best state parks near austin

12 Best State Parks near Austin for Camping in 2021

With summer here, many native Texans, as well as tourists, are looking to enjoy the rugged natural beauty of this great state.

One of the best ways to do this is to go camping at one of the many state parks. Here is a list of some of the best places for camping near Austin.

Note that no fishing licenses are needed in state parks as long as you are standing on the ground or on a dock, but you will need a license if you fish off a boat.

While most of these state parks near Austin charge a daily entry fee for adults, children under 12 are always free.


Where can I go primitive camping near Austin?

Best primitive camping sites near Austin you can find in McKinney Falls, Pedernales Falls, and Colorado Bend State Park.

What is the largest state park in Texas?

Big Bend Ranch with 311,000-acre is the biggest State Park in Texas state. It’s located Southwest near the border with Mexico.

How many state parks are there in Texas?

Texas has 80 state parks in total with plenty of options for camping, kayaking, hiking, horse riding or finishing. 

Is there a senior pass for Texas state parks?

Yes, there is a senior pass for state parks in Texas. You can qualify for one if you are over 65 years old and Texas resident. Senior pass you get a 50% discount on the entrance fees.

McKinney Falls – Best State Park near Austin

20 minutes – South of Austin

McKinney Falls State Park near Austin
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Located within Austin city limits, the wooded terrain of McKinney Falls State Park offers an escape from urban sprawl.

McKinney Falls State Park campgrounds are loved by visitors and rated as the best camping in Texas!

The remains of a homestead and an old rock shelter offer a glimpse of Texas history while Onion Creek offers opportunities for fishing. You can also hike, swim, go bouldering or geocaching, or ride on the 2.8-mile bike trail.

Because it’s flat, this trail is also good for strollers and others requiring a gentle hike. There are also steeper areas to challenge more experienced hikers and bikers.

There are 81 campsites with water and electric hookups as well as 6 newly remodeled cabins to rent. There is also a primitive youth camping area. The entry fee is $6 per day for adults.

People ask:

How far is McKinney Falls from Austin?

McKinney Falls state park is located only 15 minutes by car from Austin.

Can you swim at McKinney Falls State Park?

Yes you can swim at McKinney falls state park but only in 2 spots, upper and lower falls. You can also jump off the cliffs.

Are dogs allowed at McKinney Falls State Park?

Dogs are allowed at McKinney Falls state park but they must be on the leash for the whole time.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

25 minutes – Northwest of Austin


This 1,142-acre park provides a secluded respite from busy Austin while situated only 25 minutes from the state capitol. In fact, many who visit it say that it feels like it is much more secluded than that, and a number of those decide to take full advantage of that and camp here for up to 14 consecutive nights.

One of this park’s prime attractants to both campers and day visitors is its location on Lake Austin, and it does offer a designated swimming area and boat ramps. Meanwhile, some of the animals that you may see while traversing its picturesque hiking trails include deer, squirrels and birds.

The park’s hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. while its park office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended hours to 7 p.m. on many summer weekend days. If you will be walking or biking in, entry costs $1. Drivers here for a non-overnight stay must pay $5 during the week and $10 on the weekends.

Do make sure to plan in advance if you will be here on busy holiday weekends – i.e. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day – as access then is sometimes restricted to those with reservations. Conversely, the quietest time to visit is during the week, particularly before 4 p.m.

Colorado Bend State Park

1 hour 4o minutes – Northwest of Austin

Calorado Bend state park Austin
Image from The Dyrt camper JJ T.

Two hours northwest of Austin is Colorado Bend State Park. Here you can cool off in Spicewood Springs after an energetic hike or bike ride.

With 35 miles of trails, Colorado Bend State Park will keep you busy. The river provides opportunities for fishing and swimming.

One of the most popular activities is a tour of beautiful Gorman Falls. It’s a 70-foot spring fed waterfall that you can enjoy during a 3-mile hike through some rugged terrain.

The cave tours are also a big hit with visitors.

The facilities here are more primitive. There are drive-up and hike-in sites that provide water but no hookups. Composting toilets and open-air showers are available. The entry fee is $5 per day for adults.

Bastrop State Park

38 minutes – East of Austin

Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park is best known for its recovering forest of loblolly pines. A devastating forest fire scorched the forests of pines in 2011. The loblollies became known as the Lost Pines.

Conversation efforts are bringing the Lost Pines back. Visitors can drive or bike the 12-mile Park Road 1C and see a new generation of the pines. The drive passes over gently rolling hills between Bastrop and Buescher State Parks.

Bastrop State Park also features seven miles of hiking trails for a closeup view of the area’s vegetation and wildlife. Anglers will find no better fishing than at the 1/2-acre Lake Mina. No fishing license is required, and the park managemen lends fishing equipment.

Camping options at the park range from walk-in tent sites for $15 per day to full hookups for RVs at $25. A pool on the premises is open May-September.

Stephen F. Austin State Park

2 hours – East of Austin

Located on the Brazos River 50 miles west of Houston, the Stephen F. Austin State Park focuses on history and nature. Named in honor of the “Father of Texas,” the park entrance is near the historic town of San Filipe, once the center of American colonies in Texas. Austin brought the first families to colonize the state under an agreement with Mexico.

Hike through the park’s lush forests to observe a variety of flora and fauna. Hickory, cedar elm, and Osage orange trees shelter an undergrowth of dwarf palmettos, coralberry, and other native brush. Birders and wildlife observers will spot plenty of wildlife from pileated woodpeckers to raccoons, armadillos, and more.

Camping in the park includes primitive walk-in sites for up to three tents for only $10 per night. Campsites with water are for tent camping only with a maximum of eight people and three tents for $15. Full hook-up sites with nearby showers and restrooms are $25 per night.

Lockhart State Park

40 minutes – South

Lockhart State Park near Austin

This small state park provides a quiet getaway for San Antonio and Austin residents. Despite its size, it has tons of wildlife including beavers, turkeys, foxes and armadillos.

Bird watchers love to come here due to the many varieties.

Many people come here to fish as bass, catfish and sunfish are abundant. The park provides loans of fishing equipment.

There is also a 9-hole golf course that was built during the Great Depression by the WPA and the CCC.

Green fees will run you $9 during the week and $11 on weekends and holidays. You can bring your own clubs or rent them for only $7. Electric carts are available.

You can reserve a campsite with full hookups here and the entry fee is only $3 a day for adults.

Guadalupe River State Park

1 hour 30 minutes – Southwest

Guadalupe River State Park near Austin

Austin and San Antonio residents typically come here to tube down the 4 miles of river. However, the park has a lot more to offer.

You can go horse-back riding through native prairies and forests.

Because it’s the Hill Country, some of the trails are quite rugged, making them great for experienced mountain bikers.

There are also picnic areas and opportunities for geocaching as well as fishing, canoeing and swimming. Fishing gear can be borrowed from the park.

The campground offers 85 sites with water and electricity as well as 9 walk-in tent sites. For novice campers or those visiting from out of state, Texas Park Outfitters provides camping equipment rental and setup.

You can learn more here. The remote Bauer Unit camping area is for those who want to really rough it.

This section of the park does not have restrooms or potable water and does not allow fires. The park entry fee is $7 for adults. Equestrian camping is not available.

Lake Somerville State Park & Trailway

1 hour 30 minutes – East

Lake Somerville State Park & Trailway - State Parks, Austin, TX

The landscape at this park located between Austin and Houston includes rolling hills, flat terrain and three main creeks that drain into Lake Somerville.

You will find quail and waterfowl as well as river otters. You might also spot an alligator!

Water sports feature prominently. You can rent a canoe or kayak. If you bring a motorized boat, there are boat ramps into the lake, which has over 11,000 acres of water to explore.

There is also a fishing jetty where anglers can reel in largemouth, white and hybrid bass as well as crappie and catfish. The park provides fishing gear.

Additionally, you can hike, bike or ride your horse on over 40 miles of trails, and equestrian camping is available.

Some campsites have water and electricity but some do not. All have access to restrooms with showers and there are additional chemical toilets located along the Trailway. The entry fee is $4 for adults.

Inks Lake State Park

1 hour 15 minutes – Northwest of Austin

Located in the stunning Texas hill country, Inks Lake State Park provides outdoor recreation by Inks Lake on the Colorado River. The water level stays constant all year for swimming, fishing, and boating even during times of drought.

The park features fun on-land activites like volleyall and geocache, a unique modern-day treasure hunt. Objects such as film canisters and lunchboxes are camouflaged and hold treasures like log books to sign and tradeable items. To observe nature, the park has nine miles of hiking trails.

For watersports, the camp store rents canoes, paddleboard, kayaks and equipment. Stay at the park at one of around 200 campsites or choose one of 22 cabins. Pick up needed supplies at the park store.

Camping options range from $11 per day for primitive sites to $23 for campsites with electricity. Cabins with separate nearby showers and restrooms are $55 per night.

Longhorn Cavern State Park

1 hour 20 minutes – Northwest of Austin

Longhorn State Park
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The geology of Longhorn Cavern makes it truly unique. Geologists think that about 300 million years ago, there was an upheaval known as the “Llano Uplift” that caused fractures to form in the flat limestone of the region.

Water flowed through the cracks dissolving first the limestone and then cutting through the solid rock below. This action of the water both dissolving and cutting the cavern makes it one of the world’s most unique cave systems. Guided tours of the cavern will allow you to learn more.

In addition to the cavern, there are hiking trails and picnic areas as well as an exhibit about the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). There is also a gift shop.

Author’s TIP: Get some comfortable minimalist hiking boots to keep your feet safe and comfortable!

The park is located 1.5 hours northwest of Austin and is close to Burnet, Llano and Marble Falls, each of which offers museums, shopping and restaurants. Admission to the park is free though there is a charge for the cavern tour.

Pedernales Falls State Park

53 minutes – West

Pedernales Falls State Park
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The Pedernales River, is definitely one of the best state parks near Austin! but can be turbulent at times as it flows over huge slabs of limestone. This creates a unique environment about 30 miles west of Austin.

The terrain is rugged and wooded. A beautiful trail leads to a scenic overlook above the twin waterfalls that give the park its name.

You can hike, mountain bike, geocache, picnic or ride your horse. Nature lovers will appreciate the bird blind and butterfly garden set amongst groupings of native plants.

Swimming and wading are not allowed in the falls area, though you can swim or tube further down the river.

There is a 10-mile riding trail. Because it is rugged with steep and rocky slopes, it is only for experienced riders and horses should have shoes. Water troughs are provided both at the trailhead and at the half-way mark.

There are campsites with water and electricity as well as more primitive sites available. There is also an equestrian campground. The entry fee for adults is $6.

Blanco State Park

1 hour – West

This small park located an hour from both San Antonio and Austin hugs a one-mile stretch of the spring-fed Blanco River.

It has a picnic pavilion for groups as well as opportunities for fishing, hiking and camping. You can also go boating. Bring your own canoe, kayak or motorized craft, or rent a kayak or tube. There are ample opportunities for swimming, with a shallow wading pool for young children.

You can borrow fishing equipment from the park and try for the largemouth and Guadalupe bass, channel catfish, sunfish and rainbow trout.

Full hookup campsites are available as well as screened shelters near the river. Entry to the park is $5 for adults.

Check out best camping gadgets!


Hopefully, you will have a chance to enjoy the beauty of the Texas Hill Country this summer by camping in one of these wonderful state parks close to Austin.

With some offering full hookup campsites, even novices can enjoy getting away from the city.

Most offer water sports to help you stay cool in the summer as well as other exciting activities such as cavern tours.

Whether you want to challenge yourself by mountain biking up a steep slope or prefer a gentle stroll through a prairie, there is a park that will suit your needs.

Best State Parks near Austin to visit for hiking or camping