In a state the size of Texas, there are endless possibilities for eager campers. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good dinner of s’mores and hotdogs by the campfire every once in a while. But if you’re planning to do some camping in Texas, there are a few things you should know before setting out into the great outdoors.
SUMMER: First of all, if you’re going to be camping in the summer, you need to be aware of just exactly how hot it is. When temperatures are over 100, it’s not exactly the best time to be out on the trails. To do camping right at this time of year, you’re going to need lots and lots of water, an alarm clock so you’ll be up bright and early before the heat really sets in, and boatloads of sunscreen. Other handy items will include a hat, sunglasses, hiking boots and a hiking stick.
WINTER: Winter can be an absolutely wonderful time to go camping in Texas because most of the parks are deserted and the weather typically is in the 50 degree to 70 degree range. That means you can bundle up in your sleeping bag at night, then spend all day out discovering nature. Sounds pretty good, right? A few considerations, however. The weather is apt to change abruptly in Texas, so you always want to dress in layers and have rain boots, a hat and an umbrella handy. You also want to be sure firewood is available for those chilly nights and that your sleeping bag will keep you warm enough should there be a sudden drop in temperature.
WILDLIFE: Want to see some wildlife while you’re out exploring Texas? You’re in luck. There are lots of incredible animals in this huge state just waiting to be seen by you. For alligators, hit Brazos Bend State Park. Want whooping cranes? Try areas such as Goose Island State Park, Mustang Island State Park and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. For birdwatching (including the famous green jay), hit the Rio Grande Valley in winter. You can’t go wrong, no matter which way you turn.
EQUIPMENT: You’ll want to be sure to go prepared when you’re camping, so start by selecting a tent that is sturdy, waterproof and not too big. After all, if it’s too big, you’re going to probably spend a lot of extra time setting it up and taking it down. If you’re planning to do a lot of cooking, look for nonstick cookware for easier cleanup. A headlamp or a flashlight will help you inside the tent; outside the tent, be sure to bring along a lantern. You’ll also want to consider bringing along some kind of speaker for your iPod or MP3 player.
BEST BESTS: There are so many wonderful parks, but there are some that are ideal no matter when you go. One of the most popular parks in Texas is Garner State Park thanks to its ideal location in the Texas Hill Country right along the water. Lost Maples is a wonderful choice in falls because of the orange, red and brown leaves that change in October and November. The regal beauty of the Big Bend area is unparalleled, and places such as Pedernales State Park and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area offer prime locations in central Texas.
ACTIVITIES: You can do almost any activity that suits you when camping in Texas, but there are some that are particularly wonderful. Hiking is the most popular activity among Texas campers, followed closely by mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing and kayaking. There’s even a program operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that allows you to go fishing at the state parks without a license. You should remember, however, that the summer heat can cause there to be burn bans in many areas of Texas. Check the state park website for details on which parks currently have burn bans.