Perhaps you're looking for one last outdoor adventure before summer ends, or maybe the prospect of cooler fall nights has you dreaming of, well, dreaming in a tent. Either way, it's easy to make it happen in Austin.
Central Texas, with its natural beauty, rolling hills, and picturesque vistas, is teeming with places to enjoy the great outdoors with a camping adventure. Pitch a tent at a primitive campsite, or rent a cabin in the woods. Regardless of your style, these nine spots are perfect for a quick camping getaway near Austin.
Bastrop State Park
Famous for its extensive loblolly pine forest, better known as the Lost Pines, Bastrop State Park was ravaged by forest fires in 2011 and 2015. It remains a great spot for camping though, with 35 full-hookup sites, 19 electric-only sites, and 16 tent-only and six walk-in sites. Choose one of the latter and you won’t have to share your peace and quiet with air conditioning or TV noise. Some of the longer hiking trails are closed, but seven miles remain open. The hilly, 12-mile Park Road 1C between Bastrop and nearby Buescher State Park by car or bike is a contrast of recovering and still-forested areas. (And don’t even think about throwing that butt out the window.)
Black Rock Park
Enjoy swimming, kayaking (rentals available), and bank fishing at this Lower Colorado River Authority park on the west shore of sprawling Lake Buchanan. Or just float. Overnight options include cabins, tent camping, or RV sites. For land-based recreation, choose from a playground, horseshoe pits, and a volleyball court.
Canyon of the Eagles
A 940-acre park on the northeast shore of Lake Buchanan, Canyon of the Eagles offers tent camping at wooded Chimney Slough and at Tanner Point, and hike-in-only sites on a small peninsula. It also has an RV park if a real bed is more your groove. Tent campers have access to the RV bath house and amenities including a swim beach, nature programs, observatory, and 14 miles of hiking trails. And if you suck at camp cooking, there’s a great restaurant on-site.
Inks Lake State Park
This state park, a classic Texas Hill Country landscape, has nearly 200 campsites, many on the shore, and 22 cabins (two ADA-accessible). Oh, it also has a lake, of course, where you can swim or paddle in a large, no-wake zone (paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks available for rent). Fish for sunfish, catfish, and bass from two piers or the shore — no fishing license needed — and clean your catch at one of two cleaning stations. Plus, there are nine miles of hiking trails. The park store sells all the essentials and there’s even a food truck to make Austin hipsters feel right at home with snow cones, root beer floats, nachos, hot dogs, and more.
Lake Bastrop North Shore Park
The LCRA maintains two parks near the 900-acre Lake Bastrop, just outside the town of Bastrop, both relatively untouched by area fires in recent years. The North Shore park sports an inflatable aquatic playground along with watercraft rentals, picnic areas, hike and bike trails, and a camp store. Tent and RV camping available, and coming this fall, Airstream rentals.
Lake Bastrop South Shore Park
This 176-acre park has RV campsites; 18 five-person cabins with electricity, heat and AC; and a bath house. The lake is popular for fishing, swimming, and boating, with on-site rentals of canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and Corcls, small round boats impossible to tip over. Hike a 2.5-mile loop, or a four-mile trail through the woods that connects this park and Lake Bastrop North Shore. Or, channel your inner Jordan Spieth on the new miniature golf course.
This Army Corps of Engineers-built lake on the San Gabriel River has four camping areas: 142 sites at Jim Hogg Park on its north side, with restrooms and showers; 59 at Cedar Breaks on the south side, with restrooms and hookups; 27 primitive sites at Russell Park to the west of Jim Hogg; and 10 primitive sites at Tejas Camp on the far western tip of the lake. Except for Tejas, the parks have swim beaches, boat ramps, and fishing docks. Hike all or part of the 26-mile Goodwater Trail encircling the lake, traversing woods, rocky hills, and open fields, past a number of springs.
McKinney Falls State Park
A state park literally within the city limits — who gets that lucky? Austin, that’s who! And it's a pretty sweet state park at that, with 81 campsites, six cabins, nearly nine miles of hike and bike trails (including 2.8 of them paved). Onion Creek is also open for both fishing (no license needed) and swimming. Plus, the area is home to one of the oldest bald cypress trees in Texas, clocking in at more than 500 years old, 103 feet tall, and 195 inches around. Try and hug that.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Famous for its falls, this park 32 miles west of Austin also has 69 campsites, plus a four-person hike-in primitive site and an equestrian group camp. Swim, tube, or kayak in the river (only in designated areas below the falls), hike the six-mile Wolf Mountain trail or bike 10 miles on Juniper Ridge Trail. The picturesque falls cascade over 300-million-year-old limestone, part of the Marble Falls formation and the southwestern flank of the Llano Uplift. Don’t know what the heck any of that means? You need a basic Hill Country geology lesson (asking a park ranger is a good place to start), or bone up on history instead at nearby Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and LBJ State Park & Historic Site.