From the Panhandle to the coastline, the Lone Star State is filled with uniquely stunning camping destinations. There's no single best location for camping in Texas, so don't hesitate to follow your heart and find the state park or preserve that speaks to your interests. Whether you want to explore ancient caverns, sail wild rivers, or simply hike through the beautiful wilderness, you'll find serviced and backcountry campgrounds to give you the back-to-nature travel experience of a lifetime.
Set against the Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park is one of the most popular camping destinations in Texas. There are four serviced campgrounds situated around the park alongside a plethora of primitive and background sites. The trails at Big Bend are best suited to experienced hikers, offering incredible views to those who can make it 8,000 feet up. For travelers who prefer to stay ground side, don't miss the fascinating dinosaur fossils at the park's Fossil Discovery Exhibit.
Travel a few hours northwest of Austin, and you'll find Inks Lake State Park. As the name suggests, the serviced campsites here are all built around the titular Inks Lake. The glistening blue waters make sunrise look magical, while the low light of sunset illuminating the vibrant rocky outcrops is just as unmissable. Water-loving travelers can sail, ski, dive, fish, and swim in the lake, but note that there are no lifeguards on duty. On land, attempt the family-friendly Pecan Flats hike to see the beautiful hardwood forests reflect over the water.
If you're planning a camping trip in the fall, the sights at Lost Maples State Park will blow you away. Set along the Sabinal River just northwest of San Antonio, this park is filled with Bigtooth maple trees that light up the campgrounds with red and orange hues all season long. On top of that, you'll find an abundance of gorgeous wildflowers to make your stay even more beautiful. There aren't many serviced campsites, but that only makes the experience more intimate. For an even more special view, follow the hiking trail 2,200 feet up to the clifftop.
For travelers who prefer to camp by the open waters, you can't do better than Padre Island National Seashore. This 70-mile stretch of coastline, sand dunes, and grassy prairies is nestled between the rare hypersaline Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico. You'll need to stick to one of the five designated campgrounds, but each one offers easy access to the beach. While you're there, make sure you check out what makes Padre Island National Seashore truly unique: the adorable sea turtle breeding program.
Known as Texas' answer to the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park gives you gorgeous views no matter where you hitch up your tent. There are several serviced and primitive campsites to choose from, each with varied amenities. Naturally, the striking red canyons make the perfect place to hike but don't limit yourself to exploring on foot. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one of the best camping destinations to travel on horseback, with 1,500 acres of dedicated equestrian trails. Readily accessible from downtown Amarillo, this park is considered one of the most spectacular landscapes in the Texas Panhandle.
Big Thicket National Preserve is less of a thicket and more of a delightfully dense forest expanse. You won't find any serviced campgrounds here, but the scenery is certainly worth the effort of backcountry camping. Often referred to as America's Ark, this highly diverse Southeast Texas park is home to over 500 species of animals and an even more impressive array of plants. Paddling the river or one of the many creeks and bayous will make for a relaxing down day during your stay.
Near San Antonio and Austin, you'll find three history-laden campgrounds at Guadalupe River State Park. Unsurprisingly, the bustling four-mile river is this park's highlight, and it will give you plenty to do during your stay. Fishing gear is available for loan, canoeing is popular, and swimming is a refreshing experience. When you're ready for a little peace and quiet, try birdwatching through one of the many hiking trails, which range from a simple half-mile overlook to several miles of challenging terrain.
Caddo Lake is a mesmerizing collection of bayous, ponds, and various waterways in the East Texas area. Set your tent or motorhome up at one of the campsites as a base for all your adventures. Paddling is a must here, but don't worry if you don't have your own canoe or kayak — the park has several available for rent. While you're venturing over 50 miles of water trails, try catching one of the 70 species of fish that live here. Just remember to follow the alligator safety tips at all times.
If you're looking to experience true serenity, travel to Davis Mountains State Park near Fort Davis in west Texas. Alongside a historic motel, the park is home to several campgrounds where you can be at one with nature. Tranquil birdwatching is one of the best activities to try here, as Davis Mountains State Park has what's known as "the best little bird blind in Texas." There's also an endless supply of trails, including equestrian hikes with six horse-friendly campsites to stay at.
Just northwest of Austin, Colorado Bend State Park is one destination where you won't find any serviced campgrounds. That said, the back-to-nature camping you'll experience here is unbeatable. Above ground, the unspoiled wilderness will show you Texas's landscape as it's truly meant to be, but don't hesitate to explore underground too. There's something about crawling and climbing through a wild cave tour that will touch your spirit in fascinating ways.