Calling All Campers
By Sydni Ellis
Dazzling stars dance in the sky. Chirping insects create a soft melody in the dark. The sweet aroma of sugary marshmallows over a crackling firepit fills the warm night air and tickles the back of your throat. Welcome to camping season—one of life’s greatest adventures!
As a kid, camping was a big to-do for me. I brought too many dolls, was pricked by too many cactus needles, and enjoyed too little sleep thanks to rainwater seeping in through the tent and an unreliable air-mattress. But when I got older (and, admittedly discovered the joys of a camper), I realized that camping was actually a pretty incredible experience. Now that I have two toddler boys, camping for my family is often in the backyard or under a pillow fort in the living room. But one thing remains the same: whether you pitch a tent in on a beach or rent a cabin in the woods, camping is all about peace, connection and the thrill of experiencing new things with loved ones.
Grab your hiking shoes, swimsuit, protein bars and sunscreen and check out a few of these nearby spots to go camping in Texas! (Note: please follow CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services guidelines regarding face coverings and social distancing.)
First-timers should check out Daingerfield State Park, just a two-hour drive from Wylie. This beautiful spot features 507 acres of scenic trees to hike through and admire. It’s located in the East Texas Pineywoods, filled with majestic, 100-foot pines, hardwoods and oaks, as well as some wildlife—don’t be surprised to see white-tailed deer. Follow the 2.4-mile Rustling Leaves Trail to see the impressive trees and the serene Little Pine Lake. You could also challenge yourself on the 1.2-mile Mountain View Trail, which delivers breathtaking scenic outlooks. Later, go swimming or rent a canoe or kayak to soak up the sunshine. Fishing is also very popular here, as crappie, bass, catfish, perch and chain pickerel swim in these waters.
At bedtime, you can stay in a water-only tent site or a full hookup site. If you prefer something a little less outdoorsy, reserve a cabin instead. Options include space for four, six or 15 people and include A/C units, bathrooms with showers and kitchens (yes, please!). Admission is $4; campsites range from $10-$25/night and cabins begin at $85.
Looking for a more exhilarating hiking experience? Head to the lovely Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, about six hours from Collin County. Billed as “the most spectacular and scenic landscape feature in the Texas Panhandle,” Palo Duro Canyon is a place where you can forget about life’s problems and just experience true bliss.
This 120-mile long canyon is known as the grandest canyon in Texas, with miles of wonderful hiking trails for all skill levels. Beginners could go on the .5-mile Pioneer Nature Trail, an easy loop to the river and back.
One of the park’s most popular trails is the 2.7-mile Lighthouse Trail, a moderate route that leads to the iconic lighthouse-shaped rock formation.
Experienced trailblazers should go for the 4.4-mile Lower Comanche Trail, where you can admire the breathtaking scenery as you go under cliffs, wade through spring-fed streams, and rest in the shade of juniper trees. Another difficult option is the 2.4-mile Rock Garden Trail. Start on the boulder-filled canyon bottom and climb 600 feet up. At the top, walk the 3.7-mile easy hike around the Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail that offers picturesque views around the canyon rim.
The only thing that could make exploring this canyon even better is doing it on the back of a horse! Bring your own horse or borrow one from the Old West Stables onsite. They offer guided equestrian trail rides that take you past the Catarina Caves, Spanish Skirts, hoodoo formations, cactus and wildflowers, and plenty of wildlife.
At night, set up a tent or camper at an electricity-enabled site, hike-in to a primitive campsite with a prettier view or stay in a historic cabin. For a more upscale experience, stay in one of the Doves Rest Cabins ($225-$550/night) located throughout the canyon. These luxury vacation homes include Keurig coffee makers, washers and dryers, satellite TVs and wood-burning fireplaces. No matter where you stay, you will be treated to gorgeous nature views and a peaceful ambiance. Park admission is $8 and camping fees start at $12/night and cabins start at $60/night.
Of course, camping isn’t just about hiking. For those who desire a relaxing vacation (we get it!), head to Padre Island National Seashore in Corpus Christi, approximately 7.5 hours south of DFW. Some areas of the park allow for fishing, kayaking and boating. This area is also one of the best in the country for kiteboarding or windsurfing because the waters are often flat with consistent wind speeds. Other activities include combing for seashells, trying to spot some of the 380 different bird species and bicycling along the coast. The summertime is also the perfect opportunity to watch the sea turtle hatchling release. Get up at 6:45 a.m. and watch the tiny hatchlings leave their nests and make their way across the beach into the cool water.
Set up your campsite on North or South Beach, Yarborough Pass, Malaquite Campground or the Bird Island Basin Campground. Sleep under the stars, as the gentle roar of waves crashing nearby lulls you to sleep. Wake up and explore the white sandy beach, or simply read a good book and bask in the sun. Camping fees range from free-$14 per night, plus admission fee into the park starting at $10 per vehicle for one-day pass and $15 for pedestrians. Check the Texas Park and Wildlife Department’s website for more information on when new camping and cabin reservations will be available for all of the state parks. tpwd.texas.gov.
Finally, for something completely different, book a stay at the Range Vintage Trailer Resort in Bristol, just an hour south of the metroplex. This brand-new outdoor destination opened June 1 and features six restored Airstreams and vintage trailers with luxurious amenities near the Ennis Bluebonnet Trail. This charming spot also has 15 open sites for guests to bring their own vintage trailers, with a unique farm-to-table restaurant and custom Airstream bar coming soon.
Each site offers a unique viewpoint, custom-made reclaimed wooden tables and benches to share a picnic lunch, three ponds for fishing, outdoor games and tree swings, a natural playground, communal firepit and hiking trails throughout the 30-acre land. You will also have access to the Bathhouse (with men’s and women’s toilets and showers) and a laundry room. Inside the Airstreams, guests will love the renovated décor, bathroom, kitchenette, A/C, coffee maker, fresh linens and low-waste toiletries provided. There is also complimentary high-speed WiFi in case you need to do a little work during your getaway. Rental trailers are $198 and open sites are $98. Reserve online at therangevtr.com.
Whether you are an adrenaline junky, an Instagrammer, a laidback family or a loner who just wants some fresh air, camping is a delight for all! Get out and enjoy the big Texas sky—what are you waiting for?