From the rock formations of the Hill Country to the vast expanse of the desert, Texas has boundless and breathtaking natural beauty to offer. One of the best ways to enjoy the Texas outdoors is to spend a few days camping in one of the many nature parks scattered across the state. No matter what your skill level is, Texas has a destination for every camper.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
The Enchanted Rock State National Area is found in the Texas Hill Country, which is renowned for its natural beauty. The area is named after a 500-foot high dome formed out of pink granite. This rock is estimated to be about one billion years old, making it one of the oldest exposed rocks in North America. The site is also mentioned in several Native American legends.
Enchanted Rock State National Area offers both conventional campsites with running water, restrooms and showers along with more primitive campsites. If you like to get the full outdoors experience, the primitive campsites have no running water and are a couple miles from the nearest parking area. Any supplies that you need, you have to take with you by foot.
Enchanted Rock is a popular destination for avid hikers and rock climbers. For those who want to stick closer to their tent, there are picnic tables and grills in the conventional campgrounds where families can relax and share a meal. Enchanted Rock State National Area offers an experience for the casual and experienced camper alike.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park offers a rugged terrain characterized by mountains, canyons and sprawling deserts. This is Texas’s biggest state park, with 238 miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails. There is even a 5,500-foot long airstrip for those who want to fly into the park. There are three separate campgrounds to visit, all more that 1,000 feet above sea level.
The Rio Grande Village Campground and RV Campground is set amongst Cottonwood trees next to the Rio Grande. It is the most luxurious of the campsites, with running water, flushing toilets and a nearby shop in case of forgotten supplies. If you camp in an RV, the Rio Grande Village also has full hookups and a dumpsite. When you’re not relaxing at the campsite, you can swim, kayak or fish in the nearby Rio Grande.
The Chisos Basin Campground is settled among the cliffs and mountains at an elevation of 5400 feet. It also has the luxury of flushing toilets and running water, but there are no hookups or dumpsites for RVs. The campground is located next to some of the park’s most well-known and popular trails, making it the perfect site for campers who love to hike.
The Cottonwood Campground is located in a desert setting and is the most rugged camping terrain that Big Bend has to offer. There are no hookups, no generators allowed, and only simple pit toilets available. The Cottonwood site offers a more stark and challenging campground for the experienced camper.
Padre Island National Seashore
Although white sandy beaches may not be what comes to mind when you think about Texas, you can find them at Padre Island. It is one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the United States, with 70 miles of scenic coastline.
There are five campgrounds available to the public. You are required to have a camping permit, which you can get at the front kiosk. Most of the campsites are fairly primitive, and better suited for the more experienced camper.
The Malaquite campground is home to the most amenities. There are running showers and flushing toilets, as well as a nearby visitor center. If you are camping in an RV, there is a dumpsite and a water filling station but no hookups.
The Bird Island Basin site is popular among watersports enthusiasts. It’s located right on the edge of Laguna Madre, and boasts a windsurfing area and a launching ramp. Even for those new to watersports, there are instructors and rental units for anyone who wants to learn to kayak or windsurf. This site has no running water and chemical toilets.
The North Beach, South Beach and Yarborough campsites have no facilities whatsoever. They are very primitive and somewhat difficult to access. South Beach is only accessible by driving along the sand, and the Yarborough Pass can only be reached by 4-wheel drive through South Beach and by boating down the Laguna Madre. These three beach sites are all geared towards the highly skilled camper.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park spans over 1500 acres and is located alongside the Paluxy River. As the name suggests, the area used to be home to dinosaurs. You can find some of the most well preserved dinosaur footprints in the world along the river. There is a small museum where you can learn more about the park’s history, as well as two giant models of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and an Apatosaurus.
Dinosaur Valley is a good place to take the family camping. In addition to learning about dinosaurs, there are kid friendly activities such as swimming and trivia trails. If your family rides horses, there are many wooded areas that you are allowed to explore on horseback.
For families that are looking for a casual camping experience, Dinosaur Valley State Park offers campsites with electric and water hookups, as well as restrooms and running water. There are also primitive sites with no amenities that are only accessible by foot. This park is perfect for both the vacationing family and the hobbyist camper.
Choosing a Camping Experience
Texas has a campsite for every type of person, from the dad relaxing on his family vacation to the adrenaline fueled rock climber. It’s important to think about what you want to get out of your camping trip before picking a location. Do you want to hike through the mountains, or relax in the sun on a beach? With all of the beautiful state and national parks scattered throughout Texas, you’re bound to find the perfect campsite for you.