At Texas Children in Nature we emphasize the benefits of a daily connection with nature for kids and families. But there is something extra special about a family campout during the summer in Texas. For some, that might sound like a hot, buggy proposition. Being prepared can mitigate the heat and the pests so you can focus on the fun. Knowing where to go to maximize your family fun time is also important. We’ve compiled a list of 15 great places to camp with the family during the summer.
Tyler State Park: At Tyler SP you can boat, fish, swim, camp, picnic, have a reunion, or take a nature walk. Set in the towering pines of east Texas, this park offers 13 miles of hiking and biking trails, plus a large lake for water activities. There are limited use cabins, screen shelters, RV and tent sites for camping.
Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area: Set in the Davy Crocket National Forest, this park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. There is a large lake for swimming and fishing, RV and tent camping, 20 miles of hiking trails and a small playground for the little ones. The shade of the towering pines make it pleasant for camping in the summer.
Cedar Hill State Park: Visit Cedar Hill State Park for the day or weekend. Bring your family to hike, bike, picnic, camp, geocache and nature watch. The park sits on the shore of Joe Pool Lake, so you can also swim, fish, and boat or paddle. Rent one of our picnic pavilionsfor your next family reunion. Camp at one of 350 developed campsites, all near restrooms with hot showers. Several sites are ADA-accessible. Or hike to a primitive campsite, if trails are open.
Dinosaur Valley State Park: If your kid loves dinosaurs, then this is the park for you. The ancient creatures of the past reveal their size in the tracks they left behind. Kids can explore the dinosaur tracks and giant dinosaur models, splash or swim in the river, fish, mountain bike, attend a ranger program or take a nature walk. Horseback riding is allowed, but you have to bring your own horse.
Meriden State Park: The park's 72-acre lake offers fishing, swimming and no-wake boating. Bird-watching is excellent and there is a good chance of seeing the rare golden-cheeked warbler. Other popular activities include camping, picnicking and bicycling on park roads. The Bosque Hiking Trail encircles Lake Meridian and features limestone outcroppings with fossils, a scenic overlook and aquatic vegetation. In addition to campsites for tents and RVs, the park also has screened shelters, group facilities and a cabin.
Jim Hogg Army Corp of Engineers Park: Set on the limestone shores of Lake Georgetown, this park offers tent and RV camping, swimming, boating, hiking and bird watching. The large campsites are great for families to sprawl out and play. Like all the Army Corp of Engineer parks in the area, the camping loops are closed to day users. The limited traffic makes it easy for kids to ride their bikes or other wheeled toys.There are several ACE parks that line the shores of Lake Georgetown that are connected by the 27 mile Goodwater hiking trail.
Inks Lake State Park: This is my personal favorite park to camp during the summer. The constant level lake is always cool and refreshing. There are kayaks, canoes and even paddleboats to rent at the camp store. Families can fish, swim, hike, bike, paddle, picnic and watch for wildlife. The Devils Watering Hole and the falls above it are fun to explore for all ages. But there is not a lifeguard on duty, so keep the little ones under close watch. The park has cabins, tent camping and RV camping. The campsites are well spaced to give privacy and shade.
Black Rock Park- LCRA: Set on the shore of Lake Buchannan, this park is small but mighty. Families can swim, boat, fish, float, play horseshoes or just hang out. The park has several small cabins in addition to the well maintained RV and tent camping sites. There isn’t a ton of shade at this park, so I recommend bringing some sort of shade shelter for the little ones during the blasting heat of the summer.
Buescher State Park: This park has one of the best set ups for a large family reunion. The CCC picnic pavilion can be rented out and is circled by tent camping sites and easy access to the RV camping loop. Each camping loop is small, which makes it easy for kids to explore, but still be within sight. The park has a fishing lake and offers kayaks and canoes for rent. If families want to swim, its an easy drive over to Bastrop State Park to enjoy the giant CCC swimming pool. The park also lends out fishing gear as part of the tackle loaner program.
South Llano River State Park: The camping loop at this park is well situated among the oaks and pecans, which creates an oasis. Kids of all ages can enjoy the crystal clear South Llano River. Inner tubes can be rented at the park to blissfully float down the river. But call to make sure the river has good flow before booking a campsite. Kids can also bike, walk, fish or watch for wildlife.This park is also an International Dark Skys location.
Garner State Park: Cabins, screen shelters, RVs and tents are all welcome at this State Park. The crystal clear waters of the Frio River are ideal of keeping cool on a hot summer day. But don’t for get to bring your dancing shoes to enjoy one of the family friendly dances as well. To me, this park is all about swimming, a little dancing, grilling and chilling. Kids can also ride their bikes, hike or attend a ranger lead program.
Coastal Region Texas
Mustang Island State Park: Nothing beats the white sandy beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast. Mustang Island offers families RV and tent camping, paddling, beach access, fishing in both the gulf and the lagoon, bird watching and ranger programs.
Lake Corpus Christi State Park: Bring your fishing pole for this park adventure. LCCSP has one of the best fishing docks in the state park system. This park has screen shelters, RV and tent camping with covered picnic tables at most of the sites. Visitors can rent kayaks and standup paddleboards, or bring their own to enjoy. Kids can also go geocaching, biking, wildlife watching and hiking at the park.
Padre Island National Seashore: The camping at this park is a little more remote and RVs have to dry camp. But the remoteness is one of things that makes it so fun. Kids can make sand castles on the beach, kayak in the Luguna Madre, fish, or enjoy a ranger lead program. The sound of the surf will make you feel a million miles away and immersed in nature.
Balmorhea State Park: The crystal clear, spring fed pool is the main attraction at this park. Visitors can swim, scuba dive, snorkel or just lounge by the 1.75 acre pool. There are 34 RV and tent campsites, plus lodging at San Solomon Springs Court. This is also a great base camp to take day trips to the McDonald Observatory or Fort Davis.
Camping is a great way to make memories with your family. But make sure those memories are good ones by taking a few safety precautions.
- Make sure you and your children drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- It is best to be active in the morning and evening when it is cooler and the sun is less direct.
- Apply sunscreen several times during the day, especially if near water.
- Campfires are great, but if the weather is hot it might be best to let the kids play with flashlights instead of cooking s’mores by the fire.
- Take proper footwear to avoid getting stickers and stubbed toes.
- Always pack plenty of bug spray and a first aid kit.
- The Forest Service requests that you do not bring your own firewood to a park. Transporting wood can also transport tree-killing bugs.
Find more places to camp and explore at NatureRocksTexas.org