Austin, the self-appointed “Live Music Capital of the World,” has more to offer than just great bands and fun concerts, there’s a lot to check out outdoors as well.
Austin, Texas sits in Central Texas and has easy access to awesome destinations in the Hill Country for some campsites that will surprise non-Texans with rolling hills, sheer rock walls, and flowing rivers. Plus, you’re never far from great food like TexMex and Texas barbecue, or popular wineries and breweries.
Here’s a look at some of the best places to camp around Austin and the Hill Country, as well as the food, drink, and activities that can be found nearby.
McKinney Falls State Park
Starting off right in town, centrally-located McKinney Falls State Park offers tent camping, RV hookups, and even cabin rentals. The park is unique for its field of limestone that’s been sculpted for thousands of years with water flowing through the park and both a lower and upper falls to check out. The park is a popular swimming destination especially in the summer with the Texas heat often breaking triple digits.
Some of the other benefits of staying at McKinney Falls includes a short drive to the airport, and easy access to downtown and Austin’s popular eastside neighborhood where you can enjoy hundreds of bars and restaurants like Franklin Barbecue, la Barbecue, Juan in a Million, Live Oak Brewing, and Austin’s Historic East 6th Street. Plus, you’re a short drive from Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed swimming spot that’s an Austin favorite.
Campsites at McKinney Falls are either $20 or $24 depending on your electric hookup, while cabins go for $86. While Austin has some great outdoor spots, camping can be somewhat limited and the spots will go fast. Be sure to book early.
Pace Bend Park
Pace Bend, a county park, sits on Lake Travis—a dammed-up section of Texas’ Colorado River (different from the river most people think of when they hear “the Colorado River”). Located about 30 minutes west of Austin in Spicewood, the park is a unique peninsula with campsites right along the water. The park has boat access and some great cliff diving spots for those brave enough to give it a try. Just be sure to check the water levels as the summer droughts can often lower the lake.
The majority of the sites are primitive camping and first-come-first-serve, going for a budget-friendly $15 a night. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions have left only a few spots open for reservation. This includes 20 improved campsites with water and electric hookups for RVers. These sites go for about $30.
Pace Bend is a great destination because it’s away from the city and yet within easy distance to Austin. Also, there’s a number of popular breweries just west of town including Jester King and Family Business Beer Company.
Not far from Pace Bend is Krause Springs, a privately owned campground and National Historic Site also in Spicewood. As the name suggests, there are more than two dozen naturals springs making this a very picturesque swimming destination.
The grounds close for the winter, but the closed-off season is short-lived with the park back up and running by the end of February.
Anyone with an RV needs to book a site in advance that runs for $15. Tent campers are more in luck as the owners of Krause Springs suggest they essentially have unlimited tent camping sites located on the property.
If you’re looking for a bite, you’re a short drive from Opie’s BBQ on Highway 71.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Continuing west into the Hill Country, one of the most popular parks in the Lone Star State is Enchanted Rock. As the name states, the park is centered around a giant granite dome that rises out of the rolling hills west of Austin. The uniqueness allows for a fun hike, climbing to the top, and some of the best rock climbing in the area.
Enchanted Rock sits just outside Fredericksburg, a historic Texas town with a heavy German influence. Here you can find multiple brewpubs and beer gardens providing German food. A popular time to visit their main street is their yearly Oktoberfest event, and around the holidays for shopping. There’s also a large number of wineries and distilleries in the area.
Being a popular state park does make getting a campground tricky, so be sure to book early. Enchanted Rock has both primitive campgrounds you need to hike to as well as walk-up camping, which is more closely related to car camping but you’re not right at your campsite. These range from $14 to $18. It’s important to note there are no RV sites at Enchanted Rock.
Other Fredericksburg Camping Options
The popularity of Enchanted Rock and Fredericksburg has created a demand for more campgrounds. Anyone looking to stay closer to that area and still have access to Austin should also check out RV Parks like Fredericksburg RV Park and Hill Country RV Park. Both of those campgrounds are popular with the Campendium community. If you do stay at one of these spots and plan on visiting Enchanted Rock, be sure to book a day pass online early, because day passes sell out fast, too.
Bastrop State Park
The biodiversity of Central Texas is more extensive than some think, and that’s easy to prove by heading east of Austin into Bastrop County for a visit to Bastrop State Park.
Known for its thick pines, the park looks more like what you would find in East Texas or throughout Alabama. A sandy soil allows the pines to grow in the area and are far from what you would expect to find in Austin’s hot climate. Bastrop State Park is only about 40 minutes from Austin and just a few minutes drive from Downtown Bastrop, where you can find a number of restaurants and live music on a weekly basis.
The park is similar to McKinney Falls and provides a range of different campgrounds, both for hikers and tents, and RVs. The campsites range from $15 to $25 per night. They also have cabins with most of those starting just above $100. One other benefit of the park—if the pine trees do not provide enough shade, there is also a swimming pool to help visitors cool off.
Be sure to check on the status of this park before visiting, as it is infamous for wildfires and will often close portions of the park.
Lake Bastrop North Shore Park
Finally, one more option in the Bastrop area, not far from Austin, is Lake Bastrop North Shore. This park is run by the LCRA, or Lower Colorado River Authority. They oversee both Lake Bastrop North Shore Park and Lake Bastrop South Shore Park, and the actual watershed that runs through Austin and the surrounding areas.
North Shore provides a boat ramp and plenty of hiking and biking in the 182-acre park. There’s a big mix of camping options with both tent and RV sites, plus there’s a number of Airstreams available on-site for anyone looking to try out “glamping.” RV hookup sites start at $35 while an Airstream rental is $225 a night.
The next time you’re in Texas, be sure to check out Austin and the Hill Country!