The Texas State Parks App: Your Guide to Planning a Texas Vacation
By: Michelle Joy
As spring awakens Texas with blooming bluebonnets and warm, sunny days, there is no better time to head outdoors to a Texas State Park. More than 90 sites cover landscapes of canyons, beaches, sand hills, lakes, and rivers. Whether you are planning a quick outing to hit the trails or check out historic sites, or a camping vacation full of swimming, fishing, and s’mores, you will want to start by downloading the TX State Parks Official Guide, a free app that helps you find the perfect spot for your outdoor adventures.
The app displays an alphabetical list of every state park, natural area, and historic site, with a page for each providing an overview, directions, fees, hours, maps, and more. With so many to choose from, though, you will want to narrow the field down a bit, which can be accomplished in several ways. Once you have found a park you are interested in, based on the following criteria, you can mark it as a “Favorite” in the app to save it to a list.
Using the “Map” feature on the app allows you to look for parks near to home(if you are after a day-trip destination), or to find a location in a part of the state you have yet to explore. If you have decided on a Gulf-front vacation, for example, narrowing your search to the coastal area will lead you to spots like Goose Island State Park near Corpus Christi, which offers tent sites on the water, boat launches, and a fishing pier. Zooming in on Hill Country, you will discover South Llano River State Park, tucked among the Edwards Plateau and designated an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for stargazing on camping trips.
The “Filters” option on the app offers a list of available activities, allowing visitors to find a park to fit their interests. Selecting “rock climbing,” for instance, will narrow the field to five options, including Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, which also has more than 100 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. If you are looking to get out on the water, search for parks with a boat ramp, water skiing, or a swimming area. Picking all three still leaves 21 parks to choose from, so you can pull up the map view again to pick an ideal locale.
Filtering by amenities will ensure that the park meets your specific needs, whether you are looking for wheelchair accessibility, a playground for the kids, or a facility to host a large group. Most parks are equipped with picnic tables and restrooms, but selecting more specific options like a swimming pool or boat rentals will slim your choices down significantly; while looking for a golf course will leave you with just one option – Lockhart State Park near Austin, a New Deal project built during the 1930s with stone bridges, creeks, and a mini waterfall. There is also a filter to find Wi-Fi, which is available at more than half of the state parks.
Looking to stay in a park overnight? With everything from primitive campsites to full-on lodges, there are plenty of options available. Using the “Filters” feature on the app, you can ensure that tent camps and RV sites have exactly what you need, from water and sewer hookups to showers and electricity. More than a dozen parks offer cabins, too, while several more have basic accommodations in shelters with bunk beds or in traditional yurts, at Abilene State Park in the central part of the state. Reservations can be made online through the app.