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Visiting a Texas state park? What you need to know about day passes and camping spots

·3 min read

As the weather cools and thousands of Texans head outdoors, here are some tips to get a camping spot at one of Texas’ more than seven dozen state parks.

“More and more people are discovering Texas outdoors,” said Thomas Wilhelm, a state parks marketing and branding manager. “As our population grows, the demand for outdoor spaces in Texas is always going up.”

Visitation has increased steadily in recent years, and in 2020 Texas saw a sharp increase in people getting outside and going to state parks, he said. But the more people go to state parks, the more planning a visit takes.

Here are some tips to get a prime camping spot at one of Texas’ state parks.

Types of state park passes

When visiting a state park, you can get a day pass or a camping pass. Think of a day pass as an entry fee, allowing you to explore the park for the day. A camping pass is needed to stay overnight at a site. Costs vary by park, but children under 12 are free.

Frequent visitors can also opt for a Texas State Park Pass, which includes unlimited free entry to any of the state’s 89 parks for the pass holder and guests in the same vehicle. The annual pass ($70) can also save holders money on camping costs.

Both camping and day passes can be reserved in advance. (It’s probably a smart idea to get a reservation as parks tend to fill up.)

When to reserve a campsite

Reserving a campsite in Texas is likely to require some planning. Reservations for campsites open five months in advance at 8 a.m., and the popular spots will fill up fast, Wilhelm said. This is especially true for weekends and holidays. (The fall also tends to be a busier time for state parks, Wilhelm said.)

He recommends booking no less than two weeks out, but timing depends on which park you’re visiting. Some sites, such as cabins in Palo Duro Canyon, are going to sell out the minute reservations open, he said.

“If you’re under the two week window, it’s going to be really hard to find a spot,” he said.

Campers looking for a particular campsite should book as far out as possible.

“My best recommendation is look at your calendar, count back the five months from that day when it opens and be ready to book that the day it opens,” Wilhelm said.

Reservations can be made online on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website or by calling 512-389-8900.

Not camping? Day use reservations open 30 days in advance.

Trying to book the weekend of?

For us procrastinators, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife’s reservation website keeps a list of campsites across the state available for the current weekend.

Camping in North Texas?

Some of the more popular parks in North Texas include Ray Roberts Lake, Dinosaur Valley, Cedar Hill, Lake Mineral Wells, and Purtis Creek. State parks that tend to have more availability include Eisenhower, Lake Tawakoni, Fort Richardson and Cleburne.

Texas State Parks

Locations of Texas State Parks. Tap the markers for more information about the parks, including website links. Data is from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


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