When winter snows make you yearn for the warm days of summer, head to Texas to find miles of sandy beach and sun-spanked deserts and grasslands where snowflakes fear to tread. The state's 266,807 square miles envelop a wide range of topography and climatic conditions, offering campers plenty of outdoor adventures to choose from.
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On Shifting Sands
If you crave a camping vacation with the sea breeze in your hair and soft sand between your toes, head to the Gulf Coast where you'll find primitive camping on barrier islands. The Bolivar Peninsula in the southeastern portion of the state provides 30 miles of sandy shoreline where you can set up your tent or RV for the nominal price of a parking permit. Galveston Island State Park, Padre Island National Seashore and Port Aransas on Mustang Island are but a few of the other places where you can set up your camping gear along the beach. Expect days in the 60s during the coldest months with nights well above freezing and water temperature about 10 degrees cooler than the air.
In the Desert Sun
Big Bend National Park has 150 miles of trails winding through the state's largest roadless area. Strap on your backpack and set out on a hike along the Rio Grande River at a balmy 1,800 feet above sea level, or trek into the Chisos Mountains to heights topping 7,500 feet. The park is the place to experience a wide range of camping adventures, including multi-day whitewater rafting along the Rio Grande, horseback trips into the backcountry and primitive roadside sites. If you prefer a traditional site, you'll want to make reservations at Rio Grande Village or Chisos Basin campgrounds during the winter months. Expect daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s at low elevations and cooling of 5 degrees for every 1,000 feet you gain.
In the Piney Woods
If fishing and hunting are on your to-do list, head to the Piney Woods along the state's eastern edge. While temps will be a bit colder -- sometimes down to freezing at night -- you'll find beautiful sunsets, wide-open lakes and lots of wildlife. Lake O' the Pines is one of the state's largest reservoirs, covering nearly 17,000 acres in four counties. Full hookups and hot showers are found at the Buckhorn Creek Campground and other year-round facilities on the south and east sides of the lake. The north and west sides have primitive sites where crowds are few and fish abound among big submerged stumps in the shallow water.
In Cattle Country
West Texas is famous for its cattle industry, grassy plains and wide open spaces. The grass sea is broken by groves of mesquite, man-made reservoirs and sand dunes. Lake Colorado nestles among mesquite an hour's drive northeast of Midland. A state park along its shore provides more than 100 campsites ranging from full hookups and pull-through parking to primitive tent sites. For a dramatic change of scenery, head to Monahans Sandhills State Park 30 minutes southwest of Odessa where you can slide down towering sand dunes on discs or toboggans. The park has 26 sites with water and electrical hookups.