Whether you’re a local Austinite, a resident Texan, or an outdoor enthusiast from across the country, Central Texas is notorious for many things! The remarkable landscapes are home to picturesque lakes, wilderness, diverse wildlife, and all kinds of camping sites near Austin! No need to own a fancy RV because you’ll discover everything from tent sites to the best day-use parks in the state!
From its wine country to the charming small towns, the number of day trips you can make from Austin, and across Texas, are endless, making it the perfect place to vacation!
Use Recreation.gov to Plan Your Next Day Trip or Vacation Near Austin TX
Make planning your next adventure out in nature, cross-country trek, or weekend camping trip easier with Recreation.gov.
In all the excitement, sometimes minor (but important) details like permits, reservations, figuring out the parking situation, and more can be overlooked.
With Recreation.gov, you can do all your research and planning for your next day trip or overnight stay in the great outdoors all in one place! And when we say all your research and planning, we mean it!
Recreation.gov is the reservation system for all the public land and water agencies you love – like the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers, just to name a few!
When you create an account on the website, you can save trip preferences, like accessibility, site features, and amenities, so your searches are automatically filtered every time you use Recreation.gov.
Maybe you’re on your lunch dreaming about planning that long-awaited, much-needed vacation? Recreation.gov also has a mobile app!
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (23 miles)
The refuge was established in 1992 to conserve habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked, among other wildlife native to the Texas Hill Country.
There are several trails for hiking, such as the Indiangrass, Rimrock, and Creek Loop, with steep limestone cliffs and canyons.
The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) is one of the nation’s largest urban preserves!
Lake Georgetown (28 miles)
Georgetown Lake is a recreational haven managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It offers numerous outdoor activities to its visitors including boating, fishing, and camping.
There are four parks surrounding Lake Georgetown offering overnight camping and day-use activities like boat ramps, hiking trails, and parking that may be reserved on Recreation.gov.
See our list of things to do in Georgetown for more ideas for your day trip itinerary.
Canyon Lake (39 miles)
The lake was formed by the construction of Canyon Dam on the Guadalupe River, a hot spot for tubing and rafting.
Famous for its clear blue waters, the lake is a popular destination for boating, fishing, swimming, and other water activities. It’s also surrounded by a picturesque landscape that’s perfect for hiking, camping, and wildlife observation. There are two parks, Cranes Mill and Potters Creek, that offer year-round camping opportunities with hundreds of sites from which to choose.
Overlooking the lake, the Canyon Lake Gorge gives a unique vantage point to view geologic features exposed by the flood in 2002.
Stillhouse Hollow Lake (54 miles)
The lake is a popular destination for both locals and tourists due to its clear waters and scenic surroundings. Visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming. The surrounding parks also offers picnic areas, camping facilities, and miles of trails.
The lake is also home to Stillhouse Park, Dana Peak Park, and Union Grove, all of which have campsites and hiking trails. Union Grove, is open year-round for camping, while the remaining two are closed between Oct. 1 to March 1 every year. The Dana Peak Park trail is particularly well-known for its mountain bike trails.
Belton Lake (60 miles)
This reservoir was constructed in 1954 on the Leon River in the Brazos River basin.
Belton Lake offers ample opportunities for various recreational activities. These include boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and picnicking. The lake is known for its clear waters and rich fish populations.
See our list of things to do in Belton for more!
Somerville Lake (72 miles)
Somerville Lake offers a wide range of recreational activities including boating, fishing, swimming, camping, and picnicking. The lake is known for its abundant fish populations, including largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and white bass.
Surrounding the lake are several park areas which provide camping facilities and picnic tables. These parks include the Rocky Creek Park and Yegua Creek Park, both of which offer excellent beach areas.
There’s also the Nails Creek State Park and Birch Creek State Park, which offer trails for hiking and horseback riding.
Waco Lake (97 miles)
Waco Lake offers opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, and picnicking within Waco city limits. It’s home to various fish species like largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie, making it an angler’s delight.
The lake is surrounded by multiple parks such as Twin Bridges Park, Airport Park, and Koehne Park. These parks offer facilities for camping and picnics, along with playgrounds and sports fields. Moreover, there are several walking and biking trails around the lake. It’s also a great spot for wildlife viewing!
See our list of things to do in Waco to make your trip that much more exciting!
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (98 miles)
This wildlife refuge is over 10,500 acres of native grasslands and was established to protect the critically endangered Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken.
Whitney Lake (111 miles)
A reservoir on the Brazos River, Whitney Lake offers a variety of recreational activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, and camping.
Navarro Mills Lake (131 miles)
Navarro Mills Lake is a man-made lake known for its recreational activities and natural beauty. It’s an excellent spot for sailing, swimming, and fishing, with a state-record white crappie catch to its name.
The lake also offers camping facilities at Oak Park on its northeastern shore.
Lake Texana (116 miles)
Lake Texana is a popular destination for water sports, camping, and bird watching. The lake’s vegetation makes it a great place for fishing as well.
Choke Canyon Reservoir (131 miles)
The reservoir is part of Choke Canyon State Park, which offers facilities for camping overnight, including campsites with water and electricity, walk-in tent sites, and cabins.
Choke Canyon Reservoir is a haven for anglers and bird watchers alike. Here, you can catch a variety of fish or spot rare bird species.
Bardwell Lake (153 miles)
Bardwell Lake is a scenic destination in Ennis and is a popular spot for recreational fishing and water activities.
It also offers beautiful hiking trails and spacious campgrounds, with High View Campground being one of the notable spots. Bardwell Lake draws over 500,000 visitors annually, making it a significant attraction in Ellis County.
For more about surrounding Ennis, a small town known for its annual bluebonnet festival and more, check out our full list of things to do in Ennis!
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (168 miles)
The Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for more than 300 species of birds and a variety of wildlife. The refuge is part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and lies in the Central Flyway which includes both coastal and trans-oceanic bird migration paths.
The refuge’s wetlands and prairies are perfect for hiking, wildlife viewing, and hunting/fishing are permitted under certain regulations.
Joe Pool Lake (168 miles)
Joe Pool Lake features several marinas and parks, including Lynn Creek Marina in Grand Prairie, Lloyd Park on Joe Pool Lake provides facilities like picnic shelters, a volleyball area, a designated swim area, and restrooms with showers.
It is also a favorite among locals for its fishing, boating, and camping opportunities. Or stop by Cedar Hill State Park on the lake’s eastern shore.
San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (171 miles)
The San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place for bird watching and nature photography. Although less than half of it is open to the public, visitors can enjoy a 3-mile driving tour or the several hiking trails.
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (178 miles)
Then there’s the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife species and what remains of the bottomland hardwood forest along the Trinity River.
It also offers opportunities for fishing and hiking. A favorite among visitors is Knobby Knees Trail.
O.C. Fisher Lake (182 miles)
O.C. Fisher Lake is a reservoir on the North Concho River. The lake’s characteristics make it the perfect home for largemouth bass and catfish.
Abilene State Park (186 miles)
Abilene State Park offers camping, swimming, fishing, and hiking with vending machines on-site for kayak and canoe rentals.
It’s also home to a variety of wildlife and trails with ample shade, like Elm Creek Nature Trail and Oak Grove Trail.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (187 miles)
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge serves to protect the area’s coastal wetlands. The refuge’s marshes and prairies also offer excellent bird watching opportunities.
Grapevine Lake (191 miles)
Grapevine Lake is a beautiful reservoir located near Dallas/Fort Worth, offering a plethora of recreational activities including boating, water-skiing, windsurfing, and fishing.
The lake also features the Whoa Zone inflatable water park and various surrounding parks like Meadowmere Park and Rockledge Park.
Numerous cabins, homes, and marinas are available for rent for extended stays. Hiking trails with stunning views of the landscape are also a major draw.
Read our list of things to do in Grapevine for even more fun in DFW!
Lewisville Lake (198 miles)
Lewisville Lake, north of Dallas, is a large reservoir popular for water sports, outdoor activities, and its 233 miles of shoreline.
Fishing enthusiasts can expect to catch white crappie, white bass, and largemouth bass.
For land-based activities, locations such as Lake Park and Little Elm Park provide facilities for camping, hiking, and picnicking.
Big Thicket National Preserve (201 miles)
Big Thicket National Preserve is a biosphere reserve by UNESCO due to its incredible biodiversity and ecological significance.
Experienced hikers and leisurely walkers alike will enjoy the area’s 40 miles of hiking trails. Bird watching is best in the spring and fall with ample places to canoe or kayak as well.
Lavon Lake (205 miles)
Lake Lavon has excellent fishing opportunities, particularly for crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish. It also offers various recreational activities, including hiking, camping, boating, and water skiing. Accommodations like cabins and marinas are available around the lake.
For things to do in the nearby town of McKinney, checkout our complete list!
Amistad National Recreation Area (206 miles)
Amistad National Recreation Area in Del Rio, Texas is a natural and historical destination that offers a variety of activities.
Centered around the International Amistad Reservoir, shared by the US and Mexico, it’s a haven for water-based recreation like boating, fishing, waterskiing, and scuba diving. The park is home to a variety of fish species and provides easy access to the water with a boat ramp and a fishing pier.
On land, there are reservable group campsites for an immersive outdoor experience.
B. A. Steinhagen Lake (216 miles)
B.A. Steinhagen Lake, located on the Neches River in Texas, is a popular spot for outdoor activities. The lake is especially known for fishing and has several boat ramps.
It’s situated in the “Big Thicket” region, surrounded by four National Forests and an Indian Reservation, perfect for hiking and exploring.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir (224 miles)
Sam Rayburn Reservoir in East Texas is the state’s largest man-made lake, known for its year-round fishing.
The lake is surrounded by the beautiful Piney Woods. Accommodations around the lake include vacation rentals, cabins, and more.
McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge (232 miles)
McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for migratory waterfowl and the largest remaining freshwater march in the region. It’s an excellent place for bird watching and fishing.
Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge (233 miles)
Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for migratory birds, reptiles, and more near the Louisiana border. Its marshes and wetlands are perfect for bird watching, fishing, and waterfowl hunting.
Cooper Lake (245 miles)
Cooper Lake offers a variety of water-based activities. You can go boating, fishing, swimming, or simply enjoy a picnic by the lake.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge (247 miles)
This refuge on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma is a haven for migratory birds and offers excellent bird watching opportunities.
Be sure to check out our blog of things to do on Lake Texoma for more!
More Must-Visit Outdoor Destinations Near Austin TX
McKinney Falls State Park (Austin TX)
McKinney Falls State Park is a popular, spacious park notorious among local Austinites for its hiking, biking, and camping. The park features over 80 campsites, a Visitor Center, and the highly rated Homestead Trail.
Due to its popularity, with over 300,000 annual visitors, reservations are recommended.
Check out our blog post on our favorite things to do in Austin for more ideas!
Inks Lake State Park (Burnet TX)
This state park is notorious for its variety of fish, including sunfish, catfish, and multiple species of bass. If you’re looking to fish, you can borrow rods, reels, tackle boxes with hooks, sinkers, and bobbers.
Swim in Devil’s Waterhole or admire the waterfall at Village Spring Creek. For even more to see, hike their 9 miles of trails that cover diverse terrain and bird watch from their bird blinds.
An on-site, local food truck, Kona Ice, also serves shaved ice and snacks.
See our list of things to do in Burnet for more travel inspiration!
Pedernales Falls State Park (Johnson City TX)
Hike Twin Falls Nature Trail, geocache, or picnic and soak up the sun along the Pedernales River. Be careful because, although it is said to have mostly calm waters, it can have turbulent currents as well.
Garner State Park (San Antonio TX)
Old Mount Baldy Trail offers a more challenging hike and an amazing view overlooking the Frio River when you reach the top. You can also swim at the foot of Mount Baldy!
If you hike Blinn River Trail, you’ll come across some shallow pools to cool off in after a long day of exploring.
On-site, you can also rent paddle boats and play mini golf.
Guadalupe River State Park (San Antonio TX)
The park’s centerpiece is the Guadalupe River, stretching across four miles of the park. It offers activities like canoeing, fishing, swimming, and tubing. Additional recreational options include picnicking, hiking, birdwatching, and camping.
The park’s Discovery Center offers educational insights about the local environment.
See our full list of things to do in San Antonio to help plan your next adventure!
Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area (Spicewood TX)
Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area is located along Lake Travis and features a 9.8-mile trail for hiking and mountain biking, with scenic views of the lake.
It’s a popular spot for tent camping due to its vast, secluded area. A 6.5-mile mountain bike trail caters to riders of all levels.
See our blog for more things to do in Spicewood!
Blanco State Park (Blanco TX)
Situated along a mile of the Blanco River, this state park features various activities such as swimming, tubing, fishing, camping, and picnicking. Despite its small size, it’s rich in biodiversity with a variety of trees growing there.
Bastrop State Park (Bastrop TX)
Famous for its “Lost Pines” – a unique woodland area – Bastrop State Park offers various activities such as fishing, swimming, birdwatching, and geocaching. Visitors can also camp on-site and enjoy a seasonal pool.
Fun fact: it’s listed on the National Historic Registry!
Lockhart State Park (Lockhart TX)
Lockhart State Park is known for its beauty, from its trails and waterfalls to the swimming pool and 9-hole golf course.
How to Use Recreation.gov to Find the Best Camping Sites & More Near Austin
Start off by entering your starting point. For this example, we used Austin. Not only is Austin one of our favorite spots, but there are dozens of outdoor points of interest a short drive from downtown Austin.
Then, choose your check-in and check-out dates if you’re planning to stay overnight. If the trip is last minute, you can select an option that only shows what’s currently available.
If you’re just looking to hangout for the day, you can narrow down your results to just day-use areas.
Interested in a unique tour at a nearby attraction? Simply put where you’re going, select the filter for tickets and tours, and enter the dates of your trip!
Maybe you’re dropping everything to travel the entire summer or during the holidays? Recreation.gov also has a trip builder feature!
Input your dates, destinations, how many days you want to spend at each one, how many guests, and your preferred accommodations. Choose from options like tent campsites, RV sites, and even cabins!
Then, add everything from activities to places to stay along your route to your itinerary.
Plan a Day Trip Near Austin TX with Recreation.gov
You can also narrow down your search by what activities you’re looking to do. For the list below, we chose hiking.
We love to choose our Texas travel destinations based on the outdoor activities the area offers, and Recreation.gov makes it so easy!
Tip: select “Rec Areas” and “Points of Interest” to eliminate campsites from the list if you aren’t planning on staying overnight.
Then, organize your search results by useful characteristics like distance, pricing, mobile coverage to make the selection process even easier (if that’s possible).
If you click on one of the search results, it’ll show you available camping sites, day use/parking passes, available activities, and required permits for hunting or fishing (if applicable), all near Austin!
For example, when we click on Georgetown Lake, we see there are four parks that offer camping, with one offering day-use amenities.
You could also pay your one day-use pass (per vehicle) by simply clicking on your park of choice, in this case Cedar Breaks Park, and selecting the button that says “purchase here.”
Below are some of the amazing options Recreation.gov gave us on our search for camping sites near Austin TX that also offer hiking opportunities (among other fun outdoor activities).
Keep in mind that water levels vary depending on season and weather patterns. Before visiting any of the bodies of water below, be sure to verify that water levels are not too low.
Finding Overnight Camping Sites Near Austin with Recreation.gov
If you’re looking to camp, you can narrow down the search results by the type of recreation site, such as tent only, RV, or shelter, or by the equipment and vehicle types you might be using.
You can then filter the results by distance, price, campsite amenities (i.e. is it pet-