True confession time: I’m not what you would call outdoorsy. I don’t own any fancy wilderness equipment. I would be hard pressed to start a fire without the aid of matches. And my survival skills all involve googling stuff. But the truth is, I love camping. I love having an excuse to get away from computer screens and just sit around a campfire chatting with friends. I love coming up with innovative ways to cook delicious things outside. And I love sleeping under the stars and waking up to the sound of chirping birds.
Camping near Austin is great for fair-weather campers like me. You don’t need a sub-zero-ready sleeping bag. Barring the hottest part of summer and occasional rainy day, the weather is on your side most of the year. Plus, there are so many great drive-up camping sites a short distance from the city. In fact, one of my favorite things about Austin is the fact that you can drive just a few miles outside the city center and feel like you’re miles from civilization. In no particular order, here’s a round-up of some great options for camping near Austin!
1/ Pace Bend Park
Perfect for campers and boaters alike, this scenic county park has more than nine miles of shoreline along Lake Travis. Primitive camping sites along the cliffs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. These campsites include BBQ grills and fire rings, but no showers. For those of us who require water and electrical hookups with our campsites, there are 20 improved campsites with bathrooms in Levi Cove, an easy walk to the lake. During the daytime, you can boat or swim in a number of coves in the park.
2011 Pace Bend Road North, Spicewood, TX – Website
2/ McKinney Falls State Park
Located just 13 miles from the State Capitol, McKinney Falls State Park is not only a great day trip for hiking, biking and picnicking, but also home to 81 campsites, all with water and electrical hookups. For true glampers, you can rent cabins or bring your RV. Although, fair warning, the cabins have microwaves in them, so you can no longer claim to be “roughing it” in good conscience.
During the day, enjoy nine miles of hiking trails or go swimming. You can also fish in Onion or Williamson Creeks, as you don’t need a license to fish from shore in Texas state parks. You’ll feel far from the hustle and bustle of the city, but still maximize the weekend by having a short drive home.
5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX – Website
3/ Pedernales Falls State Park
This state park is another gem in Texas Hill Country, located a convenient hour’s drive west of Austin. Seventy campsites offer everything a camper (or at least this camper) could want! Electricity hookups, water, picnic tables and views of waterfalls abound. There are also a number of trails, rivers and lagoons to explore during the day, to work up an appetite for your nighttime s’mores feast.
2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX – Website
4/ Emma Long Metropolitan Park
In Austin, you don’t just camp at county and state parks, but in city parks, too! Or at least you can camp at Emma Long Metropolitan Park, just west of town on the Colorado River. This park offers both primitive campsites with no water, and premium campsites with water and electricity. You can even reserve a site online. Emma Long has a fishing pier, roped off swimming area and sand volleyball courts to entertain you and your camping crew.
1600 City Park Road, Austin, TX – Website
5/ Inks Lake State Park
If you’re willing to travel just a little farther—say, two hours—afield, Inks Lake State Park is well worth the effort. This state park has miles of hiking trails, 200 campsites and 22 cabins (two of which are ADA-accessible). Many of the campsites provide great views of the lake. Speaking of the lake for which the park is named, it provides opportunities for fishing, and paddleboats, canoes and kayaks are all available to rent. Additionally, Inks Lake State Park is far enough from the city to be a great spot for stargazing!
3630 Park Road 4 West, Burnet, TX – Website
6/ Cedar Breaks Park
If you live or work on the north side of Austin, you’re not far from this lovely park on Lake Georgetown. The lake provides opportunities for boating, fishing and not-too-shabby sunsets. There are 59 campsites with access to bathrooms, showers and electricity hookups. The park is named for the abundance of cedar in the surrounding forests.
2100 Cedar Breaks Road, Georgetown, TX – Website
There are so many options for camping near Austin, just waiting for you to plan an excursion. Prices for campsites usually range from $10 to $20 per night, but check the park websites for exact rates. Also, make sure to check the park rules as you make your plans. Before you pack the cooler, know that alcohol isn’t allowed in state parks, and neither are glass bottles. If you’re bringing a furry friend, you’ll need to conform to the leash laws of the park. Otherwise, get ready to kick back and enjoy your vacation from civilization. And no shame if your break from civilization, like mine, still includes the best parts of civilization: running water and electricity.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite spot for camping near Austin?