From dinosaur footprints preserved on the banks of the Paluxy River to the second largest canyon in the United States, Texas has a whole lot to offer campers looking to getaway for a weekend in some of the most beautiful sceneries in the country. Below is a list of the 13 best state parks in Texas for camping along with information about the park itself and what kind of campsites you can reserve.
- Garner State Park
- Colorado Bend State Park
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park
- Pedernales Falls State Park
- Mckinney Falls State Park
- Enchanted Rock State Park
- Blanco State Park
- Brazos Bend State Park
- Dinosaur Valley State Park
- Mustang Island State Park
- Lost Maples State Park
- Inks Lake State Park
- Do You Need Reservations?
- How Early Should I Book?
- What Kind of Campsites Can You Reserve?
- Are There Maps Available?
Garner State Park
A staple of any Texan’s outdoor experiences, Garner State Park is well known throughout the area as a fantastic place to swim, hike, camp, and watch the beautiful fall foliage change throughout the park. With 2.9 miles of Frio River access there is plenty of opportunity to cool down during the hot months of summer and take a dip as generation after generation have done since the park was opened. There’s even a summer dance party that has continued since the 1940’s that still happens to this day.
For camping you have an option to choose between Old Garner and New Garner. Old Garner is going to include Pecan Grove and Oakmont campsites and is considered a premium real estate because of its proximity to mini-golf, paddle boats, the dance pavilion, and the river dam that contains the deepest waters. But if you are looking for a true getaway from all the commotion then New Garner is going to provide some sanctuary along with plenty of hiking trails and beautiful scenery. This is also where you will find the yellow, red, and orange colored leaves that change when the fall weather starts to take over the park.
There are 372 campsites you can reserve ahead of time in this top Texas State Park.
- 14 cabins
- 199 electric
- 7 full hookup
- 117 water
- 33 screened shelters
Colorado Bend State Park
With over 5300 acres of preserved land, Colorado Bend State Park truly has something for every camper. Fishing, biking, hiking, and even cave tours are all possible with a visit to this exceptional wild area. Must-see sights include Gorman Falls, SpiceWood Springs, and the Wild Cave Tours. There’s also over 35 miles of trails and the giant Colorado river running through most of the park. You could spend a whole weekend here and still not get to see everything this wonderful state park has to offer.
There are 57 sites available to reserve but they are all primitive sites that don’t include water or electric hookup. Because of this there isn’t any way you are going to be able to bring an RV to this park. It is a traditional tent camping site that also includes 3 group camping sites where you can have several of your buddies join you. Most of the sites are at the south end of the river near the end of the park but there are also a handful of sites available in the top northwest corner of the park as well.
- 54 primitive sites
- 3 group camp sites
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
As the second largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is often overlooked because of its location in the Texas panhandle but you can be sure that this natural monument is not to be missed. This “Grand Canyon of Texas” has over 30 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails and has over 60 miles of ravine. There’s even an outdoor musical that runs every summer that covers the challenges of early settlers in the region. You can enjoy the beautiful views by foot, car, bike, or horse.
There’s a number of ways you can enjoy an overnight stay at Palo Duro as long as you reserve ahead of time. A total of 119 sites are filled up every year around peak season and the park just recently started offering two glamping options where you can rent a cabin like canvas tent complete with electricity.
- 7 cabins
- 81 electric
- 24 water
- 2 group camp sites
Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park has been a family favorite destination for decades because of its proximity to Austin and low elevation trails that are perfect for any camper. The Pedernales River flows through the park and around the giant slabs of limestone that decorate the areas. You’ll want to watch out after heavy rains because the water flow can become dangerous if moving too quickly. Visitors enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and even horse riding throughout the park.
There are a total of 81 campsites available for reservation with most of the availability for RVs but you will also find an area for tent campers as well. They are in pretty close proximity to each other are are both towards the southern part of the park.
- 60 electric
- 20 primitive
- 1 group camp
Mckinney Falls State Park
Falling just within the Austin city limits, Mckinney Falls State Park has been a favorite among locals for its calming beauty and small waterfalls over large limestone slabs. Onion creek flows year round through this area to create the beautiful scenery. You can enjoy a hike, swim, bike ride, or fishing spot throughout the park and there’s even an area for rock climbers to test their endurance. You can camp here but it’s also one of the best places for a family to just relax and have a picnic, just remember to reserve your day passes ahead of time. You’ll also see some of the earliest buildings that exist in the area from some of the very first settlers in the region.
There are a total of 83 camp sites you can reserve in Mckinney Falls. There are no primitive sites though so finding a way to “get away from it all” will be more difficult at this park.
- 6 cabins
- 74 electric
- 1 group camp
Enchanted Rock State Park
More than just a state park, the giant pink granite dome that is the main attraction for so many visitors to the area has had a magnetizing effect on humans since Comanche and Apache tribes roamed this region. Nowadays, visitors from all around can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and camping on the parks reserved lands. It is one of the few state parks that does not allow biking or have any areas to swim in.
There are a total of 51 campsites available for reservation at Enchanted Rock. There are no electric hookups so RVs are going to be out of the question but there are plenty of tent campsites. You’ll find most of the sites at the south end of the park where Sandy Creek runs through. But you can also find some other sites a little more isolated towards the northwest end.
- 16 primitive sites
- 33 camp with water
- 1 group camp
Blanco State Park
This tiny state park sits in the beautiful hill country of Texas right in the city of Blanco. It hugs 1 mile of the Blanco River and is a perfect spot for families to spend a weekend day having a picnic or enjoying the cool waters on a hot day. The river is spring fed so it remains a consistent temp year round and is always flowing all year. There are beautiful man-made waterfalls that act as the main attraction when relaxing in the family-friendly environment.
There’s a total of 36 campsites to reserve at Blanco State Park. They are either electric or full hookup sites and cater more towards RVs than they do for tent campers. You also have a large amount of screened shelters you can take advantage of which shows you how much this park caters towards families or large groups.
- 11 electric
- 16 full site hookup
- 7 screened shelters
Brazos Bend State Park
If you’re looking for a state park in Texas that is going to bring you back to nature then Brazos Bend is exactly what you’re looking for. Over 4,800 acres of natural preserve acts as a safe haven for numerous animals and reptiles that call it home including alligators, armadillos, otters, and over 300 resident and migratory species of birds. There’s six lakes dotting the landscape and even an observatory located inside the park.
Camping at Brazos is one of the best wildlife experiences you can get. There are 97 total sites available for reservation and all of them are clustered at the north end of the park Red Buckeye and Burr Oak camping areas. There’s even equestrian sites you can rent if you plan on bringing your horses for a classic western adventure.
- 63 electric
- 6 Equestrian primitive
- 8 primitive
- 3 Group camp
- 13 screened shelters
Guadalupe River State Park
Located straight north of San Antonio and right off the Guadalupe river, this state park is a favorite for locals who are looking to cool down in the refreshing waters during those hot Texas months. There’s a total of four miles of river frontage which leaves plenty of room for fisherman, swimmers, paddlers, and tubers to all get along.
Campsites are located in the middle of the park and there’s a total of 94 you can reserve. There are no campsites here but if you are looking to have a more remote hiking experience you can use the trails in the bauer unit.
- 77 electric
- 7 full hookup
- 9 sites with water
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Where else can you go for a day trip and see real tracks left by an actual dinosaur? Only in Dinosaur Valley State Park will you find the remnants of giant dinosaur feet in the bed of the Paluxy River. And while you’re enjoying those tracks you can also camp, hike, bike, swim, and fish throughout the park. They also allow horses so you can enjoy over 100 miles of the south primitive area.
There are a total of 59 campsites and this is one of the few parks that has their campsites located all throughout the property. And the tent campsites are isolated from each other which is opposite from the other parks that cluster their sites all together. If you are planning on using an RV you will still have a single area where all the sites are located.
- 41 electric
- 15 primitive
- 2 group camp
Mustang Island State Park
There are lots of unique state parks in Texas but none of them are going to be located right off the Gulf of Mexico. With a total of 5 miles of coastline on the skinny Mustang Island, this state park provides excellent sunrises, sunsets and plenty of fishing, swimming, and all activities water. There’s so much abundance of water they have even mapped out paddling trails for those on canoes or kayaks.
There’s a total of 96 sites available for reservation at Mustang Island State Park. All the RV sites are next to each other on one side of the island and the primitive beach sites are clustered together across the water. There aren’t many options to camp right off the beach in Texas so I would recommend taking advantage of this great opportunity.
- 46 electric
- 50 primitive
Lost Maples State Park
This state park takes its name from the Maple trees whose colors change every fall and provide Texas residents a little taste of what it’s like to live in the northeast. It’s probably the best place in Texas to watch foliage change to bright reds, yellows, and oranges. There’s plenty to do in Lost Maples like hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking that you can enjoy anytime of the year. The terrain can be rough so I recommend sticking on the trails rather than making your own path for your own safety.
There are a total of 58 sites available for reservation at Lost Maples. The RVs all have a space at the entrance of the park but the tent campers will head to the north, middle end of the park.
- 28 electric
- 30 primitive
Inks Lake State Park
Right in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas, Inks Lake State Park is a family-friendly getaway that residents have been enjoying for years. The lake stays pretty level year-round so you shouldn’t have any issues taking a nice swim during the warmer months or enjoying any other water activities. You can also hike, camp, and backpack the 9 miles of hiking trails available.
There’s a total of 197 sites available for reservation at Inks Lake. It’s one of the larger camping parks in Texas but will cater primarily to RV campers. One of the really nice parts about this state park is that it does a fantastic job at making the campsites spacious and away from each other. Every site is placed with some distance between the next one so you get a more outdoor experience.
- 20 cabins
- 117 electric
- 4 Electric – tent only
- 9 primitive
- 44 water
- 1 group camp
Do You Need State Park Reservations?
Yes, most of the campsites are going to be fully booked during weekends and high peak seasons. You will need to reserve your campsite online in order to make sure you have a place to stay once you get to the park.
Weekdays are almost always less booked than weekends so there is a chance you could just pull up to the park and see if they have availability but since most people have to make a significant drive to go to any of the best Texas state parks, it is always recommended to reserve ahead of time.
You can also reserve day passes which allows you and some friends/family to hike the trails or swim in the rivers for the entire time the park is open for that day. This is a great way to enjoy the natural outdoors without having to make the commitment to staying overnight.
You can make a reservation using the state park website by inputting the park you want to visit, length of stay, number of persons, and other info. Then click on the park of your choice from the results.
Scroll down till you see the map of the park that shows all of the campsites that you can potentially reserve. All available sites will show in dark blue and you have an option to click through to the individual site if you want to check availability for that site only. For availability on all sites you will need to scroll down a little further.
Once you scroll down to the list of all sites in the park you will be able to find more information about the type of site it is, how many people are allowed, amenities, and more. At the top of the list you can select the “Date Range Availability” to see if the sites are available for reservation. You can also narrow down your search further by clicking on the site type like electric, campsite with water, or screened shelters.
How Early Should I Book?
You should be looking to book your site at least a month in advance. But depending on the time of the year you want to try and book as soon as the site becomes available. Especially if you already have your site picked out then you definitely don’t want to let it go to someone else.
Sites are usually available to be booked about 2 ½ – 3 months. Anytime before this period and the site will have a large X on the date you are trying to reserve. This means the site is not open to the public for reserving yet.
Pro Tip: If you picked a site and it hasn’t been released to the public for reservation you can log in to your state park account and click on the “Create Availability Notification” link. This will email you the day that the park has released this site to the public. The email usually comes around 4 am CST so I would wake up early in case others are looking at the same site.
What Kind of Campsites Can You Reserve?
Depending on the park you will have options on what kind of site you can reserve.
Sites can come with full hookup which means they will have water and electricity available for you to connect with. They can also be water only or electric only. These are usually what RVs will use when they reserve a campsite but you can also tent camp in most of these sites.
You might also have an option for primitive sites. These mean that there will be no water or electricity available and is the closest to getting back to nature you can get. A tent is all that is required to set up in one of these spots.
There are few other, less known, types of sites you can reserve at a top Texas state park. Screened shelters are basically four-walled structures with screen netting to keep any bugs from getting inside. Equestrian sites are where you and your horse can enjoy resting in the great outdoors side by side. You can even reserve a group site that allows for multiple tents in the same location if you have a bigger group or family going.
Are There Maps Available?
There should be a map for every state park in Texas that has already been created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife organization. To view the map for your specific park head to the state park’s main page. Click on the “View Maps and Directions” link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
There you will usually see a parks map, trails map, and interactive map. Some of the data on the map about the trails and location of reservation sites are a little outdated.
Some of the maps might be outdated because of when they were created but they should have most of the information you need about trails, elevation, and where things are located. You may need to check where certain campsites are located because these locations might have changed since the map was created.
There’s plenty of beauty in the great state of Texas and a lot of unique gems as well including dinosaur footprints and a stay right off the Gulf Of Mexico. The Texas Parks and Wildlife organization does a fantastic job keeping up with the parks to make sure they are safe and clean enough for anyone to use. Let someone know where you are going to be throughout your trip just in case something happens and always pack enough water and food. As long as you prepare, you are going to have a fantastic time getting back to nature and enjoying all that Texas has to offer.
Something missing from the article? Did a detail get missed? Comment below and share your thoughts.