Few places offer more tent camping options than Texas. The largest of the 48 contiguous states, Texas is also home to some of North America's most rugged and remote landscapes, making it a perfect destination for minimalist campers looking to reconnect with nature. The best tent campgrounds here also provide a wealth of other outdoor recreation opportunities, including miles of hiking trails and outstanding bass fishing.
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In the Footsteps of Dinosaurs
Spanning more than 1,500 acres around the ancient Paluxy River Valley, Dinosaur Valley State Park is home to some of the world's most well-preserved dinosaur footprints. The park also includes two distinct options for campers. The main family campground is open to both tents and RVs, and includes modern restrooms, showers, water and electrical hookups. For tent campers looking to get away from the crowds, several primitive backcountry tent sites are available in the park's undeveloped eastern half. The sites are scattered along an extensive network of hiking trails that totals nearly 20 miles, and can serve as an ideal base camp for backpackers. The campsites are accessible only on foot, and you must wade across the Paluxy River to get to them. Contact the park for current water levels. Backcountry campers are responsible for carrying in all necessary supplies -- including food and drinking water -- and leaving no trace when they leave.
Shores of Plenty
Padre Island National Seashore is home to the world's longest unbroken stretch of undeveloped barrier island coastline. The waters that surround this 70-mile stretch are prime territory for sea kayaking and saltwater fishing, frequently rewarding anglers with heavy catches of drum trout and sea trout. Five campgrounds provide accommodations. Some, like the Bird Island, North Beach and South Beach campgrounds, are open to RVs, but the primitive sites lack hookups, making them best suited to tents. At Malaquite Campground, campers can set up a tent at their campsite or on the adjoining beach. The amenities are typically primitive, but visitors to any campground may use the cold showers, drinking water and restrooms at the Malaquite Campground. Campsites throughout the national seashore are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. A camping permit is required; you can pick one up at the entrance.
Rolling on the River
Guadalupe State Park spans a 4-mile section of the Guadalupe River, whose swift but easily navigable waters make the park a paradise for kayakers, canoeists, river rafters and fishermen. Of particular interest to fisherman is the rare Guadalupe bass, a close relative of the more common smallmouth bass, which is found nowhere on Earth except the rivers and streams of Central Texas. Campers can choose among nearly 40 campsites at the shady and spacious Cedar Sage Campground. Modern restroom and shower facilities are available, and each campsite includes a campfire ring and picnic table. Both tents and RVs are permitted, but the lack of hookups leads many RV campers to choose the nearby Turkey Sink multi-use area, which has water and electrical hookups. For more seclusion, the Wagon Ford walk-in tent area provides nine primitive tent sites that are accessible only on foot.
Bid Bend National Park in West Texas sprawls across a vast and diverse landscape, including more than 800,000 acres of forbidding desert, towering rock formations lush river valleys, hidden oases and ancient canyons. In this rugged landscape, the camping accommodations are suitably minimalist. Ten small roadside campgrounds throughout the park each include a handful of primitive sites which, while open to both tents and RVs, do not include hookups or amenities of any kind. Even drinking water is not provided, so bring lots of it. The terrain is typically wide open, with panoramic views of the mountains and deserts. Backcountry tent camping is also permitted throughout large portions of Big Bend National Park, but this activity should not be approached lightly. Backcountry campers are required to register for a Backcountry Use Permit at the Visitors Center before departing. A compass and detailed topographical map are essential.