If you’re looking for a weekend that you’ll never forget, then you should try primitive camping in Texas. Any type of primitive camping in any location is great, but there’s something special about the Lone Star State.
Texas offers some of the best and most diverse countryside and scenery in the U.S. It combines a mixture of desert, lakes, rivers, cliffs, mountains, and ocean views.
If you’re thirsty for adventure and want to know where to find some in Texas, you’ve come to the right place.
What Exactly is Primitive Camping in Texas?
While primitive camping has traditionally meant forging your own path through a wilderness of unknown obstacles without any modern conveniences, it means something different in Texas.
Yes, there are plenty of places where you can pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere, but some of the best primitive camping spots are popular locations and landmarks.
Whichever route you choose, primitive camping in Texas means spending a night under the stars without electricity or running water. Whether you decide to pitch a tent for shelter or hang a hammock between two trees is up to you. Either way, primitive camping in Texas will get you out of your comfort zone and into the heart of nature.
Primitive Camping in Western Texas
First on our list of best spots for primitive camping in Texas is Big Bend State Park.
You’ve probably never heard of Big Bend National Park, mainly because it’s one of the least visited national parks in the country. However, that’s only because of how primitive and remote it is and not because it lacks beauty.
Big Bend is located adjacent to the Rio Grande River, butts up against the Mexican border, and consists of 800,000 acres of some of Texas’s finest primitive camping options. You’ll encounter dazzling views of canyons, mountains, and the Rio Grande.
The park has several developed campgrounds, all of which have primitive camping options. However, most of their best camping spots are limited to backpackers, mountain bikers, and horses. Please note that you need a permit if you plan to spend the night in Big Bend outside of a developed campground.
Check out our guide on Camping in Big Bend National Park.
If you’re looking for the best hiking and horse-riding trails in Texas, Davis Mountains State Park is for you. The park is also a treasure-trove of various primitive camping sites, only accessible via horses or backpacking. Additionally, Davis Mountain is one of the most popular spots in Texas for bird watching and stargazing.
If Davis Mountain wasn’t enough hiking, biking, and camping fun, then head even farther west to the westernmost part of Texas. Franklin Mountains State Park includes over 100 miles of hiking and biking trails and some of the best scenery that money can’t buy.
There are tons of primitive camping spots along the various trails, including the Tom Mays Unit, which allows campers to spend the night closer to civilization.
Primitive Camping in Eastern Texas
Another of our picks for primitive camping in Texas is Caddo Lake State Park.
Just 10 miles from the Louisiana border, Caddo Lake State Park is about as far east as you can go in Texas. Caddo Lake is one of only a few natural lakes in the state, and it’s also one of the most beautiful.
You can spend your days hiking, kayaking, or fishing and wrap things up by sleeping under the stars at one of Caddo Lakes’ primitive campsites. Armadillo Run and Squirrel Haven are two of the top spots not just in this park but for all primitive camping in Texas.
If you love the ocean and want to spend the night on the seashore, you’ll want to check out Mustang Island State Park. The park itself features over five miles of the Gulf of Mexico coastline and has some of the most beautiful beaches in Texas.
Surfing, fishing, and kayaking are some of the top activities during the day, followed by spending the night on the beach, steps away from the ocean. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of endangered sea turtles if you camp during the summer.
Primitive Camping in Southern Texas
When it comes to primitive camping by the ocean, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that tops a night at Padre Island. Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
The park is over 130,000 acres of wide-open space for bird watching, hiking, and soaking up the Texas sun. Bird Island Basin and two other designated areas on the beach feature primitive-only camping. You can fall asleep to the sound of the waves and wake up to the ocean at your doorstep at Padre Island National Seashore.
If you’re looking to kick back and enjoy a relaxing weekend of hiking and taking in the fall foliage, Lost Maples State Park is a gem. Located just two hours northwest of San Antonio, Lost Maples gets the honor of being one of Texas’s most beautiful fall locales.
The Sabinal River runs right through the park and offers primitive camping options along with swimming and fishing.
Nicknamed “America’s Ark,” Big Thicket National Preserve contains more animal and plant life diversity than any other part of Texas. It’s part of the Piney Woods region in southwest Texas and is a great place to spend a weekend hiking, canoeing, or animal-watching. It also has tons of primitive campsites spread through its 112,000 acres of diverse landscape.
Best known for its cavernous pit and millions of bats that live inside, the Devil’s Sinkhole is one of Texas’ best-kept secrets. It’s a National Natural Landmark and one of Texas’s most incredible spots to visit. The sinkhole itself is 50 feet wide and 140 feet deep and usually houses over 3 million bats at a time.
If bats and sinkholes aren’t your thing, there are also close to 2,000 acres of hiking trails and natural areas around the sinkhole. If you can’t find a primitive spot to your liking at Devil’s Sinkhole, it’s only a stone’s throw away from Lost Maples Natural Area and Kickapoo Cavern State Park.
Primitive Camping in Northern Texas
If you’ve ever done any bit of research on hiking or camping in Texas, you’ve likely run into Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second-biggest canyon in the United States, trailing only Arizona’s Grand Canyon. However, many people prefer Palo Duro because it’s much less crowded and touristy than the Grand Canyon.
Outside of hiking and marveling at the natural beauty of Texas, Palo Duro offers a number of primitive camping options. You can nestle down along the canyon trail or set up shop along the Red River in the canyon basin. Either way, you likely won’t forget the sunset at night and the sunrise when you wake up in the morning.
If you simply can’t get enough of the Texas canyon terrain, Caprock Canyons State Park is another excellent spot to try. Outside of its rugged beauty and canyons, Caprock Canyons is also home to the Official Bison Herd of Texas and features thousands of the massive creatures.
The park includes 90 miles of hiking trails packed with places to camp along the way. If the sun is too hot for you, take a dip in Lake Theo and even pitch a tent along its shoreline.
Primitive Camping in Central Texas
Colorado Bend State Park is located just north of Austin and features one of the largest waterfalls in the state. Gorman Falls is just one of many attractions and reasons to visit this beautiful and relaxing part of Texas.
Colorado Bend has something for everyone, from fishing to swimming to exploring caves. Once you’re worn out from a day of hiking and fun, you can spend the night at a primitive site along the riverbank or one of the many hiking trails.
This scenic and river-adjacent state park is located a short drive north of San Antonio, in the heart of Texas. Guadalupe River State Park has tons of great water activities, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. There are also numerous hiking trails if you want to stretch your legs and take in the local scenery.
The Wagon Ford Campground located inside the park has some of the best primitive campsites to choose from. Or, you can always forge your own path and spend the night along the Guadalupe River. Either way, you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience.
Last but not least of our picks for the best places for Primitive Camping in Texas is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
With a name like Enchanted Rock, you know that this Natural Area will have some crazy rock features. The centerpiece is the 400 foot plus monolith composed of pink granite. Enchanted Rock is a hit among hikers and rock climbers alike and is located in the Hill Country of central Texas.
Enchanted Rock is also an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, which means that it’s one of the best places for stargazing in the world. You can spend a night staring at the stars in one of their many primitive camping areas.
No matter what you’re looking for in a primitive camping experience, Texas has it all. You could travel the state and try a different location every day for months before you saw everything it has to offer. From spending a night at the bottom of a canyon to the top of a mountain or on a beach by the ocean, there’s nothing like primitive camping in Texas.
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