Happy Campers

The 9 best places to camp in and around Austin

The 9 best places to camp in and around Austin

Pedernales Falls State Park camp hike hiking river creek
Take in the limestone vistas carved by the changing course of the river at Pedernales Falls. Pedernales Falls State Park/Facebook
Enchanted Rock Texas
Enchanted Rock is great for cavers and climbers, with a variety of other diversions. Photo courtesy of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Inks Lake State Park camping campsite cabine
Inks Lake has plenty of campsites and cabins to choose from. Inks Lake State Park/Facebook
McKinney Fall State Park Austin Texas hiking hiker trail outdoors 2015
McKinney Falls encompasses a sprawling 700 acres of wilderness within city limits. McKinney Falls State Park/Facebook
Muleshoe Bend wildflowers
Just an hour outside of Austin are fragrant hillsides of Muleshoe Bend. Photo by Kelly Keelan
Pedernales Falls State Park camp hike hiking river creek
Enchanted Rock Texas
Inks Lake State Park camping campsite cabine
McKinney Fall State Park Austin Texas hiking hiker trail outdoors 2015
Muleshoe Bend wildflowers

Whether you prefer your camping primitive (you and your tent), premium (you and your RV), or somewhere in between, the Austin area is home to spectacular parks that are just waiting to be explored. Bookmark this guide to Austin's best campsites for your next escape to nature. 

McKinney Falls State Park
A sprawling 700 acres of wilderness within city limits, McKinney Falls is a popular destination for locals to commune with nature. Spring rains make the waterfalls lovely and the greenery lively. This state park offers fully functioning campgrounds with water, electricity, restrooms, and even cabins to rent. Check out nearly 9 miles of hiking trails, walk the moon-like limestone landscape of the lower falls, or go for a swim. Entry for the day is $6 per person and $20 to reserve a campsite.

Pecan Grove RV Park
This hidden gem functions primarily as a long-term residence for locals, but some RV sites can be reserved overnight (you'll need to reserve well in advance). With Zilker Park just a quick walk up the road and restaurants galore on both sides, this is the best of urban camping. Try Austin classics like the original Chuy's and Baby A's without having to worry how you're getting home after your purple margarita. Roughing it, this is not, but it's a fun way to explore one of the last footholds of classic Austin. Call 512-472-1067 for rates.

Windy Point Park
Scuba is the word at Windy Point Park, which overlooks beautiful Lake Travis. There are protected areas for swimmers and divers. Take lessons on-site and discover quirky underwater sculptures and even a boat wreck or two. Swim with the fish, but leave your poles at home: Fishing is prohibited at Windy Point Park. Set up a primitive campsite on a soft lawn under shady trees and truly enjoy the great outdoors. The overnight camping fee is $10 per person.

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area
With enough bluebonnets to leave even a native Texan awestruck, Muleshoe Bend is a Hill Country must-see. Just an hour outside of Austin are fragrant hillsides boasting our state flower at its peak from March to April. With water, rolling hills, and heritage trees, Muleshoe is always worth the drive. The price is $10 for tent-only camping and $20 for groups.

Arkansas Bend Park
For primitive camping in a less crowded park, try Arkansas Bend. Fairly isolated and untouched, this Travis County park has over 320 acres to roam. Hike along the lake shore for great scenery. A boat ramp brings a little Lake Travis lifestyle to the park, but wanderers can always find a quiet place to set up camp. Price of entry is $15 per vehicle.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park
This dog-friendly trail will have you and your pup heading back again and again. Let your four-legged friend frolic off-leash along the Turkey Creek trail for 3 miles of gorgeous greenery. With primitive and premium camping, this park is within city limits and an easy trip when you just need a night under the stars. Entry for the day costs $10 on weekends, $10-$25 to camp.

Inks Lake State Park
Inks Lake is tourist-y in a good way. It's the perfect place for campers looking for a more guided experience, with plenty of campsites and cabins to choose from. Stop by the visitor's center to get a history lesson, beginning with the prehistoric people living on Inks Lake 8,000 years ago. Learn about natives, settlers, and the Civilian Conservation Corps while you look out over the lake. This destination has stayed popular throughout the years because the water levels stay pretty consistent. Admission is $6 per day, and $11-$23 to camp.

Pedernales Falls State Park
The scenic drive out to Johnson City is just the start of the visual feast that awaits at Pedernales Falls. Take in the limestone vistas carved by the changing course of the river as you hike along or bring your mountain bike for a challenging ride. View butterflies in their designated garden, or check out the Bird Blind, a glass house that lets watchers get an incognito look at the many varieties nesting in the park. It costs $6 to enter the park and $10-$20 to camp overnight.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Is it really enchanted? You can be the judge of that when you're biting into a Fredericksburg peach at the top of the summit trail. Once a sacred space for Native Americans, Enchanted Rock was known as the "crying rock" for the nighttime sounds made by its pink granite contracting after hours under the sun. Enchanted Rock is great for cavers and climbers, with a variety of other diversions like geocaching and even a food trailer. For a less crowded but equally enchanting experience, take the 4-mile Loop Trail around before heading to the summit. Entry costs $7 per day, and camping is $14-$18 per night.