Break out the Tents! Exploring the Great Outdoors in Central Texas

Break out the Tents! Exploring the Great Outdoors in Central Texas

As fall finally approaches and those scorching Texas temperatures finally cool off, it’s the perfect time to make plans to visit one of the many state parks right here in Central Texas. Whether you like to camp or spend the day exploring, these hidden gems offer the chance to appreciate the natural beauty of Central Texas without traveling far from home. Grab your hiking boots and get ready to roast some marshmallows.


Photo courtesy of McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls is the closest State Park to Austin and has all the natural beauty you could wish for but still close to home. Campsites are large and have a picnic table and fire pit. Located at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks, the park is a great place for swimming and hiking, and the falls are especially scenic after a good rain. You can also pay a visit to “Old Baldy,” a 500+ year-old, 103 food tall cypress tree, one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas. At only 25 minutes away from Plum Creek, this park offers a natural escape without a long-distance road trip beforehand.

texas parks

Photo courtesy of Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park offers a magnificent bike trail through the Lost Pines of East Central Texas, in addition to swimming, hiking, and golf. The park has rebounded after the devastating 2011 wildfire, and nearly all of the trails, campsites, and facilities have reopened to the public. Cabins and facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s are still standing and available for group rental, or for those wishing to experience a bit of history while enjoying the outdoors. You can also rent a canoe or a barbeque pit at the park and spend the day enjoying the natural wonder of the Lost Pines at Bastrop or neighboring Buescher State Park. The park also features scenic drives, if you’d prefer to experience the great outdoors from the comfort of your own vehicle.


Photo courtesy of Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a favorite for family hikes, featuring an easy 7-mile trail that winds along small canyons created by the Mescal and Tobacco creeks. Located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country west of Austin, Pedernales Falls is a great place for camping, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, and more. The campground is spacious and well-kept, and offers campers a peaceful escape in a uniquely beautiful setting. The Pedernales River also offers some great swimming, tubing, and wading for cooling off after a day exploring the natural wonders. A quarter mile nature trail also leads to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, perfect for capturing those postcard moments or just enjoying the breathtaking view. For equestrians, the park can also be explored on horseback on the rugged, 10 mile trail that winds up and down the hillsides.


Photo courtesy of Lockhart State Park

Lockhart State Park

Southeast of Kyle, Lockhart State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities for the whole family, including picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking, and more.  With nice hiking trails and several dams and fishing holes, this park is a great place to make a day trip or to camp for the night. The park also features a nine-hole golf course, the only staff-kept course in the Texas State Parks System, and a park swimming pool. RV travelers are welcome as well as traditional campers, and there is a CCC built recreation hall that can be rented for group events. And if you get tired of roasted marshmallows, the famous BBQ joints in Lockhart are only minutes away.

Want more to explore? Check out the Texas State Parks map on their website and plan your own adventure.

When the Great Outdoors are Calling Your Name

When the great outdoors starts calling your name, you know you have to pack up the car and head to wide open spaces. The Texas Hill Country is rife with opportunities to hike, bike, fish, float and camp. Before the high heat is upon us, be sure to catch a weekend or two at a nearby camping spot. Not sure where to go? We’ve picked the tops spots for Plum Creekers to pitch a tent, sing a round of Kumbaya and get away from it all.

Bastrop State Park

Plum Creek, New Homes for Sale in Kyle, TX

The devastating wildfires that swept through Bastrop in September of 2011 caused severe damage to over 95% of Bastrop State Park. After a period of recovery, the park is once again open to the public and Central Texans are stoked. Camp grounds are filled with nature lovers and newbies exploring the park’s 5,926 acres of pine trees, trails, lakes and historic sites. Night hikes, frog and toad watches, fishing lessons and more keep visitors busy and entertained. Even a solar eclipse viewing party was hosted this past weekend (mark your calendars for 2024). Just 50 miles northeast of Kyle, Bastrop State Park is far enough to feel like a change of scenery yet close enough to reach within an hour.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Plum Creek, New Homes for Sale in Kyle, TX

Johnson City’s majestic Pedernales River, flowing 40 miles northwest of Kyle, sets the tone for Pedernales Falls State Park. All kinds of outdoor activities are open to visitors, including camping, fishing, swimming, canoeing, bird watching, and picnicking. Experienced horseback riders can explore the 10-mile equestrian trail, but at the moment, the park is strictly B.Y.O.H., or ‘bring your own horse’. Hiking is a well-loved pastime at Pedernales Falls State Park. The 7-mile Wolf Mountain trail leads hikers through some of the most special parts of the park with spectacular vistas. Make sure you pack your camera for this park – it’s almost a felony not to.

Guadalupe River State Park

Plum Creek, New Homes for Sale in Kyle, TX

Hardcore nature lovers and novices can also discover new adventures at Guadalupe River State Park, located just 60 southwest of Kyle, in Spring Branch, Texas. Horse enthusiasts will love the 5.3-mile equestrian trail. The Children’s Discovery Center invites little tykes to explore nature in a hands-on and kid-friendly way. Microscopes, demonstrations and wildlife exhibits allow the inner explorer to emerge – a free backpack filled with tools for exploring can even be checked out for the day! Campers of all ages are also invited to partake in guided tours highlighting the park’s history, wildlife and animal species. Primitive campsites and sites equipped with your modern luxuries can be reserved before heading out.

This weather won’t last much longer so before it gets too hot, dust off your tent, lace up your hiking boots and grab the sunscreen for a few days of frolicking in the pristine Texas Hill Country.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

The Barton Creek Greenbelt is an approximately 8 mile stretch of land reaching from Zilker Park to the City of Westlake.  It is divided up into three sections: Lower Greenbelt, Upper Greenbelt, and Barton Creek Wilderness Park, and is characterized by large limestone cliffs, dense foliage, and shallow bodies of water.  The Greenbelt offers rock climbing and trails for walking, jogging, hiking, or mountain biking.  After periods of significant rainfall, the river fills up and offers swimming, cliff diving, kayaking and tubing.  Cavers can also enjoy Travis County’s longest cave, Airman’s Cave, which measures 2 miles long.