Everything really is bigger in Texas, and that includes your camping trip options. The Lone Star State offers a variety of outdoor adventures across its vast lands, ranging between hiking rocky backcountry, fishing the state's best lakes, and even a bit of public hunting across diverse terrain. Camping in Texas is great not only because of the variety of activities, but because campsites are relatively easy to book. But with so many options, it might be difficult to narrow down where you would like to go camping, especially since gauging the weather can be tricky. While this state's summer heat is absolutely no joke, there are also plenty of places to cool down during the warmer weather months (a body of water almost always helps!). And the mild winters make it a great choice for northerners who want to escape the cold and snow when they can. Take it from a native Texan. Here's why these five state parks represent the best camping in Texas, along with more information on what you can do there and when you should visit.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest state park in Texas, is a great alternative to Big Bend National Park and only two hours further towards the western portion of the state. Designated as an International Dark Sky Park, Big Bend Ranch is perfect for stargazing at night. This desert oasis is a great camping spot because it features 29 campgrounds with 138 scenic campsites that offer the best mountain views. Keep in mind that because the park is filled with rough, rocky terrain and deep canyons, it's not ideal to drive around with a big trailer or in a car that isn't off-road capable. But the park's variety of campsites include some that are for easy accessibility by smaller trailers. Most of the sites are drive-in primitive campsites, but they all cater specifically to your activities. There is hike-in camping for hikers and backpackers who want to explore the backcountry, and mountain-biking enthusiasts can book sites that provide easy access to trailheads. Some of the sites also have equestrian pens for those who want to go horseback riding. Other activities include bird watching, rafting, canoeing, or fishing in the Rio Grande River, as well as hunting on a drawn hunt setup. Application deadlines for drawn hunting are around mid-August.
The booking window is from the end of July to the end of December, and you can make reservations either that day or up to five months in advance. But make sure you think about the weather when you book your dates. According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, temperatures typically rise over 100 degrees by late morning, can hit 130 degrees when the sun is completely out, and are even still at "dangerous levels" after sunset. While I wouldn't recommend visiting during the warm weather months up until mid-September, any time after that is a great time to camp. And don't forget to bring plenty of water. The park only has a couple of campsites that supply water since most of the others are for primitive camping.
Address: 1900 S Sauceda Ranch Rd. Presidio, TX 79843
Phone: (432) 249-1801.
Guadalupe River State Park
Camping with your family can be stressful at times, especially if you have younger kids. But just a short drive from Austin is Guadalupe River State Park, and it's a fantastic choice for a family-friendly vacation immersed in nature. Its three campgrounds have 88 total campsites with either electric or water hookups, as well as one full hookup. Each campground is unique in what it offers you and your kids. Cedar Sage is near the park's activity hub where the Children's Discovery Center is located. Turkey Sink's campsites are situated close together, making it very easy to make new camping friends. And Wagon Ford is the closest to the Guadalupe River, which means easy access to all the fun water recreation opportunities like tubing, swimming, paddling, and fishing. Other activities include biking, hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and also hunting.
The booking window is from the end of July to the end of December unless you're interested in the Amphitheater, which can be booked anytime throughout the year. Reservations can be made up to five months in advance. And if you want to ease your anxiety over forgetting a crucial trip necessity for the kids, let the professionals at Texas Park Outfitters help you out. They offer camping equipment rentals and setups for a price that's probably worth it if you're having a hard time keeping track of everything you'll need for your family getaway. They not only offer their services in Guadalupe State Park, but also at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Government Canyon State Natural Area.
Address: 3350 Park Road 31 Spring Branch, TX 78070
Phone: (830) 438-2656
Caddo Lake State Park
Caddo Lake State Park is one of the top fishing destinations in Texas and only 10 miles away from the Louisiana border. The lush region is filled with swamps, cypress trees, Spanish moss, bayous, and ponds. It also features Caddo Lake, the largest natural lake in Texas, which houses alligators (watch out!) and over 70 different species of fish including crappie, largemouth bass, white bass, and sunfish. The park has 46 campsites within four camping areas that range between primitive, full hookups, and even screened shelters. Woodpecker Hollow is the best camping area for RVs because of its eight campsites offer full hookups. Mill Pond's 20 sites are the park's best options for tent camping, and it's located right off of Saw Mill Pond. Squirrel Haven's campsites have water and electric hookups, but the screened shelters run through the middle of all four of the park's camping areas. And if you're looking for more privacy, book one of Armadillo Run's eight sites since they are farther away from the three other campsites. Reservations can be made up to five months in advance, and the booking window is from the end of July to the end of December.
Address: 245 Park Road 2 Karnack, TX 75661
Phone: (903) 679-3351
Tyler State Park
Tyler State Park is one of the most popular state parks in East Texas, featuring a 64-acre lake that is surrounded by 100-foot tall trees and 10 camping areas offering 100 campsites with electric, water, and full hookups, as well as 28 screened shelters. The park is located in the Rose Capital of America, sitting in between Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana. Tyler State Park is also another great fishing destination with its lake holding crappie, perch, catfish, and bass. You don't need a fishing license to fish at this park, and you can even borrow fishing rods, reels, and tackle boxes from the TPWD's Tackle Loaner Program.
Since the camping areas surround the lake, you'll be conveniently near fishing piers and boat ramps for other fun water recreation such as swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and paddling. And if you need to rent a kayak, canoe, or paddle board, check out Driftwood Water Adventures. There are also 13 miles of beautiful mountain biking, nature, and hiking trails that explore the surrounding piney woods. A few of the campgrounds are tent camping only, while others are trailer-only. Reservations go pretty quickly at this park, so you'll want to make yours as soon as possible. You can reserve your spot up to five months in advance, and the booking window runs from the end of July to the end of December.
Address: 789 Park Road 16 Tyler, TX 75706
Colorado Bend State Park
As one of the best overall Texas state parks for camping, Colorado Bend State Park is also just two hours away from the Texas capital. Although I recommended against camping during warmer weather months at Big Bend Ranch State Park, I suggest camping in this Texas Hill Country region if you want do want to camp during the summer. You can cool off and go boating and paddling in Lake Buchanan or swimming in one of the area's best swimming holes, Spicewood Springs. And even if you need a complete break from the sun during the daytime, there are 400 underground caves that you can explore by booking a tour. Two of the park's five campgrounds sit next to the Colorado River, which has some of the best bass fishing in Central Texas according to the TPWD. Two other campgrounds accommodate bigger groups of campers, and the last one is great for some stargazing is far enough away if you're looking for more privacy.
The park has 57 primitive sites including drive-in, walk-in, and hike-in campsites. Group camping reservations can be made for all year round, but the booking window for primitive camping is from the end of July to the end of December. Reservations for primitive camping can be made up to five months in advance. Although it might seem pretty easy to book campsites at other state parks, you might want to book this one as early as possible since it's so popular to camp at.
The best time to camp at Colorado Bend is actually during late fall. You'll still be able to enjoy all the water recreation, but the fall temperatures are more ideal for hiking and mountain biking. Out of the 35 beautiful trails to choose from, Gorman Falls Trail is the most popular one and a must-do. The three-mile round trip hike takes visitors through rough and rocky terrain, but leads to the 70-foot Gorman Falls, the biggest waterfall in Texas by volume of water and height.
Address: P.O. Box 118 Bend, TX 76824
Phone: (325) 628-3240
To check in on hunting permit dates and more information on application deadlines, visit the TPWD's website.
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