The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Willy, Harley (back center), and Gretchen

A Trip to Check Out Some State Parks

I thought Friday might be a good day to check out a couple of state parks within an hour of us.  Dave was working and I initially thought Steve and I would head out right after he back from the gym.  He heads to the gym early every weekday and usually gets home about 9:15.  We didn't get started that early however as he wanted to get his yard mowed and had a few other items to take care of.  So, after the shower, we were off about 11:15 and then there was the lunch stop.  Working out requires lots of fuel.  So we headed towards Austin on I-35.  McKinney State Park is on the southeast edge of Austin so you are right there before you turn off.  Of course, it was already approaching 100 degrees.  Signs were up saying all campsites were taken but we were just doing a drive-through to see if this is a place we might want to come camping.  Our first stop was to check out Lower Falls because we are always looking for a place to swim if we camp in the summer.  We parked in the lot, checked the signs, and headed out.

We had to hike across a rocky area of very warm down volcanic rock.  Volcanic rock, what a surprise, right?  It is really ancient.  It looks fairly smooth in the picture but is quite pockmarked and rough to walk across.  One thing I found very surprising was that after the initial signs at the trailhead, there were no other signs or indications of which way to go other than a faint path you could see on the rock.  It actually shows up much better in the picture than it did while we were hiking out over this wide open space.

We heard voices which actually gave us the best indication of which way we needed to go.  We found ourselves looking down into this pool.  While it looked refreshing, there was no easy way to get down there and jumping was out of the question with the rocks below and still having to get out afterwards.  It was a little disappointing as this wouldn't be a good place to take the kids with the access issues.

Our next stop was to check out the Smith Visitor Center.  Things are rather dried out around here with all the hot weather and lack of rain.  It almost looked abandoned but we found a ranger inside an air-conditioned building.  We checked out the exhibits giving some history of the area.

Our next stop was the Upper Falls.  This area has a real path leading down to the area and is a fairly short hike.  The water looks great here but it was actually stagnant all around the edges and again, there was that whole access down to the water problem.  These places would probably be a whole lot more inviting for a swim if the water wasn't so low but they were pretty.

We went down the road past some group campground areas where there was some kind of day camp going on.  The kids looked pre-teen or early teen and appeared/sounded like they were having a great time.  We came across a group of them hiking back up the road in their orange T-shirts.  Next we drove through the campgrounds.  There are trees which is always nice in the Texas heat.  Some of the camping spots (must be around 100 with water/electric) seemed pretty nice although some were a bit of a leveling problem if you weren't tenting.  It was a little disappointing to see so many low-hanging branches above the roadway as they would surely rub the top of 5th wheels or even travel trailers.  I guess this is one of the first areas that get cut back when funds are lower.

We decided that the water for swimming wouldn't make this one of our favorites for summer camping but it might be pleasant in the other seasons and it would be close enough for some easy jaunts in to Austin.

We headed south through the back-country this time and decided that it would be much nicer to bring an RV in this way rather than through the industrial area off I-35.

It seemed like we would have just enough time to make a stop at Lockhart State Park on our way home.  We took Hwy 183 south.  It was interesting as 183 runs right next to Tollway which starts north of Austin, skirts Austin, and then heads down to I-10.  It feels like 183 is an access road to the Tollway.  Steve was surprised to the 85mph Tollway speed limit.  Texans are not fond of paying tolls so the Tollway doesn't have the traffic that was expected.

On to Lockhart State Park which is right outside of (you guessed it) Lockhart.  This is a much smaller park.  There are only 20 camping spots.  Ten of them are in a wagon wheel shape with very few trees.  The other ten were along an area with trees but these spots were pretty small so we definitely wouldn't fit there.  I guess the big draw here is the 9 hole golf course near the wagon wheel campsites.  They do have a nice swimming pool which at $2/person wasn't too bad.

We love camping in campgrounds especially when they have a nice lake but state parks can sometimes get a bit expensive.  First you pay an entrance fee which can range from $3 to $9 per person if you don't buy the $70 annual pass.  Then you pay camping fees of $20 to $25 per night so private parks can sometimes be less expensive.  I guess the cost doesn't seem high if you are from the East or West Coast but not so inexpensive if you are from the Midwest.  They all seem busy on the weekends though.

We want to head out again soon but would love to see the temps drop below 100 degrees.  It was 104 today.


  1. Great idea to scout these out before plunking down the money. Bummer about the low water and high temps.

  2. It's also not great to arrive and find you won't fit. lol.

  3. Those prices seem rather high for a State Park. I agree that if you can you should pre check the place out.

  4. You probably know I love McKinney! FYI, there s an easy access to the lower end of the Lower Falls, it's just a bit hard to find. Def a fall, winter, spring destination though. Hope you visit again when I'm in Austin!

  5. We occasionally stop at a Texas state park for an overnight. The ones we have stopped at have been nice, but those entrance fees usually make the cost more than a full hookup RV park with wifi and cable. Hard to justify.


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