Are you a camping enthusiast celebrating a milestone birthday? Then why not explore the breathtaking beauty of Texas’ diverse state parks?
From mesquite trees in the west to red rock canyons in the north and sweeping ocean views in the south, these parks provide a unique and unforgettable experience.
Here, you’ll find a list of the best Texas State parks for camping, each offering its own set of natural wonders, historical tales, and thrilling outdoor activities.
Tours & Things to do hand-picked by our insiders
So, come and celebrate with us and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the Lone Star State.
Texas Weather For Camping
Warm and humid climate, with hot summers and mild winters. However, some areas can experience cold snaps, snow, or ice in the winter, while others can have dry and windy conditions.
The average high temperature in Texas ranges from 58°F in January to 95°F in July, while the average low temperature ranges from 37°F in January to 74°F in July.
Some of the best times to camp in Texas are in the spring and fall when the weather is pleasant and the wildflowers are blooming. However, winter camping can also be enjoyable, especially in the southern and western parts of the state, where the temperatures are milder and the crowds are smaller.
Some of the best winter camping spots in Texas are:
El Cosmico, Marfa: A unique campground that offers vintage trailers, safari tents, yurts, teepees, and campsites. Enjoy the clear night sky, the quirky art scene, and the nearby Big Bend National Park.
Garner State Park, Concan: A popular park that features a scenic river, hiking trails, wildlife viewing, and cabins. Enjoy the fall colours, the winter solitude, and the nightly dances at the pavilion.
Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi: A stunning stretch of coastline that offers primitive camping on the beach. Enjoy the ocean views, the birdwatching, and the chance to see sea turtles.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Fredericksburg: A spectacular park that features a massive pink granite dome that rises above the landscape. Enjoy hiking, rock climbing, stargazing, and camping at the base of the rock.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon: The second-largest canyon in the country that offers breathtaking views, hiking trails, horseback riding, and camping. Enjoy the winter wonderland, the musical show, and the historic cabins.
Best Texas State Parks For Camping
1. Garner State Park
Garner State Park, located in Concan, Texas, is known as the most popular state park in Texas for overnight camping, offering a variety of outdoor activities and scenic views.
Visitors to Garner State Park can engage in popular activities such as swimming, hiking, and wildlife spotting. The park boasts scenic hiking trails, including the challenging Old Mount Baldy Trail, which offers breathtaking views overlooking the Frio River.
Wildlife enthusiasts will have the opportunity to spot various species of birds, deer, and other wildlife throughout the park.
The campground at Garner State Park provides amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and restrooms with showers, ensuring a comfortable camping experience.
The best time to visit Garner State Park is during the weekdays or off-season to avoid the crowds, as the park tends to fill up quickly during peak periods, such as holidays and weekends.
2. Inks Lake State Park one of the Best Camping in Texas State Parks
Nestled next to the tranquil waters of Inks Lake on the Colorado River, Inks Lake State Park beckons outdoor enthusiasts with its rugged landscape, abundant wildlife, and diverse recreational activities.
Fishing opportunities abound in this park, making it a fisherman’s paradise. With a variety of fish species, including sunfish, catfish, and bass, anglers can enjoy a fruitful afternoon.
For those who prefer to explore on foot, the park offers 9 miles of hiking trails traverse diverse terrain, providing ample opportunities to immerse oneself in nature. Wildlife sightings are common, with white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels, and various bird species making their presence known.
Water activities such as swimming, boating, and scuba diving can be enjoyed on the lake, while picnic areas provide a scenic spot for a leisurely meal.
Inks Lake State Park truly offers something for everyone seeking a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.
3. Dinosaur Valley State Park
Located near the towns of Glen Rose and Granbury, Dinosaur Valley State Park offers visitors the opportunity to step back in time and explore the prehistoric world through its unique dinosaur footprints and a variety of outdoor activities.
The park is renowned for its remarkable fossil discoveries, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs that roamed the area millions of years ago.
Dinosaur Valley State Park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails winding through scenic landscapes and providing breathtaking views of the surrounding geological formations.
For those seeking a camping experience, the park offers well-equipped campsites with amenities such as water and electricity hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings.
Wildlife enthusiasts will also delight in the park, as it is home to various species, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, and a variety of reptiles.
Dinosaur Valley State Park is truly a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and offers a unique blend of natural wonders and prehistoric marvels.
4. Cedar Hill State Park
Situated in the heart of Cedar Hill, Texas, Cedar Hill State Park offers visitors a diverse range of outdoor activities and stunning natural scenery.
The park, spanning 1,826 acres, provides ample camping amenities for those seeking a peaceful retreat.
With its numerous hiking trails, visitors can explore the park’s beautiful landscapes and immerse themselves in nature. Wildlife sightings are common, allowing nature enthusiasts to observe various species in their natural habitat.
Fishing opportunities are abundant, with Joe Pool Lake offering a vast expanse for anglers to cast their lines.
Additionally, Cedar Hill State Park boasts scenic overlooks, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Whether it’s camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature, Cedar Hill State Park has something to offer for everyone seeking a memorable outdoor experience.
This Park also offers:
- Guided hikes in which you can learn about history and nature
- Outdoor skills workshops.
5. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Tucked away in the Texas Panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon State Park showcases awe-inspiring geological formations and vibrant layers of rock reminiscent of the renowned Grand Canyon. This hidden gem offers a plethora of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hiking trails in Palo Duro Canyon State Park provide opportunities to explore the breathtaking beauty of the canyon up close. With trails ranging from easy to challenging, visitors can choose their desired level of adventure.
Wildlife spotting opportunities in the park are abundant, allowing visitors to catch glimpses of native animals in their natural habitat.
For those seeking a camping experience, Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers some of the best camping spots in Texas. Whether you prefer a primitive site or a more developed campground, there are options available to suit every camper’s needs.
Scenic overlooks throughout the park provide stunning vistas of the canyon and surrounding landscape, perfect for capturing memorable photographs.
Additionally, Palo Duro Canyon State Park holds historical significance as it was the site of the last major battle of the Red River Wars between the U.S. Army and Native American tribes. Exploring the park’s history adds depth to the overall experience, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike.
6. Colorado Bend State Park
Nestled within the captivating Hill Country region of Texas, Colorado Bend State Park beckons adventurers with its sprawling landscape and enchanting natural wonders.
This 5,328.3-acre park offers a plethora of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, including an array of hiking trails that wind through its picturesque terrain.
As you traverse these trails, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls the park home, from deer and bobcats to a variety of bird species.
For those who enjoy fishing, the park boasts ample opportunities to cast a line into its pristine waters.
Camping amenities are available, although note that they are fairly primitive, with no flush toilets or showers.
However, what the park lacks in modern conveniences, it more than makes up for with its breathtaking scenic overlooks that offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
7. Big Bend National Park
Located in southwest Texas, Big Bend National Park encompasses the majestic Chisos mountain range, vast stretches of the Chihuahuan Desert, and the breathtaking Santa Elena Canyon carved by the Rio Grande River.
This park offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to different skill levels, allowing visitors to explore its diverse landscapes and encounter wildlife along the way.
With its remote location and limited light pollution, Big Bend National Park is also a stargazer’s paradise, providing unparalleled opportunities for observing the night sky.
Photography enthusiasts will find plenty of picturesque spots to capture the park’s natural beauty, from the rugged canyons to the desert landscapes.
The park offers well-equipped camping amenities for camping enthusiasts, ensuring a comfortable and safe experience in the wilderness.
Whether you’re seeking adventure on the trails or tranquillity under the stars, Big Bend National Park is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
8. Pedernales Falls State Park
Situated along the picturesque banks of the Pedernales River, Pedernales Falls State Park offers visitors a tranquil oasis amidst the diverse landscapes of Texas.
The park is renowned for its abundant hiking trails, which cater to both beginners and advanced outdoor enthusiasts. These trails, such as the Tobacco and Mescal Mountains, provide opportunities to explore the park’s scenic beauty and encounter the local wildlife.
In addition to hiking, Pedernales Falls State Park offers excellent camping facilities, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings overnight.
The park also boasts breathtaking scenic waterfalls, where visitors can relax and cool off in the pools along their hike.
For those seeking adventure, Pedernales Falls State Park provides rock climbing opportunities that add an extra level of excitement to the outdoor experience.
With its diverse activities and stunning natural landscapes, Pedernales Falls State Park is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Over the river, You May Also enjoy other activities here:
- They’ve biking and hiking trails for both beginners and advanced visitors. Some of the trails are the Tobacco and the Mescal Mountains.
- Relaxing and cooling off in the pools along your hike is also possible.
- If you have your own horse, you could saddle up and ride through the paths. You will need to check — since they close when it’s wet.
This Park’s busiest months are spring, summer, and fall. Thus, avoid going during these months.
9. Guadalupe River State Park
Tucked away along the scenic banks of the Guadalupe River, Guadalupe River State Park offers a plethora of outdoor activities and breathtaking natural beauty.
Fishing enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the park provides ample fishing opportunities, with the Guadalupe River teeming with various fish species.
Additionally, the park boasts some of the best hiking trails in the area, allowing visitors to explore the diverse flora and fauna that call the park home.
Wildlife spotting is also a popular activity at Guadalupe River State Park, as visitors may encounter deer, armadillos, and a variety of bird species.
Families will find plenty of activities to enjoy, such as swimming at the swimming hole, canoeing, and tubing down the river.
The park offers campfire cooking tips for those looking to enhance their camping experience, allowing visitors to savour delicious meals under the stars.
10. Riverfront RV Park
Burrow along the picturesque River Walking Trail in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Riverfront RV Park offers a tranquil retreat with convenient access to nearby attractions such as historic downtown Fort Smith and the United States Marshals Museum.
This serene park provides a range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a safe and enjoyable experience. Fishing enthusiasts can take advantage of the on-site boat ramp and parking area, immersing themselves in the peaceful waters. Wildlife encounters are also common in this area, adding to the charm of the surroundings.
For those seeking water activities, the park offers opportunities for boating and swimming in the refreshing pool. Campers can indulge in the joy of campfire cooking at the designated areas, creating delicious meals under the starry night sky.
Additionally, the park boasts some of the best hiking trails for outdoor exploration, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the area’s natural beauty.
Is Wild Camping Legal in Texas?
Wild camping, also known as dispersed camping or boondocking, is the practice of camping outside of designated campgrounds or facilities. In Texas, wild camping is legal in some public lands, such as national forests and wildlife management areas, but not in state parks or other protected areas. Wild campers must follow the rules and regulations of the land managers, obtain a free camping permit if required, and practice leave no trace principles. Wild camping is also possible on some private lands with the landowner’s permission. Here are some sources for more information:
Regulations – TPWD – Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (see Park Rules and Regulations)
Best Free Camping in Texas – Campendium (see Wildlife Management Areas)
Camping and Lodging — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (see Overnight Options)
Is There Any Free Camping in Texas?
Yes, there is free camping in Texas. Free camping, also known as dispersed camping or boondocking, is the practice of camping outside of designated campgrounds or facilities. In Texas, free camping is available in some public lands, such as national forests, wildlife management areas, and Padre Island National Seashore. Some county and city parks also offer free camping with a permit. Additionally, you can sleep overnight in your vehicle at Texas rest areas for up to 24 hours.
Is Boondocking Allowed in Texas?
Boondocking, also known as dispersed or dry camping, is the practice of camping outside designated campgrounds or facilities, usually without hookups or amenities. Boondocking is allowed in Texas in some public lands, such as national forests, wildlife management areas, and Padre Island National Seashore. Some city and county parks also allow boondocking with a permit or a fee. Additionally, you can boondock overnight in your vehicle at Texas rest areas for up to 24 hours.
What is the Most Popular State Park in Texas?
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Garner State Park is Texas’s most popular state park. It features 1,774 acres of Hill Country terrain with 2.9 miles of the Frio River meandering through it. Visitors can enjoy swimming, tubing, fishing, hiking, dancing, and camping at this park. In 2022, Garner State Park had over 400,000 visitors.
Can You Sleep in Your Car in Texas State Parks?
The answer to whether you can sleep in your car in Texas state parks depends on the park and the type of camping you are doing. Generally, front country camping refers to camping in designated campsites with amenities such as bathrooms, electric hook-ups, picnic tables, and parking spaces. If you have reserved and paid for a space, you may sleep in your car at the campsite. However, you may not skip the fee and pull up along the side of the road and sleep there. Backcountry camping involves hiking into a forest or wilderness area to camp and does not involve sleeping in cars or vans. Some state parks may also have primitive camping areas where you can drive to a remote site and camp with minimal facilities. You may be able to sleep in your car at these sites, but you should check with the park staff before doing so
What Are the Least Visited National Parks in Texas?
Texas has two national parks: Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Both of them are among the least visited national parks in the United States, according to the National Park Service statistics for 2021. Big Bend National Park had 463,812 recreation visits in 2021, ranking 39th out of 63 national parks. Guadalupe Mountains National Park had 243,291 recreation visits in 2021, ranking 15th out of 63 national parks. Both parks offer stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, and hiking, camping, and stargazing opportunities.
Hello, and welcome to Travel Crog, a site where I share my travel advice for your dream vacations. My name is Molly Martin, and I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. I have a passion for travelling and exploring new destinations, and I want to inspire you to do the same. Six years ago, I left my job as an HR professional and embarked on a three-month trip around the world. It was an amazing experience that changed my life and perspective. Ever since then, I have been travelling as much as I can, and writing about the best things to do, see, and eat in every place I visit. Whether you’re looking for a city break, a beach getaway, or a mountain adventure, I have something for you. Travel is not only fun, but also empowering and enriching. Join me on my journey and discover the world with Travel Crog. My motto is: “Life is short, travel more.”