Best State Parks in Texas for Camping

March 15 2021 – Crua Outdoors

Best State Parks in Texas for Camping - Crua Outdoors
Best State Parks in Texas for Camping - Crua Outdoors

While the 50+ National Parks of the United States seem to get all the attention, the state parks bring a lot of the real camping treasures. In Texas alone, there are over 80 state parks to choose from.

In one sense, the abundance of options means that finding a park that meets your camping needs will not be a problem. However, for newcomers to Texas, this also makes it very hard to get even a small taste of what the state has to offer in one visit.

Due to the vastness of the state, there is great variety from park to park. When deciding on your particular camping adventure in Texas, it makes sense to look a little closer at the specific regions of the state. For most purposes, Texas is divided into seven regions.

To the north, there are the Panhandle Plains. In West Texas, you have Big Bend Country and Texas Hill Country. To the east, there are the Piney Woods, Prairies and Lakes, and Gulf Coast. Finally, there is the South Texas Plains.

For every adventurer, each region brings its own draw. The regions are distinct geographically but also feature their own set of attractions.

Camping In The Panhandle Plains

The northernmost area of Texas is called the Panhandle. The region has mostly flat, grasslands or plains. When you think of the Panhandle, images are conjured up of stunning red cliffs, high, flat plateaus, and windswept prairies. This is definitely true in a lot of areas.

The eastern part of the region is not quite as flat, however. It is on lower elevation and susceptible to heavier rainfall, this makes it more brushy than the traditional view of the plains.

There are some majestic landscapes in the Panhandle. Parks of note include Copper Breaks State Park to the southeast of Amarillo and the Caprock Canyons State Park located just south of Crowell.

Known for amazing red siltstone and sandstone valleys, plateaus, and canyons, the Caprock Canyons State Park is perfect for those who like camping in secluded areas.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

The Palo Duro Canyon State Park, also known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, is widely considered to be the best area in the Texas Panhandle for hiking and camping. It is the second largest canyon in the country.

In Palo Duro, you can find backpack camping areas, equestrian sites, and campsites with electricity and water. It is also one of the best places for primitive camping in Texas.

Located just south of Amarillo, the Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the top pick by some of our highly experienced brand ambassadors. The area boasts excellent hiking trails, with the famous Lighthouse Trail being a highlight, as well as stunning rock formations and remarkable scenery.

Camping In Big Bend Country

In West Texas, south of the Panhandle, is the Big Bend Country. Offering some of the most scenic landscapes in the entire state of Texas, the region is home to some of the best state parks in the US.

Big Bend National Park

This spectacular park is seen by many of our community as the best camping in all of Texas. Spanning the length of the Rio Grande, it offers incredible opportunities for kayaking, boating, and fishing. The park is home to over 4,000 different species and contains over 238 miles of multi-use trails.

Big Bend Ranch State Park (Bend State Park)

The Big Bend Ranch State Park is not to be confused with the Big Bend National Park. The Big Bend Ranch is wilder but just as good as its bigger sibling.

A camping trip in the Big Bend State Park is high on the bucket list of some of the most experienced campers we have met over the years.

The Big Bend Ranch State Park officially became an International Dark-Sky Park a few years ago. Meaning: it’s one of the best state parks in Texas when it comes to stargazing.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

This small state park is one of the best places to watch a sunset in Texas. The wind is constantly sculpting the mesmerising sand dunes, making the valley and the peaks of the Monahans Sandhills State Park seem alive.

To make things even more magical, the sand takes different shades throughout the day, from orange to green, depending on the sunlight.

Even though this ocean of sand may appear inhospitable, that couldn’t be further from the truth. A myriad of wildflowers, plants, and creatures inhabit the area.

In spring, Monahans Sandhills State Park becomes a very popular destination for tent camping. For the most comfortable experience, make sure to bring a sturdy tent that allows for climate control, such as the Crua Tri.

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site

Even though it’s mostly a day-use area, Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site has around 20 campsites. The rocky hills and natural pools of Hueco Tanks offer great spots for stargazing.

On top of picnicking, bird watching, rock climbing, horseback riding, and hiking, you can explore ancient rock imagery in the park. Located in El Paso County, the park is just an hour away from El Paso City.

Fort Davis Mountains State Park

This beautiful and historic park is located high in the mountains of West Texas. From primitive campsites to equestrian and full hook-up campsites, the Fort Davis Mountains State Park has everything to offer. The Fort Davis Mountains State Park is also home to several hiking and mountain biking trails, one of which leads to the historic fort.

Camping In The Hill Country

South of the Panhandle, in Central Texas, is the Hill Country. Austin and San Antonio can be found in this region but it is the nature we are interested in.

This area of Texas has many beautiful rivers, lakes and creeks. Inevitably, a camping trip in this region will bring you to the river, where water revellers can enjoy some of the best tubing and kayaking the state has to offer.

The Longhorn Cavern State Park is also noteworthy. The breathtaking Longhorn Caverns are a hidden gem of the region.

Garner State Park

This region is the home of Garner State Park, one of the most popular destinations for campers in the entire state. This famous camping wonderland contains over 1,774 acres of scenic, karst terrain, full of deep canyons and crystal clear streams. The park itself is located along the Frio River.

Guadalupe River State Park

If you are looking for a camping adventure by the river, you would be hard-pushed to find a more beautiful destination than the Guadalupe River State Park. Many people come to the park specifically for a kayaking and camping double adventure. Along the Guadalupe River, you will find the best of both.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

While it’s not a park in name, the Lost Maples State Natural is right up there with the best state parks in Texas in terms of beauty. The Lost Maples State Natural Area is home to clear streams,  wooden slopes, plateau grasslands, and limestone canyons.

The fall foliage in the Lost Maples State Natural Area is incredibly beautiful. Hang a camping hammock on a couple of bigtooth maples and enjoy the lovely autumn colours.

Colorado Bend State Park

Home to the wide and misty Gorman Falls, the Colorado Bend State Park offers campers a refuge from heat during hot summer months. There are 15 scenic trails in the park; the most popular one leads to the Gorman Falls. If you want to explore what’s underneath the park as well, make sure to join one of the wild cave tours.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Thanks to its impressive rock formations and magical scenery, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has drawn campers for decades.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a massive pink granite dome that is home to a unique group of animals and plants. It is a great place for bird watching; be on the lookout for turkey vultures and great horned owls.

Pedernales Falls State Park

About 10 miles from Johnson City, you will find the serene Pedernales Falls State Park. Among the wooded hills limestone rocks that surround the Pedernales River, there are about 40 miles of trails.

Some of the hiking trails in the area are great for mountain biking and horseback riding as well. Whenever you feel the need to cool off, you can take a refreshing dip in the Pedernales River.

Inks Lake State Park

If you prefer quieter and more peaceful waters, Inks Lake State Park may suit you best. Since the seasonal variations in water levels here are insignificant, the Inks Lake State Park is a great year-round camping spot. 

Camping In the Piney Woods Region

The Pineywoods of East Texas are primarily covered with thick pines and oaks, heavy bottomlands, and sky-high hardwoods. Sprawling swamplands are common, especially in the Big Thicket at the southernmost point of the region.

The natural, rich woodlands of the Piney Woods is like nothing else in all of Texas. The sheer diversity is stunning. Cut straight through the region and you will find marshes, lakes, rivers, prairies, and of course, rich forests.

After reaching out to the Crua Community, some of the favourite camping destinations mentioned included the Martin Creek Lake, Martin Dies Jr. State Park, and Tyler State Park.

Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake State Park is a maze of ponds, sloughs, and bayous surrounded by gorgeous cypress trees. While there aren’t any prominent hiking and mountain biking trails in the area, the park offers more than 50 miles of paddling trails.

Camping In The Gulf Coast Region

Texas is a land of unending diversity. Nothing more represents this fact than the 350 miles of golden beaches along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For campers, you’ll find amazing wildlife and some of the best birdwatching in the country. Water sports enthusiasts have a host of options and the Gulf Coast is well regarded as a hotbed for fishing.

When summer hits, it is not uncommon for woodland campers to seek coastal refuge. Campers will find some of the very best beach camping along the Gulf Coast.

Choose from a smattering of camping beaches, all carrying their own allure. From the secluded Sea Rim to the beautiful Galveston Island State Park, there are many warm and inviting options along the Texas coast.

If you like the idea of having a campfire on the beach, head to the Mustang Island State Park. With more than 5 miles of coastline, the Mustang Island State Park has more than enough room for swimming and surfing.

If you want to experience free camping in Texas, the Gulf Coast is the place to be. Free camping is available in places such as Magnolia Beach and Silverton Municipal. Moreover, there are many fun outdoor activities you can enjoy along the shore.

Just 45 miles from Houston, you’ll find one of the most popular camping destinations in the country—the Brazos Bend State Park. A true nature lover’s paradise, the park offers 37 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Camping In The Prairies and Lakes Region

Wedged in between the Panhandle Plains and Piney Woods is the Prairies and Lakes Region of Texas. The name gives away the main landscape of the region.

Lake Fork, Cedar Hill, and Lake Ray Roberts State Park are some of the most popular protected areas in the region. With people coming from all over to sample for the great fishing to be had in their lakes.

If you are into rock climbing, you are sure to love the Lake Mineral Wells State Park. Mineral Wells is home to one of the few natural rock climbing venues in the region.

Dinosaur Valley

If you are bringing children to this region, a number of our ambassadors have recommended Dinosaur Valley State Park. This state park has one of the largest collections of dinosaur footprints.

Both children and adults alike can enjoy the thrill of stepping in the world-renowned dino footprints in the Paluxy riverbed. To give you a clue of how big these creatures really were, there are two lifesize dinosaurs statues next to the visitor center.  

The park also has 30 miles of hiking trails, and many of them offer scenic vistas of the river and the hilly limestone terrain.

Camping In The South Texas Plains

Much of the south is humid with grassy plains. Again, you will find the unique ecosystem of the Rio Grande River merging into this region.

The subtropical climate attracts many unusual tropical birds from South America. We have heard it said that a visit to the borderlands of the South Texan Plain gives you a taste of Mexico without having to cross the border.

Camping in the South Texas Plains offers a colourful blend. Many of the protected natural areas standout for a host of reasons. Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is home to over 300 species of birds and serves as the headquarters for a unique network of world birding sites.

Resaca de la Palma State Park boasts the largest tract of land within the World Birding Center network. While fishing at the Choke Canyon State Park is celebrated as some of the best in all of Texas.


What are the names of Texas state parks?

There are more than 80 state parks in Texas. Researching all of them takes a lot of time, let alone exploring them. To help you pick your next camping destination, here are the names of the top 10 state parks in Texas:

  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park
  • Pedernales Falls State Park
  • Garner State Park
  • Mustang Island State Park
  • Longhorn Cavern State Park
  • Guadalupe River State Park
  • Hueco Tanks State Park
  • Brazos Bend State Park
  • Colorado Bend State Park
  • Dinosaur Valley State Park

What Type of Tent?

The type of tent you will need will depend on the weather, the number of people in one tent, and if you have to carry the tent in your backpack or vehicle. Here are some of the tents we supply:

What is the most popular campground in Texas?

Since Garner is likely the most popular state park in the Lone Star State, it’s safe to say that Texas’ most popular camping spot is located somewhere within this area. Persimmon Hill, Rio Frio Campground, Pecan Grove are campers’ favourites.

Which Texas state parks have full hookups?

If you are looking for all the amenities, chances are you will like the following places:

  • Davis Mountains
  • Cedar Hill
  • Eisenhower
  • Lockhart
  • Daingerfield
  • Huntsville
  • Goliad
  • Lake Livingston
  • Blanco
  • Cleburne
  • Lake Whitney
  • Mother Neff

Is a Texas State Park Pass worth it?

If you plan on camping in Texas frequently, the Texas State Pass will definitely save you a lot of money. The pass gives you unlimited free entry to over 80 state parks.

In some parks, it also gives you discounts on rental and retail items, so it’s great to have it when you’re at the visitor center. You can buy the pass at any state park; it is good for one year.


Regardless of the region you choose and the state park within which you decide to pitch your tent, one thing is certain - you won’t be short on options in the Lone Star State.

However, do note that location is just one thing you need to consider when camping in Texas. It’s also important to know the best time to go camping in Texas in the Lone Star State.


Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing