Austin Area State Parks, Camping, & More
Bastrop State Park (512/321-2101) is located 30 miles east of Austin in the Lost Pines region, an area isolated from the main body of East Texas pine forests by nearly 100 miles. The park has 3,503 acres and offers an 8.5-mile hiking trail constructed through the efforts of the Texas Trails Association and the Sierra Club. It is especially nice in winter when the yaupon hollies are thick with berries, and in spring when the occasional dogwoods are in bloom. Campsites range from primitive camping to cabins, and activities include hiking, backpacking, and swimming. Showers and hookups are available. Take Texas Highway 71 east to Bastrop; turn left on Texas Highway 95 and right on Texas Highway 21 to Park Road 1.
Buescher State Park (512/237-2241) shares many of the characteristics of Bastrop but is generally less crowded. It is farther east and much smaller, with 1,016 acres. A 7.7-mile hiking trail winds through the park. Camping, hiking, and swimming are common, and restrooms, showers, and hookups are available. Follow the directions to Bastrop State Park and continue along Park Road 1 for 13 miles to Buescher State Park. Or take Texas Highway 71 east to Smithville and turn left on FM 153 for half a mile.
Colorado Bend State Park (915/628-3240) has a 2-mile hiking trail along Gorman Creek. This is a primitive park with few conveniences. Take U.S. Highway 183 to Lampasas, turn left on FM 580, and continue to the town of Bend. Follow directional signs along 6 miles of unpaved roads to the park. Gorman Falls and Cave, one of the park's most alluring features, is open only to guided tours, as are several other caves.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (915/247-3903), One of the more unique sites, with 1,643 acres. Located between Fredericksburg and Llano, it takes less than 3 hours to reach. The granite dome is one of the largest of its kind in the United States, second only to Stone Mountain in Georgia. A climb to the summit is an exhilarating experience that offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. A 4-mile loop trail encircles the massive rock formations. Other trails pass between and over the formations, and you can even crawl through a cave that passes through them.Besides hiking, Enchanted Rock affords excellent rock climbing and backpacking. There are walk-in campsites but no vehicular camping. Facilities include a playground, picnic areas, showers, and restrooms. Take U.S. Highway 290 west to Fredericksburg; turn right on RM 965 and continue 18 miles to the park.
Guadalupe River State Park (830/438-2656), as the name indicates, is located on the Guadalupe River. With 1,938 acres, this is a large park with good picnic facilities, campsites, a playground, a day-use group facility, swimming, restrooms, and showers. Go south on IH 35 to New Braunfels, then west on Texas Highway 46 for 29 miles.
Honey Creek State Natural Area 2,293 acres located in western Comal County, approximately 30 miles north of downtown San Antonio. The area, once a ranch, was acquired by deed from the Texas Nature Conservancy in 1985 and by deed from a private individual in 1988 and was opened for limited access in 1985..
Inks Lake State Park (512/793-2223)(830/644-2252) is in Stonewall, 15 miles west of Johnson City on U.S. Highway 290. Amenities include a group facility, hiking and nature trails, playground, picnic areas, and a swimming pool. The park also features the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which depicts turn of-the-century German-Texan Hill Country life. Admission is free. The state park visitor center is the departure point for National Park Service bus tours of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (LBJ Ranch Unit) across the Pedernales River.These tours are conducted daily, except Christmas Day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and include the former president's birthplace, the Johnson family cemetery, and an exterior view of the Texas White House on the LBJ Ranch.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (830/868-7128) is in Johnson City, 1 block south of U.S. Highway 290 on 9th Street. Tours of the...LBJ Boyhood Home are conducted daily, except Christmas and New Year's Day, every half hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Self-guided tours are available at the nearby Johnson Settlement.
Kerrville-Schreiner State Park (830/257-5392) has 7 miles of hiking trails through Hill Country terrain. It's a great place to camp during the grand Kerrville Folk Festival, held every year around Memorial Day and Labor Day. Take U.S. Highway 290 west to Fredericksburg, turn left on Texas Highway 16 to Kerrville, and 1 mile past town turn left on Texas Highway 173.
Lake Somerville Park contains 2 first-class parks located northwest of Brenham: the Birch Creek unit on the north side of the lake and the Nails Creek unit on the south side. Connecting them is the 21.6-mile Somerville Trailway, a unique backcountry trail that passes through dense stands of trees, past scenic overlooks, and over water crossings. The trail is suitable for hiking, biking, or equestrian use. The Birch Creek unit (409/535-7763) is 12 miles off Texas Highway 36 on Park Road 57, while the Nails Creek unit (409/289-2392) is located on FM 180, 15 miles off U.S. Highway 290.
Lockhart State Park (512/398-3479) features a playground, picnic area, swimming pool, and group facilities over a relatively small area of 263 acres. Address: Route 3, Box 69, Lockhart, Texas, 78644.
Longhorn Cavern State Park (512/756-4680) gives daily tours of Longhorn Cavern and the museum there. Picnics are also possible in this 639-acre park.
McKinney Falls State Park (512/243-1643), at the confluence of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek, draws many from the Austin area because of its proximity. Depending on the part of town from which you are traveling, the trip to this 640-acre park 13 miles southeast of the State Capitol can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as 45. Hiking ranges from an easy 3.25-mile hike-and-bike trail that loops through the park to a more rugged half-mile interpretive trail deep in the woods through the cliffs above Onion Creek. Camping and surface bicycling are permitted, and a playground, restrooms, and showers are available. Favorite spots are the upper falls of Onion Creek behind the Smith Visitor Center and McKinney Falls farther downstream. In 1981 the park was closed to swimming because of pollution primarily from a sewage treatment plant that was later closed. Thanks to the hard work of park officials and volunteers, swimming was resumed in 1993. It's a good idea, however, to call the McKinney Falls Swimming Hotline (512/243-0848) first if you plan to swim. Park office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, while the gates remain open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Take U.S. Highway 183 south to Scenic Loop Road, where you turn right. The park entrance is on Scenic Loop 2 miles west of U.S. Highway 183. Or take William Cannon east from IH 35; go right on Running Water, left on ColtonBluff Springs Road, and left on McKinney Falls Parkway to the park entrance.
Monument Hill/Kreische Brewery (409/968-5658) is a state historical site with just 40 acres where visitors can enjoy a museum, trails, a playground, and picnics.
Mother Neff State Park (800/792-1112 or 817/853-2389) the oldest state park in Texas, is roughly 100 miles from Austin. Tall trees, shade, and relaxation await visitors to the 259 acres of this park. Picnic and camp in the beautiful Leon River bottom, also a great place for hiking. Campsites accommodate up to 8 persons. The nearest store is located 5 miles from the park. Bring your own firewood. Pets must be kept on a leash. Take IH 35 north to Temple. At Temple take Texas Highway 36 west, turn right at Texas Highway 236. After you cross Belton Lake the park will be on your left. The address is Route 1, Box 58, Moody, Texas, 76557.
Palmetto State Park (830/672-3266) is 55 miles south of Austin on U.S. Highway 183 past Luling; turn right on Park Road 11. Located along the San Marcos River in the post oak savannah vegetation region, the park is named for its abundant growth of dwarf palmetto plants. Three short nature trails and a primitive hiking trail provide a glimpse of wild irises, ferns, and other native species. The Ottine Swamp, within the park, has unusually luxuriant vegetation and sulphur springs. It has long drawn naturalists from all over the state. West of Austin, several state parks offer different terrain from those to the east.
Blanco State Park (830/833-4333) a dam forms a seminatural pool that is great for swimming, especially for children. Picnics, too, are popular, and a group facility, showers, and RV hookups are available. Great small park.
Pedernales Falls State Park (830/868-7304) is nestled in the Texas Hill Country about an hour from Austin. The Pedernales River drops 50 feet over stair steps of layered limestone. The park features fern-lined creeks, small canyons, huge bald cypress trees bordering the clear river, wildlife, and numerous primitive areas. Activities include swimming, boating, camping, and hiking. The 7.5-mile Wolf Mountain trail climbs to a high spot in the park with views of the Hill Country below. A 5-mile trail crosses to the east side of the river (fording is required) and passes the site of a pioneer cemetery. A short but beautiful half-mile nature trail gives explanations of the park's plant species and ends at an overlook above Twin Falls. Pedernales Falls State Park may be reached by traveling 9 miles east of Johnson City on FM 2766, or by traveling west of Austin for 32 miles on U.S. 290, then north on FM 3232 for 6 miles.
State Wildlife Management Areas nearby serve a variety of functions. A small one, Old Tunnel, in the Fredericksburg area, is dedicated to protecting the tunnel's bat population. The Granger Management Area has 11,120 acres in Williamson County where restoring the prairie and salvaging the gene pool of grasses is the focus. Somerville, near Giddings, protects a variety of native flora and fauna on its 3,189 acres.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve was founded in 1974 to protect 227 acres of pristine Texas Hill Country and to provide nature education programs. Visitors enjoy 2 1/2 miles of hiking trails that pass through woodland, grassland, and streamside habitats. These habitats are home to threatened and endangered species, and hundreds of native plants, animals and birds. Wild Basin's nature education programs are funded by special events, memberships, corporate donations and grants.