We arrived in Austin, Texas for the new year and boondocked for a week in a Walmart on 290 in Austin to get some truck repairs done. One week at a Walmart was enough for us, so we looked for some free or cheap campgrounds within an hour of the city.
Spoiler alert: There isn't much.
Most state campgrounds are $24+ per night with per-person daily access fees that ring your nightly rate up to $35+. And all private campgrounds easily are $40 per night unless you opt for a slightly cheaper weekly rate.
Enter Sandy Creek Park in Leander, Texas, about 45 minutes from downtown Austin. The campground is situated on Travis Lake in the hilly country northwest of Austin. The road to get here involves 15-20 minutes of significant up-and-down winding, and there are a good number of cars traveling on the road. Though the speed limit is 15-30 most of the time, there are sports cars and motorcycles that will ride your bumper and look to pass you on the double yellow. I've driven over 25,000 miles in our truck-and-trailer combo this year, and this was among the more winding roads I've been on.
The campground itself has a few U-shaped terraced levels leading down to the boat ramp into Travis Lake, and there's a lot of boater activity. However, the campground itself was empty the entire week we were here with just one other RVer staying a single night. There are no easy turnarounds for larger rigs in this campground, and low-hanging branches provide obstacles for taller rigs. Even our fifth wheel, with a modest 11'10" max height, had a hard time in some spots. Ultimately, we decided to park parallel to the road in one of the more open campsites by the park entrance. When leaving, we elected to back out beyond the entrance before turning up and out of the park.
I'd say our 30' fifth wheel is about the max length recommended in this park. There are no hookups at Sandy Creek Park but there is a dump station, which I included pictures of. However, I didn't attempt to use it for two reasons: (1) a sharp corner entering the U-shaped dump station turnout and (2) low-hanging trees preventing me from swinging my rig wide.
Water is available at several faucets spaced every few campsites, but some of them don't have the traditional grooved fitting to connect your water hose. Filling is also a two-man job as you need to turn and hold to keep water flowing.
Park employees staffed the fee booth for 5 of the 7 days we were here and police patrolled the area a few times per day.
Overall, Sandy Creek Park is a clean campground with a great location right outside Austin for an awesome price(considering the other parks in close proximity). It has everything a camper could need except electric hookups, though the dump station is tough to access for larger rigs.
Sandy Creek is a local water authority campground located on lake Travis just outside of Austin, Texas. The site has about 10 or so sites best suited for tent or small camper vans. During our visit, the camp was empty on a holiday weekend. They have a nice boat ramp and boat trailer parking lot as well as swimming facilities on the lakeshore. The camp sites are located along the tree line with some limited views of the lake. They have restrooms and each site has a picnic table and a fire pit. Given the proximity to Austin and the lake we gave this a 3 out of 5. I suspect when the weather cools this would be a popular option for visitors and locals.
This campground is better than a 3, and probably deserves a 3.5. It is better than average with just a few shortcomings.
The park is managed by the Travis County Park System. As of 2018 the admission fee is $10/car for day use (so carpool to save money), $5 with a trailer, $3 for pedestrians and bicyclist and free for seniors 62+. Overnight camping is $15
It is a nice scenic winding drive to the park along Lime Creek Road. At the entrance there is a little booth where you can pay your admission fee. I believe that the booth is only open from sunrise to sunset.
Most of the campsites are located along the main road that goes both right and left from the entryway. Go right if you want more isolation. Go left if you want closer access to the water and don't mind the crowds. The campsites are available on a first come first served basis. A typical campsite has tree coverage, parking for 1 or 2 cars, clearing for 1 or 2 tents, a picnic table and bbq grill. There are water fountains with potable water spread throughout the park. There are basic restrooms with flush toilets, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There are a few porta potties in some areas. There is typically a burn ban in effect at the park, so no ground fires. You may use charcoal in the provided grills.
The main attraction of this park is access to Lake Travis. There is a boat ramp for trailered boats and some rocky outcroppings from where you can launch a kayak or canoe. There is a area along a rocky outcropping which has floating barriers that is available for swimming and fishing. The shelf drops off rather steeply so be aware. Bring a floatation device for a more relaxing time. Children should be closely monitored because this is a lake and the water is deep.
One of the shortcomings of this park is that there is boat traffic that passes by. The wake definitely approaches the shore, but the noise from engines and sometimes music often disrupts the peace. If you are looking for a more tranquil outdoor experience you might consider Pace Bend Park. Another downside is that this park gets quite a bit of day use, so sometimes park guests are a little more interested in having a party than having peace and quite in nature.