Discovering Texas State Parks: Fall Camping Edition

Texas State Parks Fall Camping

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As the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) gear up to celebrate 100 years of Texas State Parks, it’s the perfect time to plan a fall camping adventure in the Lone Star State. H-E-B, the presenting sponsor of the Centennial Celebration, has generously donated $1 million to support the festivities. With the goal of encouraging all Texans to experience the beauty and adventure of their state parks, there has never been a better time to explore the vast natural wonders that Texas has to offer.

From picturesque landscapes to diverse wildlife, Texas State Parks provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Whether you’re looking for a quiet getaway or an action-packed outdoor adventure, there’s a park that caters to your interests. Embark on a journey through some of the best state parks in Central and East Texas and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.

Key Takeaways:

  • Texas State Parks are celebrating 100 years in 2023, with H-E-B as the presenting sponsor.
  • Now is the perfect time to plan a fall camping trip to explore the beauty of Texas State Parks.
  • Central and East Texas offer a diverse range of parks with unique experiences and amenities.
  • From Lake Brownwood to Pedernales Falls, each park has its own charm and attractions.
  • Make sure to check camping regulations and make reservations online for a smooth camping experience.

Exploring Central and East Texas

camping in Texas State Parks

When it comes to camping in Texas State Parks, central and east Texas offer some of the best fall camping spots in the state. The author and their family embarked on a memorable journey, visiting several state parks along the way. Ranking the parks based on their camping experience, they focused on the natural beauty and amenities each park had to offer.

  • Lake Brownwood State Park: Located in the heart of Texas, this park provided a serene escape with its picturesque lake and rolling hills. The campsites were well-maintained and offered stunning views. Families can enjoy hiking, boating, and fishing activities during their stay.
  • Pedernales Falls State Park: Known for its captivating waterfalls and rugged landscapes, this park offers a unique camping experience. The author was captivated by the beauty of the falls and enjoyed exploring the park’s trails. Camping here allows visitors to immerse themselves in nature and experience the tranquility of the Texas Hill Country.
  • Palmetto State Park: This hidden gem in central Texas offers a rich display of dwarf palmettos, presenting a sight unlike any other state park. The author was fascinated by the abundance of wildlife and enjoyed the park’s walking trails and historical landmarks. The campsites varied in privacy, allowing visitors to choose the perfect spot for their fall camping adventure.
  • Port Aransas Beach: Although not a state park, Port Aransas Beach is worth mentioning for its stunning coastal beauty. Campers can set up their tents right on the beach, immersing themselves in the soothing sound of the waves. The author recommends this primitive camping experience for those seeking a unique coastal getaway.
  • Goose Island State Park: This park offers two campgrounds, allowing visitors to choose between bayfront views or a secluded wooded area. The author was enthralled by the bird-watching opportunities and the majestic Big Tree, a centuries-old live oak. Although hiking options were limited, the overall camping experience was memorable.
  • McKinney Falls State Park: Situated near Austin, this park offers a convenient camping location with access to the city’s amenities. While the author found the hiking opportunities limited, they enjoyed attending the Peppermint Parkway holiday lights festival at the nearby Circuit of The Americas. They suggest exploring other parks during the winter season for a more fulfilling experience.
  • Guadalupe River State Park: Nestled along the scenic Guadalupe River, this park is known for its excellent fishing and tubing opportunities. The author appreciated the well-maintained campsites and the peaceful ambiance of the river. Families can enjoy swimming, picnicking, and hiking amidst breathtaking scenery.
  • Bastrop State Park: This park showcases the regrowth of the Lost Pines after a devastating wildfire. The author admired the resilience of nature and the opportunity to witness the rebirth of the forest. The campsites were spacious and well-spaced, offering privacy and tranquility. Visitors can explore the park’s trails and enjoy outdoor activities such as biking and bird-watching.

Each park visited by the author and their family during their journey through central and east Texas offered a distinctive and unforgettable experience. From serene lakes and captivating waterfalls to coastal beauty and regenerating forests, these state parks truly exemplify the beauty of fall camping in Texas.

Ranking of Central and East Texas State Parks for Fall Camping

Rank Park Camping Experience Highlights
1 Lake Brownwood State Park Scenic views, well-maintained campsites Picturesque lake, hiking, boating, fishing
2 Pedernales Falls State Park Rugged landscapes, captivating waterfalls Trails for exploration, Texas Hill Country beauty
3 Palmetto State Park Dwarf palmettos, abundant wildlife Walking trails, historical landmarks
4 Port Aransas Beach Primitive beach camping Coastal beauty, soothing ocean sounds
5 Goose Island State Park Bayfront or wooded campsites Bird-watching, centuries-old live oak
6 McKinney Falls State Park Convenient location, city access Peppermint Parkway lights festival
7 Guadalupe River State Park Excellent fishing, tubing opportunities Swimming, picnicking, scenic river
8 Bastrop State Park Regrowth of Lost Pines, spacious campsites Biking, bird-watching, regenerating forest

Lake Brownwood State Park

Lake Brownwood State Park was the author’s first stop in Texas. They enjoyed their time there, encountering their first armadillo and experiencing the craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps. However, they rated the park with three stars because the campsites lacked privacy and the trails were limited. They found the campground to be open and lacking in secluded spaces for quiet family time.

Despite the shortcomings, Lake Brownwood State Park offers a range of camping amenities typical of Texas State Parks. Visitors can enjoy:

  • Electric and water hookups
  • Picnic tables and fire rings
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Camp store with basic supplies
  • Boat ramps and fishing piers
  • Swimming at the designated area
  • Playground for kids

While the campsites may lack privacy, the campground itself provides a spacious and peaceful environment for families to bond and create lasting memories. The park’s facilities and amenities ensure a comfortable camping experience for all visitors.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a hidden gem for camping enthusiasts in Texas. The author was fortunate enough to secure a last-minute spot at this breathtaking park and had an unforgettable experience.

The highlight of the visit was the opportunity to spend a day hiking and exploring the stunning rocky falls. The park’s unique landscape provided the perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures. The author and their family enjoyed the thrill of climbing over boulders, discovering hidden nooks, and taking in the beauty of the surrounding nature.

The campsite at Pedernales Falls State Park offered a peaceful and secluded atmosphere, providing privacy for a truly relaxing getaway. There was plenty of room for the kids to run around and explore, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

One of the most memorable moments was gazing at the night sky. The lack of light pollution allowed for a spectacular stargazing experience. The author was mesmerized by the twinkling stars and constellations that seemed to come alive in the vastness of the Texas Hill Country.

Whether visiting Pedernales Falls State Park in the fall or any other season, this park is a must-see destination for nature lovers. With its picturesque landscapes, abundant wildlife, and thrilling activities, there is never a dull moment at Pedernales Falls.

“Pedernales Falls State Park offers a rugged and enchanting camping experience in the heart of Texas. It’s a place where adventure awaits, and nature’s beauty is on full display,” says the author.

Whether you are an avid hiker, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Pedernales Falls State Park has something to offer for everyone. Plan your visit today and prepare to be captivated by the wonders of this remarkable Texas State Park.

Palmetto State Park

Palmetto State Park

Palmetto State Park provided the author with a unique experience. They felt like they entered a brand new world upon arrival. The park was filled with dwarf palmettos, which thrived in the winter months. The wildlife was abundant, featuring leaf cutter ants, owls, coyotes, and armadillos. The campsites offered varying levels of privacy, with the outer loop sites being more spacious. The park had several walking trails, historical constructions, and extinct mud boils to explore.

“Palmetto State Park felt like stepping into a hidden oasis. The lush surroundings and diverse wildlife made me forget about the outside world. It truly is a gem nestled in Texas,” said the author.

Fall Camping Tips for Palmetto State Park

1. Book in advance: Palmetto State Park is a popular destination, particularly in the fall. To secure a campsite, make sure to book well in advance.

2. Prepare for cool nights: Fall evenings can be chilly, so pack extra blankets and warm clothing to stay comfortable during the night.

3. Explore the trails: Take advantage of the park’s walking trails and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Palmetto State Park. Don’t forget your binoculars for birdwatching!

4. Keep an eye out for wildlife: Palmetto State Park is home to a variety of animals. Keep your camera ready to capture pictures of armadillos, owls, and other fascinating creatures.

5. Enjoy the history: Take a stroll through the park’s historical construction and learn about the rich heritage of the area.

6. Respect the surroundings: Help preserve Palmetto State Park’s natural beauty by following all park rules and regulations. Leave no trace and dispose of waste properly.

Port Aransas Beach

Port Aransas Beach

Although not a state park, Port Aransas Beach is worth mentioning for its stunning beauty and camping opportunities. The author and their family opted for a primitive-style camping experience right on the beach, immersing themselves in nature and enjoying the wildlife that calls Port Aransas home. The beach offers convenient shower stations for campers, ensuring a refreshing experience after a day in the sun and sand.

“Camping on Port Aransas Beach was a truly unique and immersive experience. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the salty breeze in the air created the perfect atmosphere for relaxation.”

– The Author

It’s important to note that Port Aransas Beach does not provide electricity or water hookups for campers. However, the opportunity to camp right by the sea, listening to the soothing sounds of the waves, is unparalleled. To camp on the beach, a $12 permit is required, ensuring an organized and regulated camping experience.

Please note: The sandy and salty conditions of the beach can be potentially damaging to recreational vehicles (RVs). Campers should exercise caution and take appropriate measures to protect their vehicles from the elements.

Overall, Port Aransas Beach offers a unique camping experience where nature and relaxation reign supreme. It’s the perfect destination for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who crave the tranquility of the ocean. So pack your camping gear, set up your tent on the sandy shores, and dive into the beauty of Port Aransas Beach!

Amenities Permit and Fees
  • Shower stations
  • $12 permit for beach camping
Pros Cons
  • Stunning beachfront location
  • Immersive camping experience
  • Awe-inspiring views
  • No electricity or water hookups
  • Potential risks to RVs due to sandy and salty conditions
  • Permit required for beach camping

Goose Island State Park

Located just a short drive from Port Aransas, Goose Island State Park is a must-visit destination for camping enthusiasts in Texas. This picturesque park offers two campgrounds, each with its own unique features and atmosphere.

The first campground provides stunning bay front views, allowing campers to wake up to the gentle sounds of the water. However, keep in mind that the campsites in this area are close together, offering a more social camping experience.

The second campground is nestled in the woods, offering a more secluded and private camping experience. If you prefer a quieter and more serene setting, this campground is the perfect choice.

Goose Island State Park is renowned for its bird-watching opportunities. Nature enthusiasts can spot a wide variety of bird species in their natural habitats, making it a haven for birdwatchers. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera to capture the fascinating avian life.

One of the highlights of Goose Island State Park is the iconic Big Tree, a majestic live oak estimated to be over a thousand years old. This ancient tree stands as a testament to the rich history and natural beauty of the park.

The author of the article noted that the hiking options in Goose Island State Park were somewhat limited compared to other parks they visited. However, the overall experience of camping in this tranquil and scenic park was highly enjoyable.

Campground Campsite Views Privacy
Bay Front Stunning bay views Campsites are close together
Wooded Nestled in the woods Provides more privacy

McKinney Falls State Park

During their exploration, the author visited McKinney Falls State Park primarily due to its proximity to the Austin airport. However, they found that the park didn’t quite match up to the others they had visited. While it had its merits, the overall vibe and experience fell short compared to the other parks. One notable aspect was the limited hiking opportunities within the park.

Despite the mixed experience at McKinney Falls State Park, the author discovered another nearby attraction that made their visit memorable. They attended the Peppermint Parkway holiday lights festival at the nearby Circuit of The Americas. This festive event offered a delightful display of lights, creating a joyful and enchanting atmosphere.

In conclusion, while McKinney Falls State Park may not be the top choice for camping enthusiasts, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a park near the Austin area. However, for a more comprehensive camping experience, the author suggests exploring other parks, especially during the winter season. Texas State Parks offer a diverse range of landscapes and activities, ensuring that every adventurer finds something to suit their preferences.

Pros Cons
Proximity to Austin airport Limited hiking opportunities
Opportunity to attend nearby holiday lights festival


Overall, the author and their family had a fantastic time exploring Texas State Parks during the fall. They recommend taking advantage of the Centennial Celebration and visiting at least one state park in the coming year. Each park offered its own unique experiences, amenities, and natural beauty. From hiking the rocky falls at Pedernales Falls State Park to camping on the beach at Port Aransas, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Texas’s state parks.

When planning a camping trip to these parks, it is important to be aware of the camping regulations in Texas State Parks. Prior to your visit, familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Remember to check for any seasonal restrictions, such as fire bans or park closures. It is also recommended to make campground reservations online in advance, as popular parks can fill up quickly.

Whether you are a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking to spend quality time with your loved ones, Texas State Parks offer a wide range of opportunities for outdoor exploration and recreation. So pack your camping gear, follow the regulations, and get ready to create unforgettable memories amidst the natural wonders of Texas State Parks.


Are reservations required for camping in Texas State Parks?

Yes, it is recommended to make reservations online for camping in Texas State Parks. This ensures you have a spot at the campground and avoids any disappointment.

What amenities can I expect at Texas State Park campgrounds?

Texas State Park campgrounds typically offer amenities such as restrooms, showers, picnic tables, fire rings, and water sources. Some campgrounds may also have electrical hookups or RV dump stations.

Can I bring my pet when camping in Texas State Parks?

Yes, pets are allowed in Texas State Parks, but they must be kept on a leash at all times and are not allowed in certain areas, such as swimming areas and buildings.

What activities can I enjoy while camping in Texas State Parks?

Texas State Parks offer a range of activities, including hiking, fishing, boating, swimming, bird-watching, wildlife viewing, and stargazing. Some parks may also have nature programs and interpretive events.

Are there any restrictions or regulations for camping in Texas State Parks?

Yes, there are regulations for camping in Texas State Parks. These may include restrictions on campsite capacity, quiet hours, and the use of campfires. Always check the specific park’s regulations before your visit.

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