5 State Parks Suggested by a Texan

Everything really is bigger in Texas, and that includes your camping trip options. The Lone Star State offers a variety of outdoor adventures on its vast lands, ranging from hiking through rocky terrain, fishing in the state’s best lakes, and even a little public hunting on various terrains. Camping in Texas is great not only because of the variety of activities, but because camping spots are relatively easy to reserve. But with so many options, it can be difficult to determine where you’d like to camp, especially since gauging the weather can be tricky. While this state’s summer heat is no joke, there are also plenty of places to cool off during the warmer weather months (a body of water almost always helps!). And the mild winters make it a great option 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 campgrounds 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 which includes distant mountains

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Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest state park in Texas, is a great alternative to Big Bend National Park and just two hours further into the western part 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 place to camp because it has 29 campgrounds with 138 picturesque campsites offering the best mountain views. Keep in mind that because the park is filled with rough, rocky terrain and deep canyons, it’s not ideal for driving with a large trailer or in a car that isn’t capable of off-roading. But the park’s variety of campgrounds includes some that are easily accessible by smaller trailers. Most of the sites are primitive drive-in campgrounds, but all are tailored specifically to your activities. There are hiking camps for hikers and backpackers who want to explore the hinterland, and mountain biking enthusiasts can reserve sites that provide easy access to trailheads. Some of the sites also have equestrian corrals for those who want to go horseback riding. Other activities include bird watching, rafting, canoeing, or fishing on the Rio Grande River, as well as hunting at a drawn hunting facility. Check here for selected hunt dates and more information, as application deadlines are in mid-August.

You can reserve your Big Bend Ranch State Park site online here or by calling (432) 249-1801. The reservation window is from the end of July to the end of December, and you can make reservations that day or up to five months in advance. But be sure to think about the weather when you book your dates. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, temperatures often rise above 100 degrees in the late morning, can reach 130 degrees when the sun is fully out, and even remain at “dangerous levels” after sunset. sun. While I wouldn’t recommend visiting during the warm weather months until mid-September, any time after that is a good time to camp. And don’t forget to bring lots of water. The park only has a couple of campsites that supply water, as most of the others are for primitive camping.

Guadalupe River State Park

Huge V-shaped bald cypress tree in the river with fall foliage in Guadalupe State Park, Texas

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Camping with your family can be stressful at times, especially if you have young children. But just a short drive from Austin is Guadalupe River State Park, and it’s a fantastic option for a family vacation immersed in nature. Their three campgrounds have 88 total campsites with electrical or water hookups, as well as a full hookup. Each camp is unique in what it offers you and your children. Cedar Sage is near the park’s activity center where the Children’s Discovery Center is located. Turkey Sink campgrounds are located in close proximity to each other, making it 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 hunting as well. See here for more information on the hunt dates drawn and application deadlines.

The reservation window is from the end of July to the end of December unless you are interested in the amphitheater, which can be booked at any time throughout the year. Reservations can be made up to five months in advance and you can reserve your site online here or by calling (830) 438-2656. And if you want to relieve your anxiety about forgetting a crucial travel necessity for the kids, let the professionals at Texas Park Outfitters help you. 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 serve Guadalupe State Park, but also Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Government Canyon State Natural Area.

Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake in East Texas in the summer.  Calm waters reflect cypresses

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Caddo Lake State Park is one of the top fishing destinations in Texas and is only 10 miles from the Louisiana border. The lush region is filled with bogs, cypress trees, Spanish moss, swamps, and ponds. It also features Caddo Lake, the largest natural lake in Texas, which is home to alligators (watch out!) and more than 70 different species of fish, including crappie, bass, white bass, and sunfish. The park has 46 campsites within four campgrounds that range from primitive to full hookups and even sheltered shelters. Woodpecker Hollow is the best RV camping area because all eight of its campgrounds offer full hookups. The 20 Mill Pond sites are the park’s best options for tent camping and are located right next to Saw Mill Pond. Squirrel Haven campgrounds have water and power hookups, but sheltered shelters are spread across the middle of the park’s four campgrounds. And if you’re looking for more privacy, book one of the eight Armadillo Run sites, as they’re further away than the other three campsites.

Reservations can be made up to five months in advance, and the reservation window is from the end of July to the end of December. You can reserve your campsite here or by calling (903)679-3351. Information on hunting in the National Wildlife Refuge and Wildlife Management Area can be found here and here, respectively.

Tyler State Park

The swimming area of ​​Tyler State Park in Smith County, Texas, United States.

By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10866169

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 campgrounds offering 100 campsites with power, water and full hookups, as well as 28 protected shelters. The park is located in the Rose Capital of America, between Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana. Tyler State Park is also another great fishing destination with its lake stocking crappie, perch, catfish and bass. You don’t need a fishing license to fish in this park, and you can even borrow fishing rods, reels and tackle boxes from TPWD’s Tackle Loaner Program.

Since campgrounds surround the lake, you’ll be conveniently close to fishing piers and boat ramps for other fun water recreation activities like swimming, kayaking, boating, 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 pine forests. Some of the campgrounds are tent-only, while others are trailer-only. Reservations fill up 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 reservation window runs from the end of July to the end of December. Reserve your campsite here or call (903)597-5338.

Colorado Bend State Park

Cascading waterfall on Spicewood Springs Creek in Colorado Bend State Park in central Texas.

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As one of the best state parks in Texas for camping, Colorado Bend State Park is also just two hours from the Texas capital. Although I recommend against camping during the warmer weather months at Big Bend Ranch State Park, I do suggest camping in this region of the Texas Hill Country if you want to camp during the summer. You can cool off and go boating and paddling on Lake Buchanan or swim in one of the area’s best swimming holes, Spicewood Springs. And even if you need a complete break from the sun during the day, there are 400 underground caves you can explore by booking a tour. Two of the park’s five campgrounds are along the Colorado River, which has some of the best bass fishing in Central Texas according to the TPWD. Two other campgrounds accommodate larger groups of campers, and the last one is great for stargazing and just far enough away if you’re looking for more privacy.

The park has 57 primitive sites including drive-in, walk-in and hiking sites. Reservations for group camping can be made year-round, but the reservation period 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 may seem easy enough to reserve campsites at other state parks, you may want to reserve this one as soon as possible, as camping is very popular. You can make reservations online here or call (325) 628-3240.

The best time to camp in Colorado Bend is actually late fall. You’ll still be able to enjoy all the water recreation, but fall temperatures are more ideal for hiking and mountain biking. Of the 35 beautiful trails to choose from, the Gorman Falls Trail is the most popular and a must-see. The three-mile round-trip hike takes visitors through rugged, rocky terrain, but leads to 70-foot Gorman Falls, the largest waterfall in Texas by volume of water and height. The drawn hunting season in the park begins in November, and you can find more information about it here.

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