Unearth the Hidden Treasures: Top Five Camping Spots around Austin, Texas Waiting to be Discovered by You

In Austin, Texas, we’re blessed with the best of both worlds – a thriving, vibrant city and a treasure trove of nature just around the bend. City life may be abuzz, but past the skyscrapers, Austin’s outskirts cradle some of the best camping spots in Texas. Green, rolling landscapes, water rippling under the mighty Texas sun, the smell of woody campfires drifting on the breeze-all of this and more awaits just a hop, skip, and a jump from Austin.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first-time tenter, I’ve got you covered. Here’s my pick of the top five camping spots around Austin from a true Austin local. Pack your gear, stock up on marshmallows, and let’s discover the hidden camping gems Austin has to offer!

1. Pedernales Falls State Park: Unplugging in the Heart of Nature’s Miracles

Set in the charming Hill Country along the banks of the Pedernales River, Pedernales Falls State Park is a jewel of the Texas Park System. At just an hour’s drive away, it’s close enough to Austin for a day trip but trust me, you’d want to linger more.

  • The Campground Vibe: An ideal blend of tranquility and country charm awaits introspective campers looking to unplug. The peaceful sound of the Pedernales River makes for a perfect lullaby as you sleep under the stars.

  • Why You’ll Love It: The park has something for every outdoor enthusiast. Test your hiking skills on the rugged terrain of the Wolf Mountain Trail, take an easy stroll along the Twin Falls Nature Trail, or indulge in fishing, swimming, bird watching, and nature photography.

  • Campground Details: The park offers a range of camping options from primitive hike-in sites for the adventurous to sites with water and electrical hookups for RV and family campers.

  • A Time to Unwind: The park is renowned for its wonderful stargazing opportunities. Spend your nights dreaming under a blanket of stars, away from the city’s light pollution.

  • A Must Try: Successfully hiking the Wolf Mountain Trail rewards you with a panoramic view of the entire park. The stunning scenery is worth the effort!

2. McKinney Falls State Park: A Slice of Wilderness within the City Limits

Encapsulated in Austin’s city limits, McKinney Falls State Park is a hidden oasis where Onion Creek’s gentle exhale can soothe your city stresses.

  • The Campground Vibe: This urban park offers a unique blend of bustling city affair and serene nature retreat. You won’t feel like you’re in one of the biggest cities in Texas while camping here.

  • Why You’ll Love It: With over nine miles of trails, you can hike, bike, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk amid the nature. The park is a natural habitat for diverse wildlife and offers excellent bird watching opportunities.

  • Campground Details: McKinney Falls provides 81 campsites with water and electric hookups, including six cabins for glampers. Tent and RV campers, both, are welcome.

  • A Time to Unwind: Nothing beats watching the sun go down from your campsite, then stargazing into the peaceful night.

  • A Must Try: Discover the park’s historical treasures, including ‘Old Baldy,’ a towering Cypress tree nearly 500 years old, and the ruins of the McKinney homestead. Don’t forget to take a refreshing dip where Onion and Williamson Creeks intersect!

3. Pace Bend Park: Sun, Sand, and A Big Texas Sky

A beautifully raw, rugged terrain, Pace Bend Park, along the sandy banks of Lake Travis, strikes a pleasing balance between adventure and relaxation.

  • The Campground Vibe: This park offers a genuine ‘wild’ camping vibe, with primitive campsites dotted among high limestone cliffs and sandy coves.

  • Why You’ll Love It: The park is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Cliff diving, wakeboarding, hiking, biking, and rock climbing are just a fraction of the activities on offer.

  • Campground Details: It provides more than 400 primitive campsites and two developed campgrounds. RVers should make a beeline for Levi Cove, providing water and electric hookups.

  • A Time to Unwind: Stretched out on the beach or tucked away in the trees, the choice is yours. Relax to sounds of the lake: the gentle lap of waves, a lonely boat’s purr, the distant cries of circling gulls.

  • A Must Try: If you’re up for it, the cliffs overlooking the park’s Mudd and Taylor coves offer a stunning view of Lake Travis and the sunset that paints the Texas sky with shades of pink and orange.

4. Krause Springs: Where Time Stands Still

Owned by the Krause family for over 50 years and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Krause Springs offers a picturesque and slightly ‘mystical’ camping experience that leaves you relaxed and rejuvenated.

  • The Campground Vibe: Think magical. Beautiful waterfalls, lush gardens, and towering Cypress trees create an immersive atmosphere where time seems to fade away.

  • Why You’ll Love It: Discover the crystal clear, spring-fed swimming holes, a butterfly garden, rope swings, and more. This privately-owned camping ground feels like a slice of paradise.

  • Campground Details: You’ll find 24 RV sites with water and electric hookups and countless more tent sites throughout the property.

  • A Time to Unwind: The man-made swimming pool fed with spring water is perfect for a relaxing dip on a hot Texas day.

  • A Must Try: Make sure to take a peaceful stroll through the Butterfly Gardens, a personal labor of love by the Krause family.

5. Emma Long Metropolitan Park: Camping by the Colorado River

Covering over 1,000 acres along the shores of Lake Austin, Emma Long Metropolitan Park offers recreational opportunities for all types of campers.

  • The Campground Vibe: With its location on the Colorado River, this urban park offers a campground vibe that’s a unique mix of city convenience and serene nature.

  • Why You’ll Love It: You can go motor boating, fishing, hiking through the Turkey Creek trail, or just relaxing on the sandy beach. It’s a perfect place for families with kids and pets.

  • Campground Details: Emma Long offers campsites with and without water and electric hookups. Some campsites even come with a grill and picnic table!

  • A Time to Unwind: The bankside campsites offer a tranquil spot to watch the sun rise over the river while sipping on your early morning coffee.

  • A Must Try: Don’t miss a chance to cook your catch of the day on a lakeside grill and savor it with the Texas twilight embracing you!

Every one of these campgrounds is like a gem gleaming under the Texas sun, waiting to be discovered by explorers like you. They are full of character, each with their unique allure that imprints unforgettable memories. Whether you’re a hard-core camper or a city dweller looking to escape the city lights, you’ll find your perfect fit near Austin.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick your spot, pack your gears, and off you go on your next camping adventure! Happy Camping, y’all!

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.

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