Nothing is as relaxing as a weekend trip with your family, friends, or favorite book. All of the below destinations are a good ways away from Austin, and all have either camping facilities or are close enough to ample amounts of hotels or bed and breakfasts to stay for a few days. From relaxing state parks with rustic charm to adrenaline-pumping cliffs to jump off of, this list has it all!
Lake Whitney State Park is located about an hour south of Fort Worth, outside of the town of Hillsboro. The lake has enough water-based fun to suit everyone. There are plenty of places to swim and fish, and if you have a boat, bring that too! Also off of Lake Whitney is Walling Bend Park, a Corps Of Engineers maintained park that is famous for its bluffs that can be jumped off of. The great fishing draws many to the lake, and the scenery keeps them coming back. There is plenty of wildlife around, including deer, foxes, bobcats, and more. This lake is perfect for a relaxing weekend trip away, whether that entails a day on the water fishing, lounging around at your campsite (more info about those here) or taking a hike on one of the trails. This state park does not get as busy as other similar parks, so if you like a little peace and quiet, this may be just the place for you! You can find more information about Lake Whitney State Park here.
Balmorhea State Park is roughly 6 hours away from Austin, on Hwy 17 in Toyahvale. This pool is an amazing spring-fed wonder, complete with endangered species to ogle at! The pool was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps over 80 years ago, and it’s still going strong. The pool has a constant flow of water from the natural spring, so chlorination is not necessary and since it is fed via an underground stream, the water stays around 75 degrees year-round (take that, Barton Springs.) The Balmorhea State Park Cienega Project that took place in the park recreated a desert wetland (winning prizes for innovation along the way) which houses endangered species such as the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish. Different species of fish, salamanders, snails, crawdads, and other organisms also call the pool home, making this an incredible place to cool off as well as scuba dive! There are campsites spread throughout the park and facilities for larger groups available. This is a one of a kind watering hole that you won’t soon forget! For information about the park, and to look at the facilities available for a weekend trip, check here.
An hour west of the DFW metroplex lies Possum Kingdom State Park. This park boasts an expansive lake perfect for filling a weekend trip with all your favorite water sports. Boating and fishing are major draws to this park, but there is ample space for swimming and some of the best scenery in the state to take in! The lake was originally part of the Brazos River, but the dam that was built in the 1940’s created the beautiful body of water surrounded by cliffs that you see today. Possum Kingdom Lake hosted the 2016 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, and will play host again in 2017. The competition takes place at Hell’s Gate, a pair of 92-foot-tall cliffs that face each other. Jumping from these cliffs is reserved strictly for the professionals these days, but the rock formation is strikingly beautiful. The Independence Day firework show that is annually put on at the park is said to be one of the best in world. There is a bevvy of places to stay, from the PK Lodge to camping areas spread throughout the park. This watering hole is truly a hidden gem, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not spending a weekend on the water here! You can learn more here.
Garner State Park is officially the most overnighted park in Texas. This park is located a little over 3 hours away from Austin, about 30 miles north of the town of Uvalde. Garner has been a family-friendly place to take a weekend trip to for over 70 years and still maintains the family-oriented vibe. The park has almost 3 miles of the Frio river to enjoy. Swimming and fishing are popular activities, but you can also rent paddle boats, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and more. There is plenty of fun to be had away from the water as well, including a miniature golf course and a nightly dance held through the summer months. As far as lodgings are concerned, there are primitive campsites, screened shelters, and cabins available. They can be reserved here. This is one watering hole (and so much more) that you don’t want to miss!
If you find yourself with a free weekend this summer, you could do a lot worse than any of these watering holes. They all have accommodations you can take advantage of, whether you prefer a hotel stay nearby, cabins, or a primitive campsite. All these parks have beautiful places to swim, fish, take the boat out, or just float the day away with a drink and a book. However much time you have free, there’s a Texas watering hole for you either in this list, or one of the previous two (they can be found here: local and day-trip editions) from this series. Let us know what Texas watering hole is your favorite, especially if it’s not on our list! Have a great summer, everyone!