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A Guide to Texas State Parks Camping

State parks are some of the most stunning destinations you can choose for camping. Texas state parks, in particular, have plenty of beauty hiding in unexpected places.

The rules for camping in Texas state parks are pretty standard across the board. Let’s go over what you need to know before heading out on your Texas state parks camping trip!

A field of wildflowers in Texas.
Field of Texas wildflowers.

What To Expect From Texas State Parks Camping

Whenever you decide to camp in a new place, it’s best to be fully informed. Going in blind might be more adventurous, but it’s always better to be prepared!

There are some things you need to have ready ahead of time, and some tips to make your stay more enjoyable. Here’s what you can expect while camping in Texas state parks.

Types of Camping Available

Remote Camping

A tent set up at a beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Texas shore along the Gulf of Mexico.

Remote camping, also known as free or dispersed camping, is allowed when camping in Texas state parks. However, there are guidelines you will be required to follow.

For example, in most cases, you will not be allowed to make a fire while remote camping in Texas state parks.

There are specific sites reserved for remote campers in certain state parks, such as Sea Rim State Park or Hill Country State Natural Area. These sites will occasionally provide more rustic amenities such as pit or vault toilets and fire rings.

In most cases, these sites are not reservable; instead, they operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Tent Camping

A tent campsite near Big Bend, TX.
Camping near Big Bend in Texas.

As you might expect, tent camping is the most popular and commonly found type of camping in Texas state parks!

You can find sites for tent camping just about everywhere. The amenities offered will cary from campsite to campsite.

If certain things are important to you—such as having access to showers or potable water—be sure to check what your chosen state park campground offers!

RV Camping

A vintage RV camper near Big Bend in Texas.
Vintage RV camping near Big Bend in Texas.

RV camping is one of the more comfortable options for camping in Texas state parks, especially if your trip falls in the warmer months.

Trust us—if you’re camping through a Texas summer day, you’re going to want that air conditioning!

Not all Texas state park campgrounds offer RV hookups, but many do. You can also try your hand at boondocking if you’re looking for the best of both worlds!

(Boondocking is when you go RV camping without water, sewer, or electrical hookups.)

Boondocking offers the charm of a more rustic camping experience while still giving you the comfort of a bed to sleep on and a roof over your head.


Glamping tents at El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas.
Glamping at El Cosmico in Texas.

Not a fan of the rugged sleeping experience often associated with camping? Give glamping a try!

Glamping is short for glamorous camping, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. All the charm and adventure of camping wrapped in a glamorous (often air-conditioned) package!

Glamping destinations for Texas state parks camping are few and far between, but they do exist. We suggest taking a peek at El Cosmico, which is located near Big Bend Ranch State Park and Balmorhea State Park.

Hurry, though—their glamping options fill up fast!

Best Seasons to Visit

The best time to go for a Texas state parks camping trip is during the winter months.

Winter in Texas tends to be extremely mild. Not only that, but the mosquitoes are less of a problem!

In addition, if you’re fond of the classic camping experience, winter might be the best choice. Texas is one of the states that often has burn bans in place during the summer.

This means no campfires—which means no s’mores!

Spring and autumn are also good times for camping in Texas, though not quite as ideal as winter.

The only time you should absolutely avoid Texas state parks camping is summer. Summer in Texas can be absolutely brutal, even when you’re staying indoors!

Hiking is basically out of the question in the worst of Texas summer heat. The average daily temperature in Texas during the summer is close to 90 degrees. During the later summer months, that number goes even higher.

What to Bring

View of the sand dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas.
Monahans Sandhills State Park.

Firstly, you want to bring plenty of water on your Texas state parks camping trip. And when we say plenty, we mean more than you think you need.

Texas is notorious for its hot weather. And even during its more mild months, you want to have lots of water on hand.

Dehydration is always a risk when you’re doing strenuous activities. Hiking in particular can result in dehydration much faster than you might think.

Even sedentary activities, such as fishing, can dehydrate you if you’re out in the sun for too long.

On that same note, be sure to pack plenty of sunblock! Even in the winter, you can easily end up suffering from a sunburn.

Be sure to bring mosquito repellant, and bug nets if you want to be especially cautious.

Required Permits or Licenses

View of the swamp at sunrise in Caddo Lake State Park in Texas.
Caddo Lake State Park.

You can hunt and fish throughout Texas state parks, but you will need licenses to do both! Make sure you get your hunting and fishing licenses in order before you make the trip.

One caveat: if you plan to fish solely from a pier or the shore, you don’t need to worry about a fishing license. This is allowed in all Texas state parks.

If you plan to fish from your boat, however, a license is necessary.

Another thing to consider purchasing is a Texas State Park Pass.

While you can pay for entry at each individual park, you can save some money by purchasing a pass if you plan to visit multiple state parks.

The Texas State Park Pass allows you to visit over 80 state parks for free for the duration of a year.

If you go camping with friends or family often, keep in mind your pass is only good for you and your immediate family.

However, while you can’t purchase a pass on behalf of somebody else, you can give them a gift card to purchase one of their own!

What NOT To Do

One thing you need to check before you go camping in Texas state parks is the status of burn bans.

Most Texas state parks allow campfires to be burned. However, if the park’s county has instated a burn ban, that ban extends to the parks as well.

You’ll need to check which county your chosen Texas state parks camping destination falls in. Afterward, you can check and see if there are any active burn bans in place.

Don’t burn any campfires without checking the status of burn bans in that county first!

How to Book

The best way to book a stay in or near your chosen Texas state park camping destination is to visit the Texas State Parks website.

You can also call to make reservations over the phone if you prefer!

Activities in Texas State Parks

The inside of a cave in Longhorn Cavern State Park in Texas.
Longhorn Cavern State Park.

Horseback Riding

In plenty of Texas state parks, you can choose to traverse the trails on horseback!

Most parks require you to bring your own horse. There are only three that offer rentals: Big Bend Ranch State Park, Hill Country State Natural Area, and Palo Duro Canyon State Park.


There are hiking trails available for all experience levels throughout Texas state parks. If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, try Guadalupe Peak Trail!


There are plenty of lakes and rivers to take a dip in during your Texas state parks camping trip.

However, if you stay in certain state parks (Sea Rim is one of them!), you get a special treat. You can go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico itself!

Hunting and Fishing

As mentioned previously, you are welcome to hunt and fish in Texas state parks.

The only restrictions on hunting are that you must have a license, and you must hunt during the proper season.

Texas State Park Wildlife

There are many types of wildlife that you can spot while enjoying your Texas state parks camping trip.

While most are exciting to get a glimpse of, others might be a bit alarming. Don’t worry! We’ll go over all the safety considerations you need to keep in mind a bit later.

For now, let’s go over some of the wildlife you might get to see on your trip!


Bottlenose dolphins underwater -- animals you can see on a Texas state parks camping trip.
Bottlenose dolphins.

Did you know that you can actually encounter dolphins in certain Texas state parks?

In Sea Rim State Park, which is located on the Gulf Coast, bottlenose dolphins are sometimes spotted by beachgoers and boaters!

A less friendly mammal to keep an eye out for is the black bear. Black bears can be found throughout Texas state parks, so be careful to practice bear safety principles.

This is especially true if you plan to hunt during your Texas state parks camping trip.

Keep in mind that black bears are a protected species in Texas. If you harm a black bear, you not only can receive steep fines and lose your hunting privileges permanently—you can actually end up serving jail time.


Fishers rejoice! There are many fish you can reel in throughout Texas state parks, including largemouth bass, various catfish, and rainbow trout!

Choosing Your Campground and Campsite

Sunset over the water at Goose Island State Park.
Goose Island State Park.

Now comes the important part: choosing the best campground and campsite for your Texas state parks camping trip.

When picking a campground and campsite, there are many factors to take into consideration.

Firstly, you want to pick a campground in close proximity to your chosen park…or parks.

If you want to visit multiple state parks on your trip, try to find a campground that splits the difference in order to cut down on travel time.

After all, you didn’t go on this camping trip to spend half of it driving!

When choosing a campsite, you’ll want to research carefully to ensure it has the amenities that are most important to you. Even in the more modern campgrounds, not all sites come outfitted with the same hookups.

Best Texas State Parks to Visit

A view of Lighhouse Rock at Palo Duro State Park in Texas.
Palo Duro State Park.

Texas is filled with beautiful state parks, and any one of them will make for an unforgettable adventure. However, here are some of our favorites:

Dinosaur Valley State Park

If you visit this state park at the right time of year, you can actually hike a path dinosaurs used to walk!

When the conditions in the Paluxy River are right, you can spot dinosaur tracks in its bed and walk alongside them.

Sea Rim State Park

As we mentioned earlier, Sea Rim is the Texas state park camping destination that happens to be on the Gulf Coast. This allows you to knock two items off your bucket list at once: camping in Texas state parks, and visiting the Gulf!

Palo Duro State Park

If you’re a hiking enthusiast, you absolutely cannot miss out on Palo Duro State Park. This Texas state park camping destination has some of the most unbelievable scenery in the state.

(It also has glamping options for you fancier folk!)

Camping in Texas State Parks Can’t Be Missed!

A view of the Rio Grande in Santa Elena Canyon in Texas.

What are you waiting for? Texas state parks camping is a must-do for camping enthusiasts everywhere. With no shortage of things to do, you’ll be sure to have one of the most adventure-packed trips of your life in a Texas state park!

Looking for more Texas camping guides? Take a peek at our picks for 30 of the Best Places for Camping in Texas!