Where to Go Camping in Texas

Lake Conroe, Texas, offers the perfect combination of rest, relaxation and adventure
Lake Conroe, Texas, offers the perfect combination of rest, relaxation and adventure | © Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nick Dauk
11 August 2021

From Texas 1873, where you’ll enjoy massages and yoga classes, to the rough-and-ready spots such as Rio Bravo Ranch where the stars are the only embellishment, here are our favorite campsites in Texas.

They say that everything’s bigger in Texas – and it’s certainly true when it comes to the great outdoors. Vast prairies under towering skies, miles-long canyons and acres of leafy forests – the Lone Star state has some of the most diverse settings in which to camp. So tune up the guitar, gather around the fire and experience the wild beauty of Texas at these scene-stealing campsites.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

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Rio Grande in Madera Canyon seen from La Questa (Big Hill) on The River Road in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas, USA
© Witold Skrypczak / Alamy Stock Photo

Not to be confused with neighboring Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park is no less spectacular. Bordered by the mighty Rio Grande, there are more than 200mi (322km) of trail on which to hike, bike, ride horses or test the suspension on your 4X4. Most campsites – including equestrian sites – can be reached by vehicle, which makes for a low-impact way to introduce first-time campers to primitive sites. If you’re planning to cruise by the Camino del Rio, make sure you’ve got your tackle box and rafts in tow.

Rio Bravo Ranch

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Sleep within minutes of Big Bend Ranch State Park when you camp at Rio Bravo Ranch. The sunlight streaming over Agua Adentro Mountain will warmly wake you from your slumber – illuminating this private patch of land where you’ll spot picturesque views in every direction. Come prepared with all your camping essentials, as this bare-bones site is empty save for a fire ring under a shaded structure. Firewood can be purchased and picked up on site.

Dusty Paddle Site 1

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Steer your squad into this desert campground and spend the weekend gazing at the mountains that stretch all the way to Mexico. This off-grid site is perfect for a family- and pet-friendly boondocking experience – though you needn’t be completely without creature comforts, as the general store is only 10 minutes away. Stargazing, hiking and biking are popular pastimes in these parts, but for natural history nerds, hunting for fossils and shells along what was the prehistoric sea floor comes up trumps.

Pedernales Falls State Park

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Pedernales River and Falls at Pedernales Falls State Park in Texas
© CrackerClips Stock Media / Alamy Stock Photo
Though the Pedernales River can be turbulent at times, there’s plenty of tranquility in Pedernales Falls State Park. So close to Austin you can practically smell Franklin Barbeque, you’ll have ample opportunity to get your footing on a range of challenging hiking trails. Tubing, mountain biking and geocaching are all readily available, but if you’re looking to slow down and get back to nature, add picnicking in the butterfly garden or at the bird blind to your to-do list.

Agave

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In the heart of Hill Country – but not too far from the wineries, breweries and distilleries drowning in Texan hospitality – this campsite is ripe for relaxation. A campfire and grill, adirondack chairs, tents, beds, a toilet, a sun shower and other comfort-accommodating amenities are awaiting you and your crew. Still sound too earthy for your liking? This natural wonderland also has cabins, glamping tents, a gypsy wagon and RV sites for rent.

Cedar Hill State Park

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Stepping into Cedar Hill State Park feels like walking through a fond memory of a family vacation. Reeling in catfish off the jetties, playing Marco Polo in Joe Pool Lake and exploring 1,200 acres (486ha) of trail will make you feel like a kid again. The campsites – some primitive, others with water and electricity – will make you feel a world away from everyday life while still keeping you within a short drive of downtown Dallas.

Camping at the Cedars Ranch

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Courtesy of Camping at The Cedars Ranch / Booking.com

Whether you choose to cool down under the shade of a live oak, or with a dip in Jacob’s Well is up to you, but in the heat of camping season, this site has plenty of options for chilling out – literally. Spread across 20 acres of Texas ranch land, there are pre-pitched tents, a wood stove, a sun shower and a camp loo already in place. All you need to bring is the bug spray, a good book and three of your best pals.

Huntsville State Park

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Get lost in the East Texas Pineywoods, deep within the Sam Houston National Forest, at Huntsville State Park. Kids and adults of all ages will love lounging by the lake, scouring the 21mi (34km) of trails for the perfect photo op and ending each day with ice cream from the on-site shop. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are available for rent, while fishing supplies are as fully stocked as the lake is with bass and crappies.

Hidden Forest

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Red ball contrasting with twilight blue and pink glow at sunset on Lake Conroe, Texas.
© Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo

This woody, 2 acre (0.8ha) campsite is completely fenced in, so you’ll feel safe in the knowledge that your dogs and kids – or any other tag-alongs with a propensity for over-exploring – won’t be able to get too far. When you are ready to explore, Lake Conroe and several trails are right around the corner, which give you options for fishing, hunting and hiking. And as far as amenities go, this campsite has it all – from hammocks, tents and mattresses to a sun shower, toilet and comfy seat in front of the firepit.

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  • Blanco State Park

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    Channel of Pedernales River at Pedernales Falls State Park, Hill Country, Texas, USA
    © Witold Skrypczak / Alamy Stock Photo

    Come here once, and this small state park on the shores of the Blanco River will turn out to be your family’s favorite swimming spot for generations to come. Dive in anywhere along the river, or kick things off slowly with a kid-friendly paddle in the shallow wading pool next to the Falls Dam. If you’d rather stay dry, fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking are permitted year-round. Or grab a field guide from the park store and explore further afield.

    Camping near Hamilton Pool

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    Hamilton pool cave
    © Jerry Editor / Alamy Stock Photo

    This backcountry campsite is ideal for cyclists who want to do a bit of off-road exploring. Pick your pitch based on whether you’d rather have the shade of an oak tree, or the unobstructed stargazing of a wide-open patch; then kick things off with a short pedal to the natural swimming hole of Hamilton Pool, or push further afield to nearby Reimers Ranch Park and West Cave Preserve. There’s an outdoor shower back at the site to help you clean off before you warm up around the fire ring.

    Davis Mountains State Park

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    USA, Fort Davis, Texas, Davis Mountains State Park, view from Skyline Drive Overlook over Sleeping mountain to Mitre Peak.
    © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
    From the dusty flats of the high desert to the dramatic peaks of the Davis Mountains, there’s hardly an angle here that won’t cause you to stop and stare. The views found on the 5mi (8km) Skyline Drive Trail are particularly arresting. Afterwards, rest at the “best little bird blind in Texas,” cooling off in full view of the winged wonders that fly by. The Indian Lodge hotel is also on site for any city slickers not up for roughing it.

    Alamito Creekside Camping

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    Get the gang together for a long weekend of logging off from work and properly reconnecting around the campfire. Up to 14 campers can call this private backcountry site home for the night, and with so many hands on deck, you’ll have no trouble setting up shop under the stars. String a hammock between the cottonwood trees and listen for the cows, coyotes and other critters roaming around this 1mi (1.6km) stretch of private land.

    May

    Architectural Landmark
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    May is so sparsely populated that even a quick trip into town won’t break your spell of solitude. This slice of Brown County west of Waco has a small burger and pizza joint where you can fuel up on the way to your campsite. Roll the windows down, turn the radio up and enjoy the wide-open views as you follow the quiet roads to one of the many campsites under the big Texas sky.

    Texas 1873

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    Courtesy of Texas 1873 / Booking.com

    The silence, the stars, the scenery – camping doesn’t get any purer than at the Texas 1873 campsite. That’s if you want to forego the pre-pitched tents, toilet and propane grill, all set up to make your outdoor experience as comfortable as possible. Everything from ranch tours and wildlife photography outings to archery lessons and hunts can be arranged, and you can even hire a private masseuse for massages and yoga sessions if you really want to pimp your pitch.

    This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Sarah Karney.

    These recommendations were updated on August 11, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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