It started with a camping trip to the backyard.
I remember we were about a month into the pandemic and going stir crazy. We were dying to get out and explore, but we had to figure out how to do that from home. I turned to my husband and said, “Hey, we always say we can find adventure anywhere. Why not the backyard?”
We started digging out our camping supplies and made our backyard a campsite. It was finally time to put that 2019 Christmas present to good use. We set up our tent, cooked dinner over the fire, made s’mores, played UNO, laughed until we couldn’t breathe, and finally fell asleep under the stars of good ol’ Waco, TX. Somehow, we made it to morning and woke up feeling alive again after feeling discouraged from those beginning weeks of the pandemic. The kids still talk about how much fun they had. It is a memory I will always treasure.
My perspective on traveling and adventuring began to change. I realized it does not have to be “grand” to be an adventure. Changing scenery is enough to leave your kids in awe. In my head, I felt like we needed to go to the Grand Canyon or else they would be disappointed. “Go big or go home”
does not have to be the narrative for exploring. What they loved about the experience was being with us and experiencing something new. Adventure is a state of mind that you can carry wherever you go, even if it is just to your
backyard. You do not have to go far to explore and discover. As long as you are curious, you can find adventures
even in a place you have called home forever. Even as a native-born Texan, I have not even come close to scratching the surface of places to explore here. Maybe you are entering into Spring Break (or even thinking ahead to Summer) and feeling bad that you do not have a trip to take your kids on. I promise camping in Texas, even just Central Texas, has so much to offer, and finding an adventure is closer than you think.
First, if you plan on visiting state parks, especially for more than one day at a time, I highly recommend purchasing a Texas State Park Pass. For $70, the Texas State Park Pass waives entrance fees to 80+ state parks for you and your same-vehicle guests for a year. Another perk is that this pass will also get you campsite discounts. If you are not looking to camp, there are several state parks near Waco that you could easily take day trips to as well. Either way, you will want to make reservations online for day pass use or book a campsite. One of my favorite features is their “camp this weekend” link to see which parks have openings, especially if we are looking for a spontaneous trip. If you are a planner (not like me) the site allows you to book up to five months out.
A Family Favorite: Inks Lake
One of our favorite places to camp is Inks Lake in Burnet, TX. Inks Lake is located about 2 hours from Waco. The short distance allows for an easy road trip and set up day, which is ideal if you only have a night or two to spend out of town. Not many towns have two state parks, but Burnet does! In addition, Longhorn Caverns State Park is located just a few miles down the road from Inks Lake and offers walking tours of the caverns. It is absolutely incredible. My kids loved seeing the little “chicken nugget” bats hanging from the ceiling. We had the best tour guide who took us through the caves and shared the fascinating history of the caverns.
Hike & Swim at Inks Lake:
The Devil’s Waterhole was too deep for our kids, so we ended up hiking to the Lower Fisherman’s trail and found a spot for the kids to swim. On our last day, we took the Valley Spring Creek Trail. We found some neat little tide pools, but the trail had steeper portions that may be difficult for younger kids (for reference, mine were 4 and 5 on this trip).
Other Camping in Texas Recommendations:
We still have many places to mark off our Texas bucket list, but I wanted to share a few more favorites from our list of places we have visited, as well as places that are still on our wish list.
Less than 100 Miles From Waco:
-Mother Neff State Park (Moody, TX)
-Chalk Ridge Falls (Belton, TX) (no camping)
-Greenbelt in Austin (no camping)
-Dinosaur Valley State Park (Glen Rose, TX)
-Cleburne State Park (Cleburne, TX)
-Colorado Bend State Park (Bend, TX)
-McKinney Falls State Park (Austin, TX)
-Lake Mineral Wells State Park (Mineral Wells, TX)
-Pedernales Falls State Park (Johnson City, TX)
100+ Miles From Waco:
-Enchanted Rock State Park (Fredricksburg, TX)
-Garner State Park (Concan, TX)
-Lost Maples State Natural Area (Vanderpool, TX)
-Palo Duro Canyon (Canyon, TX)
Adventure is there whether you take that big road trip, choose one of these Central Texas State Parks, or one of our local Waco campsites. You can always find it…even if it is literally in your backyard.
As our family always says: Stay Wild & Keep Exploring!