With clear skies, fresh air and untamed nature stretching far off into the horizon, what better place to set down our packs than the scenic landscape surrounding the state capital, Austin. Just a stone’s throw away from the city, with an endless array of outdoor adventures beckoning, we hope you’ll take some time to wander and to wonder at the marvels that make up this unbounded wilderness. While it might be difficult to know where to begin, we’ve attempted to lighten your burden by recommending some of our favorite sites.
Pedernales Falls State Park – Richard Linklater’s Oscar-nominated film from 2015. Boyhood , you can do your best Ethan Hawke impression as you plunge into the depths of the refreshing swimming hole. Waterfalls and tubing down the Pedernales River are other big draws at this 5,200-acre Austin getaway.
Pedernales Falls State Park.
McKinney Falls State Park – This 745-acre jewel is at its finest after a spring shower, with gushing waterfalls and blossoming wildflowers. Only 15 miles away from the Austin city center by car, this is a great spot to steal away to for a quick dip in the falls or a stroll amongst the bald cypress, sycamore and pecan trees. Where to Camp: Moss Loop Campground
Pace Bend Park You’ll get a much needed breath of fresh air while you kick back and relax at this 1,400-acre oasis just an hour’s drive outside of Austin. Spend your day on the lake having fun in the heat, then spend the evening on the limestone cliffs watching the sun set over Lake Travis. Where to Camp: Pace Bend Campground
Inks Lake State Park You’ll find anything you’re searching for at this 1200-acre open-air hideaway only an hour and fifteen minutes from Austin. What more could you want? A waterfall, a swimming hole, a meadow, a lake, a forest, a desert, and a beach. There’s never a boring moment at this natural playground, with activities including hiking, geocaching, swimming, cliff leaping, kayaking, and even scuba diving. Where to Camp: Inks Lake Campground
Palmetto State Park This 270-acre tropical rainforest located on the San Marcos River is an hour’s drive south of Austin (or an hour east of San Antonio). Float along the river’s steady current in a kayak, canoe, or tube while searching the rainforest environment for the park’s 240 bird species. Take use of the group pavilion with a kitchen and enjoy a jungle BBQ. Where to Camp: Palmetto Campground
Colorado Bend State Park This 5,300-acre pocket of heaven north of Austin promises nonstop fun. Though nearly a two hour drive from the city, Colorado Bend will be well worth the trip as you tour the spectacular Gorman Falls, whitewater raft the Class I-II rapids of the Colorado River, hurtle through 26 miles of untamed mountain biking terrain or explore an elaborate labyrinth of caves. Where to Camp: Colorado Bend State Park Campground
Colorado Bend State Park.
Buescher State Park This 1000-acre gleam of sunny splendour is just what you need to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Less than an hour drive from Austin, you’ll hike and bike your way past birds, armadillos, raccoons, rabbits, deer and opossums, hidden among the pines and cedars. The quiet cove of a lake will be perfect for a day of peaceful tranquility as you fish and canoe its serene waters. Where to Camp: Lakeview Campground
Lockhart State Park Are you exhausted after a long week at work? This 260-acre park, located 45 minutes south of Austin, is the ideal solution for those workin’ blues. Dip your toes in Clear Fork Creek, cast a fishing line from the dock or play a laid-back nine hole round at the park’s golf course. You’ll be sure to leave refreshed and renewed after a weekend of pure, unencumbered relaxation. Where to Camp: Clear Fork Creek Campground
Guadalupe River State Park Find your happy place as you steal away to this 2000-acre blissful retreat just an hour and a half south of Austin. River sports like as rafting, canoeing, fishing, and swimming are popular, and horseback riders and mountain bikers are also welcome. Guadalupe is a fantastic family attraction, including park playgrounds and the Children’s Discovery Center. Where to Camp: Wagon Ford Campground
Stephen F. Austin State Park What would an Austin parks recommendation list be without the city’s namesake, yet another tribute to Stephen F. Austin’s legacy. With a modest 500-acres, this underrated and under-visited park is just a two hour drive from Austin. Discover its hidden beauty through hiking, biking, fishing, and golfing along the Brazos River. Spend a relaxing evening around the campfire as fireflies illuminate the early-summer evenings. Where to Camp: Stephen F. Austin Campground