UPDATED NOV 21, 2019
Austin is an incredible city with tons to do, but sometimes we need a little nature break. So pack up the dogs, round up the crew, and head to one of these go-to spots to pitch a tent near ATX.
Located just outside of Burnet and only about an hour from downtown, Inks Lake is downright stunning. There are 200 campsites and 22 cabins here along with tons to do and see. And this is one of the parks where the lake is always level, so water-sports and fishing are a must. You can even rent equipment here and scuba dive. Looking to get in a bit of a workout? There are nine miles of hiking trails, and you can cool off afterward with a dip at Devil’s Watering Hole.
Enchanted Rock should be on everyone’s Texas bucket list. Just north of Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock is a magical, massive pink granite dome — the largest in the US of its kind. The hike up it is a bit strenuous, so make sure to pack enough water to stay hydrated. As of late, pets are no longer allowed on this trail, but they’re still allowed on the campgrounds and surrounding hikes. There are plenty of walk-in campsites, primitive campsites, and group campsites to rest your tired and weary legs, too. And while you’re in the area, be sure to visit a winery…or two.
Blanco State Park is a small but quaint 105-acre area along the Blanco River. Round up the gang and head over to enjoy a day of barbecuing, or pitch a tent and take in all the nature. The swimming areas are centered around a beautiful dam fed by natural springs. If you forget a tube, you can always rent one. Meanwhile, you can also get a slight workout in by hiking the two small trails here (neither are very strenuous).
Cedar Breaks Park is a true hidden gem in Georgetown. It sits off of Lake Georgetown and has 59 reservable campsites, all of which have electrical hookups. Oh, and if you’re looking for flushing toilets, this is your spot. Cedar Breaks is wooded and shady, with tons of water for the dogs to run and play. Fitt Tip: Keep an eye out for raccoons; they’re definitely not shy around here!
McKinney Falls State Park, in Southeast Austin, is a great spot if you need to escape the city but don’t feel like driving very far. There are tons of hiking and bike trails along the breathtaking Onion Creek, where you can see those picture-worthy limestone ledges and more natural wonderment. McKinney Falls has 81 campsites, and they all have water and electric hookups. All the campsites are relatively close together, but each come with their own fire ring with a grill rack, so you can still roast marshmallows and hot dogs without having to bump elbows or share with your neighbors (unless you want to, of course!).
Located in he heart of the Hill Country, Pedernales Falls is definitely a favorite among Texans. Think waterfalls, swimming holes, limestone rocks, and plenty of caves to explore. There are tons of trails, too — some that lead right through the Pedernales River and create the perfect photo op. Plus, this spot has 69 campsites (all of which have electricity hookups), hike-in camping areas for those who enjoy roughin' in, and even an equestrian group campground for all you riding enthusiasts (or cowboys). Fitt Tip: Get there early; it fills up fast.
Emma Long Park is a long-standing local favorite for its laid-back vibes and easy accessibility. Hiding out in West Austin, Emma Long has a good bit of camping sites, but not all come with water or electricity, so choose wisely. It’s also operated on a first come, first served basis, and tends to be fairly busy on weekends, something you'll want to keep in mind when booking (which can easily be done online). Once you arrive, you can take advantage of the area's many barbecue pits, volleyball and basketball courts, nearby hiking trails, and calm waters that are perfect for swimming.
Sandy Creek Park is yet another great hideout along Lake Travis, specifically located in Leander, TX. It's ideal if what you're after is a quiet, serene, and ridiculously beautiful getaway in nature. These campgrounds are a little more primitive and don’t offer any electricity throughout, which means this is your opportunity to truly unplug. We recommend bringing a cooler and setting up chairs on the sandy beach shores for a chill afternoon.
The Guadalupe River is where it’s at for tubing and rafting. About 50 miles south of Austin, Guadalupe River State Park has tons of activities for everyone. Besides the fact that the river is peppered with swimming holes, the campgrounds are clean and well-maintained. Take your pick of 85 water and electric campsites and nine walk-in tent sites. There’s easy hiking access from the park, but we recommend making the 10-mile drive to Bauer Unit for longer, more exciting trails. Oh, and don’t forget to hit up the nature center for a little education along the way!
If you haven’t made the trek to Lockhart for their amazing barbecue, this is a perfect excuse to kill two birds with one stone. Think of Lockhart State Park as the Disneyland of Texas campgrounds. There’s a swimming pool, tons of hiking trails, RV hookups, and even a nine-hole golf course (so many activities!). The park hits capacity at 75 people, which keeps it nice and low-key. And before you work up an appetite, reserve a kitchen space in the Group Recreation Hall.
Stephen F. Austin State Park is a great place if you're trying to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city without embarking on a full-on road trip. It sits on the banks of the Brazos River and offers a nice and peaceful environment to regroup and relax. And when it comes to camping, you've got options — this park has just about every type of campsite you can think of, from full hookup campsites to mini-cabins. Plus, there are six miles of hiking and biking trails on the grounds, so make sure to pack your wheels.
Bastrop State Park is one of the oldest in the state, and visitors have long come to enjoy the vast history that surrounds the area, along with the park's well-known Lost Pines, a three-mile belt of loblolly pines. And while the area has been hit hard in recent years by both floods and fires, things are starting to look up, so you can still take a trip to experience the slender pine trees, the growth of new plant species, and the return of native wildlife. As for the campgrounds, this spot has campsites of all stature, depending on how primitive you want to get (but we won't judge if you opt for glamping).
Another Georgetown favorite, Jim Hogg Park sets itself up on the north side of the lake — an excellent spot for fishing and camping fun. This campground has 142 reservable campsites, toilets, showers, and other amenities for the less primitive. But the best part is perhaps the covered picnic areas to protect from those random Texas rains. You'll also find a 26-mile trail here that you can hike or bike to burn off some of those s’mores.
Pace Bend is in Spicewood, TX, about an hour west in the beautiful Hill Country area. It’s one of the more popular destinations along the shoreline of Lake Travis, with picturesque limestone cliffs and breathtaking sunsets. It’s a great place to post up for the day, with tons of picnic tables, grills, and boat ramps. If you’re tuckered out, snag one of their 20 campsites to spend the night in the fresh air. Fitt Tip: Get there early to grab a good spot (it gets crowded), bring bug spray, and definitely pack some floats!
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