairie Branch Loop. Our kids cycled around the 7-mile Chinquapin Trail in a couple of hours, occasionally getting off and pushing their bikes up some of the hillier sections. It can get muddy, so check the conditions before you go. The trail map provides full details for hiking and biking options.
Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park is a beautiful spot to cool down in the summer months.
3. Cool off in the lake
Lake Raven is a beautiful spot to cool down in the summer months. There is a designated swimming area with a gently sloping beach open from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Take some inflatables and have some water fun! There is no lifeguard, so swimming is at your own risk, and the park provides some water safety warnings.
4. Build a sandcastle
The swimming area has a beach entrance, so don’t forget a bucket and spade for some fun digging in the sand.
5. Play in the playground
Huntsville State Park has fun wood-framed play equipment, including swings, slides, and climbing frames.
6. Head out on the water in a boat
Currently, the Huntsville State Park Boathouse is being renovated (Feb 2022). However, you can still bring your boats to paddle or cruise on the water. There is a no-wake rule for motorboats, which must travel at idle speed only.
7. Fish off the fishing pier
An excellent sport for kids to learn patience, you can fish for catfish, bass, crappie, and perch in the beautiful waters of Lake Raven. There are fishing piers and fish cleaning stations available. A fishing license is not required to fish in a state park. If the fish aren’t biting and the kids are getting bored, move on to the many other park activities listed here.
Print off the bird checklist before you go and see how many you can check off.
8. Identify some birds
Huntsville State Park is a haven for a wide variety of birds and animals. Kids can have fun “hiding” in a wildlife blind and seeing which of the estimated 250 species they can spot. Print off the bird checklist before you go and see how many you can check off. If you aren’t familiar with the appearance of different birds, use this bird guide to help you identify the various species.
9. Spot some animals
Although we’ve never seen one, there are alligators in the park. Deer, moles, skunks, raccoons, and squirrels also make their home amongst the trees.
10. Enjoy a picnic
When all the fresh air makes you hungry, there are plenty of picnic tables and grills available to enjoy the outdoors and rustle up some tasty food. Snacks are also available in Gator Junction, the park store.
11. Have a party
You can host a celebration with family and friends in Huntsville State Park. There are a couple of options to host a larger gathering in the state park:
- A 1,200 square feet group screened shelter with lights, electrical outlets, ceiling fans, serving counter and picnic tables is available for $50 per day (day use only) plus a $7 entrance fee for anyone 13 or older.
- A 4000+ square feet group hall with central heating/ac, kitchen area, electric range, refrigerator, serving bar, and counter. Separate indoor restrooms. The cost is $350 per day plus a $2 fee per person 13+.
Dogs are allowed at Texas State Parks! Photo courtesy of the author
12. Have outdoor fun with a furry friend!
Dogs are allowed at Texas State Parks, so you don’t need to leave Fido at home. Dogs must be on a leash, which means they can pull you along when your legs get tired.
Never been geocaching before? Try this fun treasure hunt for all the family.
13. Treasure hunt with geocaching
There are more than 2 million geocaches worldwide, providing a fun treasure hunt for all the family. The treasure can be camouflaged but not buried. Never been geocaching before? Use these hints to find your first geocache. Bring a pen to sign your name in the logbook.
There are several camping options in Huntsville State Park to suit different vehicles, tents, and budgets.
14. Set up camp
There are several camping options in Huntsville State Park to suit different vehicles, tents, and budgets. The State Park has 28 screened shelters, a 12 x 18-foot building with a concrete floor, and a picnic table inside and outside. The screens can be a plus when the mosquitoes are out in the summer. Water, grills, and electric hookups are available, and restrooms with showers are nearby. The shelters cost $30 per night. There are also 23 full hookup campsites for recreational vehicles ($25), 77 campsites with electricity ($20), and 60 sites with just water ($15). At weekends there is a minimum 2-night stay, and the daily entrance fee is in addition to the site cost. You can check availability and make reservations online.
15. Take a guided tour
Check out the Huntsville State Park calendar and head off on a hike with one of the Rangers. They’ll be sure to help you spot interesting creatures and plants and answer all your questions about the park.
16. Touch a skull in the Nature Center
The Nature Center is a fun place to explore, with live animals, fish tanks, skins, skulls, and information on a wide variety of subjects.
17. Buy a souvenir
Head to Gator Junction park store and pick up a cool souvenir of your visit. You can also pick up bait, ice, cold drinks, and treats.
Junior Rangers in action at Huntsville State Park.
18. Participate in the Junior Ranger program
Texas State Parks run a Junior Ranger Youth Explorer program. You can download or pick up their free Junior Ranger Journal, which helps kids learn about nature by writing, drawing, and observing. If you complete a certain number of activities, you can earn a Junior Ranger pin. You can borrow a Junior Ranger Explorer Pack at the park headquarters and use the binoculars, magnifying glass, animal tracking key, and guides.
19. Get making with nature arts and crafts
If your kids are creative, they can gather nature supplies for art and crafts activities on-site and back at home. Make a butterfly from sticks and leaves, bring crayons and do some leaf rubbings, or make leaf prints with different colored paints.
20. Snap a great photo
With great cameras on our phones these days, a trip to Huntsville State Park can be a chance to capture some beautiful family photos. Alternatively, see how creative your kids can get with taking pictures. Challenge them to a photography competition and see who can take the best snaps of animals, birds, or trees.
The State Park is only a few miles from the impressive 67-feet-tall Sam Houston Statue - photo courtesy of the author.
More Tips for Huntsville State Park
Where is Huntsville State Park?
The park is about an hour north of downtown Houston - head straight up the I45 - located 6 miles southwest of Huntsville. Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and overnight camping is available.
How much does it cost to visit Huntsville State Park?
The entrance fee is $7 per person, per day, but your kids 12 years and under are free. If you plan to revisit or go to another state park, the Texas state park pass allows you unlimited entry to over 80 state parks, with discounts on camping, park store purchases, and equipment rentals. The pass member’s guests enter free with them, so for $70, the whole family can have access to Texas’s state parks all year.
What’s near Huntsville State Park?
The State Park is only a few miles from the impressive 67-feet-tall Sam Houston Statue on the I45, so you could also visit the statue visitor center and find out more. The city of Huntsville is a few miles further on and has interesting museums, shops, and restaurants.
All photos, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.