As the second largest state by population, with nearly 30 million people, Texas has loads of campgrounds to choose from. Tourists flock to the state’s natural landmarks spread around the state, such as the Texas Hill Country for those looking to get into nature. RVs and travel trailers equipped with air-conditioning (and heaters) will be well suited anywhere here year-round, otherwise, tent campers should visit outside of the summer’s high temps.
Top Texas Campgrounds by City
The “Jumbo State” is home to big cities like Austin, Dallas, and Houston, so there’s plenty of camping to be found around these popular destinations. Campers looking for all the amenities will find numerous RV parks geared towards making your overnight stay as comfortable as possible. Texas also has more than 70 state parks that feature campgrounds.
Where To Go Camping in Texas
Texas has some of the most varied camping offerings in any state in the country. From dense woods to expansive open deserts to mountain ranges well over a mile in the air, the “Lone Star State” has something to excite all adventurers.
Both tent campers and those pulling travel trailers or driving an RV have a wide array of options, from local state parks to private campgrounds chock-full of facilities.
Best Times to Go Camping in Texas
Even though it’s the second largest state by landmass, camping in Texas is limited during the summer months. While there are plenty of places to enjoy, the entire state has hot summers. In the western sections, you get hotter, drier temperatures and the eastern portion sees slightly cooler summers, but with increased humidity.
If summer is the only time you can visit, probably the best place to be is on the water in South Texas near the Gulf of Mexico. Waterfront camping is the best choice, though the Sam Houston National Forest is ideal for those wanting to head into the woods. Purely in terms of weather, the Texas Panhandle has some of the coolest year-round temperatures, but camping and hiking options don’t abound.
In the fall, Texas opens up and visitors have many more options for camping and hiking. The national parks in West Texas tend to be most comfortable starting in the mid-fall and going until mid-spring (though winter temperatures can get below freezing).
By mid-fall, East Texas is the place to be for comfortable temperatures and great fall colors. Unlike much of the Lone Star State, the Piney Woods section in eastern Texas sees vibrant colors when the leaves start to change.
Winter campers are going to have the most enjoyable weather in southern Texas towards the Gulf. West Texas can get fairly cold and windy, making winter camping less than ideal. Those who don’t mind the cold can skip much of the crowds in the national parks, but Big Bend National Park gets into the 30s on average overnight, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park gets into the 20s.
Spring is one of the top times to visit western Texas, especially the national parks. Just avoid spring break time as that week has one of the highest levels of visitation all year. When it comes to spring, much like fall, campers can enjoy all of the state, depending on their weather preferences.
National Park Service Sites in Texas
The Lone Star State has 17 National Park Service sites (NPS), and seven of them allow camping. Technically that number should be six as the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River campsites are actually just Big Bend Campsites since the two NPS locations intersect. Either way, the entities are separate, but the campgrounds are shared.
Visitors to Big Thicket National Preserve should note that camping here is backcountry only. While there are no frontcountry campsites at this location, backcountry camping is free with a permit from the visitors center.
- Amistad National Recreation Area
- Big Bend National Park
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
- Padre Island National Seashore
- Big Thicket National Preserve (Backcountry only)
- Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River (Campgrounds here are operated in Big Bend National Park)
National Forests in Texas
There are four national forests in Texas, all located in the eastern half of the state. Because of Texas’s land management policies (more on that in a minute), the majority of all free camping options are available in these four national forests. For visitors who aren’t enthralled by the deserts of western Texas, the eastern half is filled with lush greenery and dense forests.
- Davy Crockett National Forest
- Angelina National Forest
- Sabine National Forest
- Sam Houston National Forest
Best Free Camping in Texas
Texas has so much open desert, especially in the western part, that it must have tons of BLM land, right? Wrong. Basically, when Texas entered the Union, one of the terms of its entry was that it got to keep its public lands.
Because of this, only about 2% of Texas is managed by the federal government, and 40% of its federal land is run by the National Park Service. What this means for travelers is that free camping is hard to come by but not impossible.
The dispersed camping in Texas is mainly centered around the national forests. The popular spots here include Bolivar Flats Free Beach near Port Bolivar, Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi, and the Fritch Fortress Campground in the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area.
While not strictly for camping, car travelers will be happy to learn about Texas’ Safety Rest Areas. You can camp overnight at any of these well-lit, updated rest areas that have all the necessary facilities for those on a road trip. While not exactly tent camping, it’s a good thing to know about if you get tired while on a road trip through the Lone Star State, especially those driving RVs or towing travel trailers.
Texas State and Public Parks
While free camping isn’t abundant, Texas has a solid state park system. There are 88 total state parks here, and most of them offer camping. Of the 88, 74 Texas state parks have camping facilities of some sort. While more concentrated in the eastern half, there are parks throughout the state. Of the 88, these ten are some of the most popular.
- Big Bend Ranch State Park
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park
- Colorado Bend State Park
- Tyler State Park
- Cado Lake State Park
- Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
- Monahans Sandhills State Park
- Brazos Bend State Park
- Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
- Dinosaur Valley State Park
RV Resorts and Unique Stays
While often associated with cowboys and the Old West, Texas isn’t short on luxurious camping stays. With a good mix of larger entities and locally-run options, here are six of the best resort-style stays in Texas.
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: Guadalupe River
- Camp Fimfo
- Jamaica Beach RV Resort
- StarStruck Glamping
- Aloha Beach RV Resort
- Stella Mare RV Resort
Whether you want the wide-open deserts of the west or the dense pine trees in the east, Texas has something to love. Being the second largest state in the country, it’s easy to spread out here and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.