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5 Best Places to Camp Near Austin, TX

Places to Camp Near Austin

If you’re looking for places to camp near Austin then we’ve got good news for you! For those seeking outdoor adventures, the freeways in Austin lead to near-endless opportunities to experience nature. Many Texas state parks are within easy driving distance from downtown Austin, and each park has its blend of hiking, biking, swimming, camping, fishing, and so much more. Many of these parks also offer unique events with themes ranging from primitive living, water recreation basics, and guided stargazing. If you’re looking for an immersive outdoor experience, keep reading to learn about some of the best places to go camping near Austin.

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park Amenities

  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Multiple camping areas
  • Trails

Only 20 minutes away from downtown, just a few miles off of US 183 in Austin, McKinney Falls State Park is a beloved local campsite. This location offers fishing, swimming, multiple camping areas, and several hiking and biking trails.

At the upper falls, go swimming beneath the crashing water or splash in the natural pools in the rocks at the top. Those with children may prefer the lower falls, where the river is a little less deep. Go fishing in Onion Creek, with convenient campsites right by the water. Sunfish, largemouth bass, and catfish are most abundant in the river, but there are opportunities to get white bass, as well. Take the hiking and biking trails to thoroughly explore the park and the areas around the river.

While on the trails, check out Old Baldy, a 100-foot tall, over 500-year-old bald cypress tree. Get your feet wet by hiking through the lower falls to several scenic areas and overlooks. Stop for a moment at the prehistoric rock shelter and enjoy the exact shade that covered people in this area for more than 8,000 years.

McKinney Falls State Park Additional Information

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park Amenities

  • Trails
  • Scenic overlooks
  • Birdwatching
  • Astronomy events & stargazing

A little further out is another hotspot for waterfall enthusiasts, Pedernales Falls State Park. Located off Austin’s US-290, the park offers an extensive trail system, several scenic overlooks, excellent birdwatching opportunities, and frequent outdoor events just an hour west of Austin.

Check off your sightings on the Pedernales Falls Bird Checklist. With more than 150 species of birds on display, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, there will be plenty of diverse types of birds to see.

Enjoy hiking, biking, or even horseback riding through more than 40 miles of trails in the park. The Pedernales Falls Overlook shows off the area’s unique geology and offers some dramatic views for nature photography. The bird blind, accessible via the North and South Loop Equestrian Trails and via car, doubles as the Star Theater for astronomy events or private stargazing.

Be sure to check the events calendar before you make your plans!

Pedernales Falls State Park Additional Information

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

Emma Long Metropolitan Park Amenities

  • Swimming
  • Tubing
  • Boating
  • Trails
  • Beach volleyball
  • Picnic tables

Closer to home, Emma Long Metropolitan Park is about 20 minutes out of downtown off of Ranch Road 2222 in Austin. Along the way, enjoy a scenic drive on Austin’s Loop 360. With many campsites along the Colorado River, the park mainly focuses on river activities like swimming, tubing, and boating. There are also trails for mountain biking and motorcycling, as well as places for fishing and picnicking.

Hang out at the beach volleyball courts while grilling at one of the picnic tables available to reserve. Swim in the shallow water roped off by the beach, or bring inflatable tubes to float farther out and watch the waterfowl. There are long docks where you can sit and watch the boats go by or try your hand at fishing. Relax at the waterfront campsites, most of which have their private box grills, fire rings, and picnic tables.

Experienced mountain bikers should try out the trail, which provides a technical challenge for those looking to take their skills to the next level.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park Additional Information

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area Amenities

  • Trails
  • Bluebonnet fields
  • Kayaking

The Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area is about an hour out of downtown, just southwest of the Balcones Canyonlands refuge. Just 15 minutes off SH 71, this park has hiking, biking, and equestrian trails and lots of opportunities for water recreation. One of the main attractions is the seasonal bluebonnet fields, which bloom in March-April, depending on the weather.

Bring your kayak (or rent one from the park) to spend some time paddling on Lake Travis. Launch from the boat ramp to enjoy a day on the lake before coming back to nearby campsites. If the time is right, hike or ride nearly 10 miles of trails with scenic views of the lake or the bluebonnet meadows. The longest and shortest paths are graded as Easy by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, but the park also has trails graded as More Difficult and Very Difficult.

Check out the park calendar for events, like a memorable night hike to learn about nocturnal creatures in the area and work on observational skills.

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area Additional Information

Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park Amenities

  • Geocaching
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Biking

In the opposite direction taking Hwy 71 towards Bastrop, Bastrop State Park is about 45 minutes out of downtown and just a few minutes off of TX 21. Home to the “Lost Pines,” unique because it’s more than 100 miles away from any other pines, the park is a popular destination for geocaching, swimming, hiking, and biking.

Enjoy the sights as the new trees and plants return after the 2011 wildfires. Bike the hilly Park Road 1C through new and old-growth areas. Hike out on the challenging Lost Pines Loop or the moderate-difficulty Scenic Overlook Trail to reach a spectacular view of the Lost Pines landscape, or take the south part of the loop for a view of the park at Fehr’s Overlook. Wander the Old Cart Paths is an easy path with many length options, perfect for strolling through the loblolly pines.

Hide or hunt for geocached objects in the park, but remember to leave no trace!

Bastrop State Park Additional Information

  • Address: Bastrop State Park, 100 Park Road 1A, Bastrop, TX 78602
  • Campsites (with electricity and water): $20-25 nightly, plus daily entrance fee ($5)
  • Campsites (with water access): $10-15 nightly, plus a daily entrance fee ($5). Water is in the area but not at each site.
  • Cabins: $110-150 nightly, various amenities.

Explore Places to Camp Near Austin

Although there are many fun things to do in Austin city limits, locals also enjoy prime access to camping and outdoor recreation. Each park offers unique experiences, like Muleshoe’s guided night hikes or Pedernales Falls’ popular stargazing-themed events. Trails of all difficulty levels can be found for various means of travel — the most accessible routes for those starting up to expert level trails designed to test your skill and technical abilities. Other activities like fishing, swimming, and observing wildlife mean that there will always be something new to discover.