By Mylie Alrich
Looking to take advantage of the cooler weather for some camping this late fall and winter? Now is the time to make those plans! With the growing population of the Austin area, and many people looking at outdoors activities as being a safer option this year, local campsites are in demand and booking up faster than ever.
It’s been 6 years since I made camping a regular part of life for my kids and I. These extended times in nature help us all slow down, connect with each other and friends, and remember that experiences, not things, are what bring us the most joy. I love seeing my city dwelling kids hunt for bugs, build imaginary kingdoms in the woods, and daydream while watching the flickering flames of the campfire.
My three favorite Texas State Parks for winter camping that are less than 2 hours from Austin:
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Famous for having the largest pink granite dome in the United States, Enchanted Rock is the perfect place for kids to pretend to be mountain goats, and it’s an International Dark Sky Park with superb star gazing. Make time to do the hike around the bottom of the rock to view it from all sides as well as taking the summit trail. Note: Dogs are allowed on the Summit Trail and you can’t leave them unattended at the campsite either so Fido probably needs to site this one out.
Less than an hour from Austin, park is almost always fully booked and for good reason. The falls are beautiful and there are easy hikes as well as longer ones that will take all day. And we’ve seen Armadillos every time we’ve been!
I’ve had good luck getting reservations here on shorter notice. It’s actually the first place I took my kids camping for that very reason!
- Plan ahead: Currently state parks are operating at reduced capacity, reservations open 3 months in advance, and popular parks book up right away. Find a weekend three months plus out that works for your family and mark your calendar for the day reservations will open to snag a spot!
- If you’re looking for a campsite on short notice you can set up an availability notification and you’ll receive an email if a site becomes available. The notification goes out to everyone on the waitlist at the same time so time is of the essence when you receive one. You can set up the notification for several parks for the same dates to increase your odds.
- Get a Texas State Parks Pass for discounts on camping and free day use entry here.