• September 8, 2023
  • Lauren Critzer
  • 0

Unzip Your Tent: Your Definitive Guide To The Best Camping Spots near Austin

Hola, fellow adventurers! Welcome to this carefully curated, definitive local guide to the best camping spots near Austin. Exploring Austin, Texas, isn’t just about devouring Tex-Mex, swaying to live tunes, or taking a dive in Barton Springs. It’s also about getting out into the heart of Texas’s diverse natural landscapes, where outdoor lovers will certaintly rejoice.

Ready to explore? Lace-up your hiking boots, dust off that tent, and let’s embark on an unforgettable Austin camping journey! Here are the absolute best camping spots sprawled around the beloved ATX.

1. Pace Bend Park: A True Gem of Texas Hill Country

Pace Bend Park encompasses a picturesque region about 30 miles west of Austin. Projecting the stunning charm of natural limestone cliffs that lean over Lake Travis, this park is a vista with over 400 campsites, practically urging you to love the great outdoors.

  • Vastness at Its Best: Large and spacious, the park extends over 1,368 acres, offering plenty of picturesque camping sites.
  • Heart-Pumping Activities: From boating and swimming in Lake Travis to hiking around its trails and warding off the Austin heat, there’s something for everyone.
  • Stellar Views: For the best views, head towards the west side, where the cliffs command a breathtaking panorama of Lake Travis.
  • Park Basics: While most campsites are primitive without many amenities, there are a few premium spots with water and electrical hook-ups.

2. McKinney Falls State Park: Your Personal Break from the Urban Hustle

McKinney Falls State Park makes you forget that you’re a stone’s throw away from downtown Austin. It is a testament to the beauty of the Texas wilderness characterized by cascading waterfalls, prehistoric rock shelters, and a unique concoction of flora and fauna.

  • Hiking Delight: The park features almost nine miles of trails, providing a rejuvenating blend of hill country vegetation, unique rock formations, and calming creeks.
  • Fishing Offers: For fishing enthusiasts, Onion Creek, flowing through the park, is inhabited by sunfish, catfish, and bass.
  • Local Legacy: Explore the park’s cultural history by visiting the Smith Visitor Center and learning about the native people who once tread its paths.
  • Nature Time: With 81 campsites having water and electric hookups, this park could make for an exemplary weekend as you absorb the sounds and sights of nature.

3. Pedernales Falls State Park: Where Adventure Beckons

Located an hour’s drive west of Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park rules the hearts of adventure seekers. Named after the Pedernales River, this park displays an arresting landscape replete with vast wilderness, rocky terrains, and glistening water bodies.

  • Watersports Galore: The wide, steady Pedernales River beckons with its clear waters, just right for swimming, tubing, canoeing, or fishing. However, swimming is only allowed at the designated beach area.
  • Hiking Lovers Unite: A haven for hikers, with over 20 miles of trails, weaving through lush vegetation and diverse wildlife.
  • Bird Watching Spot: Visit the park’s Bird Blind before hitting the gorgeous hiking trails. You’ll be delighted by the sight of a variety of birds.
  • Stargazing Glory: For astronomy enthusiasts, this park is a refuge. Its cutting-off from the city lights makes for a dreamy star-studded night sky.

4. Krause Springs: A Spring Heaven

Host to 32 natural springs, Krause Springs is a privately-owned camping and swimming site securely tucked in the core of Hill Country. Drive for just under an hour from downtown Austin to find your serene escape.

  • Swimming Temptations: The park’s centerpiece is the spring-fed swimming hole, maintaining a constant 68 degrees throughout the year.
  • Rustic Accommodations: With 24 RV sites (with water and electricity connections) and multiple tent campsites, you get a variety of options to reside amid nature.
  • Find your Inner Butterfly: The on-site butterfly garden offers a peaceful sanctuary teeming with native flora and fluttering visitors. So, revel in the experience!

5. Colorado Bend State Park: Your True Nature Retreat

Boasting of a whopping 5,328 acres, the Colorado Bend State Park is an epitome of raw nature, located two hours northwest of Austin.

  • Cave Exploration Adventure: Unleash the daring adventurer within you and explore the Gorman Cave. Please note that explorations are led by park rangers and need a permit.
  • Awe-Inspiring Gorman Falls: Take a 1.5-mile trail leading to Gorman Falls – a 70 foot tall, spring-fed waterfall – leaving you truly awestruck.
  • Fisher’s Paradise: The park boasts a 14-mile stretch of pure Colorado River frontage, a perfect spot for fishing, swimming, or simply lounging beside the river.
  • Night Camping Dream: The park offers primitive camping options across various sites scattered along the river and upland areas.

6. Inks Lake State Park: A Dream for Aquatic Adventures

Situated about an hour and a half northwest of Austin amidst the beautiful pink granite hills, Inks Lake State Park is where you can escape from the bustling city life to embrace tranquility.

  • Bountiful Wildlife: The park is a bird-watcher’s paradise with over 200 species fluttering in its skies.
  • Water Activities: The park is a hub for water-based activities – swimming, scuba diving, water-skiing, boating, you name it!
  • Night Sky Magic: With minimal light pollution, the park promises a spectacular after-dark celestial viewing sure to enthrall stargazers.
  • Wide Stay Options: The park features over 200 campsites, offering amenities like electricity, water, showers, and restrooms.

7. Emma Long Metropolitan Park: The Urban Oasis

Known as City Park, Emma Long Metropolitan Park is located on the shores of Lake Austin under a canopy of old cypress and oak trees. You’re only 20 minutes away from downtown Austin, yet feel light-years away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

  • Beach Fun: The park features a sandy beach along the lake where you can swim and spend a fun-filled day.
  • Biker’s Haven: The miles-long motorcycle and mountain biking trails provide a rush for those seeking an adrenalin high.
  • Picnic-Friendly: The park is also perfect for a day excursion with friends and family, offering numerous barbecue pits and picnic tables.

Final Leaf-Turner Notes from Your Austin Local Have your feet started itching for a trip already? Make sure to plan in advance, check for weather conditions and secure necessary permits or passes where needed for a hassle-free camping experience near Austin. Remember, nothing beats the feeling of that first gulp of fresh air as you unzip your tent, ready to watch the sun paint its golden hues on the Texan skyline.

Ever heard the saying, “Keep Austin Weird?” These amazing campgrounds surely own up to that, each one unique in its own weird, wild ways. So pack your bags, your adventurous spirit, and gallop towards these magical camping spots. Here’s to unforgettable camping experiences in Austin, Texas! You can see complete details here. Happy camping!

Lauren Critzer

I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and after college, I moved to San Francisco to explore new opportunities and broaden my horizons. I fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and unique atmosphere, but eventually, I moved again, this time to Austin, Texas.

As much as I loved living in different parts of the country, having a baby boy brought me back to my hometown in Charlottesville, where I now live with my husband, our little one, and two furry friends. I enjoy going to wineries, taking my pups everywhere, and spending quality time with my family.

Receive the latest news

Get the Inside Scoop!

Austin’s latest events and eats, straight to your inbox. Subscribe now!