Troy W.
Austin, TX
Joined May 2018
A happy camper - traveling, hiking, camping, backpacking. Find me at www.theadventurebegins.tv or Social Media (FB, IG, YT, PIN) @troyfromtexas
Rancherias Spring Campsite on the Rancherias Loop

Rancherias Spring is a dispersed primitive campsite on the Rancherias Loop Trail. 

The main attraction of this site is the unique opportunity to walk through a cottonwood forest grove in the high mountain desert. There is not much water in this region, but there is apparently sufficient water to sustain a grove of trees. You also have the opportunity to cross over a high desert mesa. 

There are no facilities nor amenities at this campsite. Leave No Trace principles should apply. Purchase gas and supplies in Fort Stockton, Alpine or Terlingua before entering the park because there are no supplies within the park. Prior to visiting this site it is required that you check in to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center from 8am to 4pm and secure a backcountry permit. Sites must be at least 1/4 mile from any other existing campsite; at least 300 feet from water sources and prehistoric or historic cultural sites; at least 3/4 mile from trailheads or roads. 

At the trailhead and once you enter the trail, there is no cell phone signal. This is a remote area of the park which has few visitors, so take appropriate safety precautions for self-rescue if needed. 

This site is about 7 miles from the West trailhead entrance of the Rancherias Loop Trail. The spring itself was just a trickle when we visited. We were able to collect and filter water. Some in our group camped in the river wash. Others and I elected to camp up the hill on the rock surface. The surface on the hill was almost all rock, so instead of tent spikes I used large rocks to secure down my tent. 

The main attraction of this site is the unique opportunity to walk through a cottonwood forest grove in the high mountain desert. There is not much water in this region, but there is apparently sufficient water to sustain a grove of trees. You also have the opportunity to cross over a high desert mesa.

Casa Reza Farmhouse and Creek on the Rancherias Loop

Casa Reza Farmhouse is a dispersed primitive campsite on the Rancherias Loop Trail. 

The main attraction of this site is the ability to see a bit of pioneer history at the farmhouse. Also, having a perennial water source in this remote area is a nice luxury. You’ll also scamper over rock formations, through desert brush and around a myriad of desert flora. 

There are no facilities nor amenities at this campsite. Leave No Trace principles should apply. Purchase gas and supplies in Fort Stockton, Alpine or Terlingua before entering the park because there are no supplies within the park. Prior to visiting this site it is required that you check in to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center from 8am to 4pm and secure a backcountry permit. Sites must be at least 1/4 mile from any other existing campsite; at least 300 feet from water sources and prehistoric or historic cultural sites; at least 3/4 mile from trailheads or roads. 

At the trailhead and once you enter the trail, there is no cell phone signal. This is a remote area of the park which has few visitors, so take appropriate safety precautions for self-rescue if needed. This site is about 7 miles from the East trailhead entrance of the Rancherias Loop Trail. It is recommended and encouraged to not camp at the farmhouse site, but rather collect any needed water from the spring and walk further down the trail to camp. Reportedly this spring is a perennial water source. When we visited the water was freely running and we were able to collect and filter water easily. 

The main attraction of this site is the ability to see a bit of pioneer history at the farmhouse. Also, having a perennial water source in this remote area is a nice luxury. You’ll also scamper over rock formations, through desert brush and around a myriad of desert flora.

Seep Spring on the Rancherias Loop

Seep Spring is a dispersed primitive campsite on the Rancherias Loop Trail. 

The main attraction of this site is that it is relatively close to the trailhead entrance. Also, camping in the river wash on soft sand with high bluffs surrounding us was a fun experience. On route to this site you will pass through desert brush, see a variety of high mountain flora and weave your way through ocotillo forest. 

There are no facilities nor amenities at this campsite. Leave No Trace principles should apply. Purchase gas and supplies in Fort Stockton, Alpine or Terlingua before entering the park because there are no supplies within the park. Prior to visiting this site it is required that you check in to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center from 8am to 4pm and secure a backcountry permit. Backcountry sites are$10 per night with a limit of 6 people. Sites must be at least 1/4 mile from any other existing campsite; at least 300 feet from water sources and prehistoric or historic cultural sites; at least 3/4 mile from trailheads or roads. 

At the trailhead and once you enter the trail, there is no cell phone signal. This is a remote area of the park which has few visitors, so take appropriate safety precautions for self-rescue if needed. This site is about 4 miles from the East trailhead entrance for the Rancherias Loop Trail. Along the trail you will cross over mountains, valleys and river washes. During our trip there had not been rain and there was a forecast of zero rain. We elected to set up camp and sleep in the river wash on the sand. This is not advisable if there is rain or a forecast of rain because this area could flash flood. 

The main attraction of this site is that it is relatively close to the trailhead entrance. Also, camping in the river wash on soft sand with high bluffs surrounding us was a fun experience. On route to this site you will pass through desert brush, see a variety of high mountain flora and weave your way through ocotillo forest.

Poage Lake Primitive Campsite + Lake + Fishing

My friend and I made a fly fishing trip to Poage Lake. This land is part of the National Forest System and offers dispersed primitive camping. 

The Poage Lake campsite consists of a large parking area, a short trail to the lake, and the lake itself. You can disperse camp next to the parking lot. There are no services nor amenities at this campsite, so Leave No Trace principles should be applied..

There is nothing special about the campsite area other than it is conveniently located next to the beautiful Poage Lake. The lake is secluded and pristine and surrounded by old growth forest. It is an excellent place for fly fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. 

There are no towns nor stores near the campsite, so be sure to pick up any supplies you may need in the town of South Fork, CO. There are grocery stores, gas stations and outdoor gear and fly fishing stores in South Fork. Take any water that you may need or filter water from the lake.

If you like peace and quiet this site might be for you. If you like amenities, this site probably is not your style.

South Fork Campground + The Rio Grande River + Fly Fishing

My friend and I stayed at the South Fork Campground for a fly fishing trip.  

The campground seems to be primarily a RV campground with 50 sites, but they do allow tent camping with 6 sites. There is an office at the entrance and the staff were friendly. Next to the office is a community room and laundry room.

The RV sites have water and electric hookup. The tent sites do not - at least ours did not. There are restrooms with sinks, toilets and showers nearby the campsites.

The campground itself sits on the Rio Grande River which is a world class fly fishing river. When we were visiting the river was flowing fast and deep, so it was not a very productive time. We choose to fish in the mountain lakes and streams instead.

Overall the South Fork Campground is a nice place to stay for a few days or longer. The campsites were a little close in proximity for me, but I'm one that is accustomed to backcountry camping where there are few people around. The campground is a short drive to the town of South Fork where there are grocery stores, gas stations and outdoor gear and fly fishing stores.

Monahans Sandhills State Park + Sand + Wind

My friends and I made a short stay at Monahans Sandhills State Park on our way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We made a reservation online because we knew that we would be arriving late considering that we were leaving after work at 6pm and out drive would be at least 5 hours. It is possible to pick up supplies or eat in the town of Ozona or Fort Stockton.

Upon our arrival, it was fairly easy to find our assigned campsite because all of the campsites appear to be located along a loop road.

Each campsites has water and electric hookups. There are also a sun shade, picnic table and grill. The bathroom was located a short distance from our campsite and contained sinks, toilets and showers. 

The main attraction of this park is definitely the sandhills. One can explore the sandhills freely, but I think that it might be a good idea to not venture too far from the main campground unless you are familiar with desert navigation or are equipped with a GPS. One can walk up the sandhills, roll down the sandhills or just stand in awe within them. I was surprised to find a variety of flowers thriving amongst the sandhills. How does that happen?

There are not any marked or designated trails at this park. There are not many facilities or activities to do. The main attraction is the sand, the sandhills and the sunrises. Even though our stay was short, I really enjoyed staying at this park and watching the sunrise in the morning.

Ranger Review HeadSpin Light System at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is not complete without a hike up to Guadalupe Peak which the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet (2,667 m). This trip was better and brighter because I had the opportunity to test a new light system by HeadSpin Outdoors. 

On your way into the park fill up with gas and pick up supplies either in the towns of Fort Stockton, Pecos or Van Horn. The route passing through Pecos is more direct, but the road is often crowded with large trucks traveling to the oil fields. The route that passes through Van Horn is longer, but more relaxing and scenic. I advise taking the route through Van Horn.

Campground Review: 

Guadalupe Mountains National Parks operates on a first come first served basis and does not take campsite reservations. If you are driving to the park from one of the major Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or Austin you must leave early in the morning (4am) to arrive early at the park (1pm) in order to secure a campsite. The drive is typically 8 to 10 hours. We elected for a different plan. We left after work at 6pm on Thursday, drove 5 hours and camped at Monahans Sandhills State Park. Reservations can be made at almost all of the Texas State Parks, so we made a reservation at Monahans Sandhills SP.  We knew that we could arrive late and still have a reserved campsite. Then the next day we continued to GMNP at a leisurely pace. We arrive by 1pm and secured one of many available campsites - #12.  

Arriving by mid-day allowed us the option to choose between a number of short trails to acquaint ourselves with the park and acclimatize to the higher altitude. We had the options to explore The Devils Hall trail, The Smith Spring trail or The Pratt Cabin trail. We elected to hike the Pratt Cabin trail. 

The Pratt Cabin trail was a nice introduction to the park for the first time visitors in our group. The trail is a 4.8 miles long out and back hike, relatively flat and the leaves were just starting to change colors. There was water in the creek. And at the turnaround point of our hike there was a historic stone cabin - Pratt Lodge. We returned to camp and had a nice meal. Campfires are not allowed in GMNP so we brought a propane camp stove.The night was cool, but pleasant.

The next day we woke up early and set off for the hike up to Guadalupe Peak. The hike typically take about 4 hours up and 3 hours down. We left early at 8am so that we could avoid the potential crowds. Our group summited without any problems in about 3:30 hours. We celebrated at the top, took some photos, signed the log book and took in the views. We then descended the trail. On our way down the wind picked up and at one corner the wind was whipping around at what I would estimate 40 mph. We reached our campsite by early afternoon and relaxed. At the Pine Springs campsite the winds picked up speed and for the rest of the day and into the night. Many tents in the campground were collapsing or blowing down. Luckily we had secured our tents with extra cordage and rocks. 

Overall, this is an excellent park to car camp or backpack. On previous trips to this park I've backpacked up to Guadalupe Peak as well as Pine Top. There are many good trails with trailheads near the Pine Spring campsites. There are latrine toilets near the tent camping sites and normal toilets near the RV camping sites. There are no showers in the park so be prepared to embrace nature.The true beauty of this park is not really the summit of Guadalupe Peak, but the rustic nature of the high desert trails and views.

Product Review of HeadSpin Light System 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I am provided products to test. For this outing I was provided a HeadSpin Light System.

For more info: www.headspinoutdoors.com

I was immediately impressed with the HeadSpin Light System when it arrived in the mail. When I unboxed the product I discovered that it was contained within a sturdy semi-hard case. There were five easily identifiable pieces within the kit - the light head, a handle, a headband, a bicycle mount and a wall charging plug. There was also an instruction manual, sticker and USB cord. The system is very intuitive to use.

The light head is the primary unit that can be combined with the accessories to form multifunctional lights. I'm a fan of good design and I liked the rounded square form of the light head. It has four buttons on top. One button turns on the unit. One button increases or decreases the intensity of the light. One button switches the light pattern from wide to spot. And one button switches the light to a flashing strobe. 

I received the light system just prior to my trip, so I wasn't able to charge the unit at home. One of the great advantages of this product is that it is a rechargeable light with a lithium ion battery. I took the entire kit in the car and charged it with the included USB cable plugged into the car socket. The USB cable can also be plugged in to any portable power bank. By the time that we reached our destination, the unit was charged. This came in handy as we set up our tents in the middle of the night.

The next day we hung the HeadSpin light in a tree above our camp kitchen and used it like a lantern to cook. The soft wide light provided great lighting for camp chores.

I also used the light for walking on some trails. Typically I used the lowest setting, because this light is bright. I played around with the higher settings but my friends kept asking me to turn it down because it was too bright. Hahaha, too bright. See the demo video.

I only used the light system with the headband accessory. I didn't use the handle nor the bike attachment. I think that the handle would be useful around the house. I think that bike attachment plus the headband attachment would be great for a bike packing trip. One could attach the light to the bike's handlebar when riding. Then disconnect it and spin it onto the headband for other activities.  

So who might like this light system? Anyone that likes multi-functional lights. I think that I'll find use for it around the house. It would also be useful to keep within a vehicle. This would be ideal for bikepacking. Hunters might like the intensity of the light, but I'm guessing that they would like a red light added. And of course it would always be useful for camping. If you are in to overloading where you need a reliable, rechargeable bright light this product would be a no brainer. The ability to charge the light from a variety of sources makes this a game changer for me. 

Likes:

Super bright light

Super soft light

Multifunctional

Outlet and USB rechargeable 

Nice design

Quality construction

Dislikes:

I'd like to see a red and maybe a green light

I'd like the buttons to be a little more tactile

Overall I am very impressed with the HeadSpin Light System. I have the feeling that I am just starting to discover all of the functions, features and uses. If you'd like to find out more about the light system or buy one visit their website at: www.headspinoutdoors.com

Russell Park + Trees + Trail + Lake

This is a review of the established campsites at Russell Park along the San Gabriel River Trail. Reservations for campsites can be made through (877) 444-6777 or www.recreation.gov.

These are drive up campsites where you may park your car next to your assigned site. The campsites have a sun awning, picnic table, campfire pit/grill. Russell Park has 27 tent-only sites with no utilities. Check-in time for reservations is 3 pm and check-out time is 2pm. There is a designated swimming area within the campground. 

One of the advantages of this park is that it sits along the San Gabriel River Trail. The trail circles Lake Georgetown and is 26.2 miles. It passes through forests, grasslands, over some small hills and across a few tributaries. I'd say that 40% of the trail has some tree coverage, but 60% is exposed. In the summer be aware that the combination of the temperature and the exposure makes this trail uncomfortable to hike. Take precautions, drink lots of water and stay in the shade all that you can. While you are walking within site of Lake Georgetown, it is not always convenient to access the water. So carry plenty of water. 

The trail is getting more and more popular with backpackers, so it is likely that you may see others on the trail. On weekends you may encounter scout troops practicing. During the weekdays you may not see a single person. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but it is nice to keep them on lease.

Sawyer Park Primitive Campsites

This is a review of the Sawyer Park primitive (dispersed) campsites along the San Gabriel River Trail. There are no facilities or amenities are this campsite. Leave No Trace principals should be practiced.

Upon entering one of the access points, park your car for free near the trailhead. It is good to advise one of the park administers that you will be hiking or place a note inside your car that you are hiking. 

The Sawyer Park site is only accessible by hiking or by a boat. It is about 5 miles from the Tejas Campground and 5 miles from Cedar Breaks Campground. This is primitive (dispersed) camping. There are a few areas with clear land or tent pads where you may camp. But there are also zones where you may simply camp wherever you can setup a tent or hammock. There is an old latrine at this site, but it is in poor shape and no-one really uses it. Be prepared to dig a cat hole. 

Many people stay at this site while hiking the San Gabriel River Trail. The trail circles Lake Georgetown and is 26.2 miles. It passes through forests, grasslands, over some small hills and across a few tributaries.

In the summer be aware that the combination of the temperature and the exposure can make this trail uncomfortable to hike. Take precautions, drink lots of water and stay in the shade all that you can. While you may be hiking within site of Lake Georgetown, it is not always convenient to access the water. So carry plenty of water while hiking - at least 2 liters. 

The trail is getting more and more popular with backpackers, so it is likely that you may see others on the trail. On weekends you may encounter scout troops practicing backpacking. During the weekdays you may not see a single person. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but it is nice to keep them on lease.

San Gabriel River Trail + Lake

This is a review of the primitive (dispersed) campsites along the San Gabriel River Trail. 

Upon entering one of the access points, park your car for free near the trailhead. It is good to advise one of the park attendants that you will be hiking or place a note inside your car that you are hiking. 

The trail circles Lake Georgetown and is 26.2 miles. It passes through forests, grasslands, over some small hills and across a few tributaries. 

This is prmitive (dispersed) camping. There are no facilities or amenities are these camp areas. Pack in some water and bring a water filter to obtain more. Leave No Trace principals should be practiced. 

There are a few areas with tent pads or clear areas where you may camp. But there are also zones where you may simply camp wherever you can setup a tent or hammock.  I'd say that 40% of the trail has some tree coverage, but 60% is exposed. 

In the summer be aware that the combination of the temperature and the exposure can make this trail uncomfortable to hike. Take precautions, drink lots of water and stay in the shade all that you can. While you may be hiking within site of Lake Georgetown and the water, it is not always convenient to access the water. So be sure to carry plenty of water - at least 2 liters.

The trail is getting more and more popular with backpackers, so it is likely that you may see others on the trail. On weekends you may encounter scout troops practicing backpacking. During the weekdays you may not see a single person.

Dogs are allowed on the trail, but it is nice to keep them on lease.

Blanco State Park + River Access + Town + Lots of RVs

Blanco State Park is kind of an interesting park. It is located within the city of Blanco, Texas. It is a small park with the main attraction being that it is located on the Blanco River, thus there is river access. 

If you need any supplies there are two grocery store in the town of Blanco. There is also a cute little town square with a couple of nice restaurants. We ate at the Redbud Cafe and it was great.

We arrived at the park after the sun had set. We entered the park, crossed over a bridge  and found our campsite on a loop road. I would say that most of the other campsites were filled with RVs. I suppose that if you have an RV and like having the conveniences of a town nearby this might be the campground for you. 

Our group was camping in tents and hammocks so we found the campground a bit unusual. There were tent pads to set up tents and plenty of trees to hang some hammocks. In addition, there was a parking spot, water, electricity, open space, picnic table, sun awning and grill. There were restrooms nearby our campsite. I would say that the restrooms could stand an update.

The main attraction of this park is that it is located on the banks of the Blanco River. We were able to hike, swim and explore the river downstream from the main park. 

I'd say if you were looking for peace and quiet in a natural setting, this may not be the best option. If you're looking for an RV campground with access to a river and a town, then this might be perfect for you.

Big Spring State Park + Scenic Overlook

Big Spring State Park is a small park with a big scenic overlook of the town of Big Spring, Texas. There is no fee to enter the park.

This park sits on the top of a small mountain in the middle of the town of Big Spring. If you need food or supplies there are grocery stores in the nearby town of Big Spring. Once you enter the park there are various hiking and biking trails. There are picnic areas and restrooms. 

Perhaps the main attraction of this park is the scenic overlook of the town and the surrounding valley. There is a indoor/outdoor building structure that may be reserved for events. Next to the building structure is a playground. Many of the playground structures looked kind of old.

From what I could gather there are plans to renovate the park. There was also a sign that there was no overnight camping at the park. There were spaces that looked like campsites, but overnight camping was not allowed. Much of the infrastructure appeared old and in need of renovation. Hopefully the park will be renovated and open for camping in the future.

Go for the view, but go somewhere else for camping. To the east of Big Springs there are parks with camping at Lake Colorado City State Park and still further east there is Abilene State Park.

Ranger Review: Wenzel Shenanigan 5 Teepee Tent at Inks Lake State Park

What could be better than camping lakeside during the summer?

Maybe camping lakeside in a teepee! I'll get to that later. 

Campground Review:

Some friends and I decided to go on a little camping trip this summer. 

I've found that it's always beneficial to camp near shade and water in the summer when temperatures are at a peak. I searched TheDyrt.com for a suitable campground. Once I found Inks Lake State Park, I realized that we could camp near the lake and have easy access to the water. I searched around a little bit until I found what I thought might be the perfect campsite - site #304. Unfortunately #304 was reserved, but #303 was available. The site offered shade and access to the water. Done.

We set out for the park after work on a Friday. We stopped along the way to have dinner in the town of Burnet at a cool little cafe called Bill's Burgers, Wings and Things. The food was great and the atmosphere was festive. If you need to pick up supplies or groceries, there are supermarkets in the town of Burnet.

We arrived at our campsite somewhat late at 7:30pm, so we quickly set up camp. 

Inks Lake State Park is a nice park nestled in the hill country of Texas. It is a short one hour drive from Austin. The park has a variety of facilities and activities for just about everyone. The main attractions of this park are the lake, the hiking trails and the Devil's Waterhole. From our campsite we could access the lake for paddling or fishing. We could also access the hiking trail that passes around the lake. There were brand new bathroom facilities at the park and they were some of the nicest bathrooms that I've ever seen at a campground. 

We went for a hike on one of the trails. There are some unique rock formations in the park called gneiss. While hiking among the gneiss it feels like you're on another planet. 

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the cove within the park called the Devil's Waterhole. We brought tubes to float in and chill in the water. I’ve always found that this is the best way to beat the heat in the summer. There is one side of the cove in which people climb the banks up to a rock outcropping to jump into the water below. There are some outcroppings 10 feet above the water, 20 feet and 30 feet. I jumped off the 20 foot high cliff and touched the bottom, so I didn't jump off the 30 feet cliff. It is fun jumping and it is entertaining watching others jump.

There's a little of something for everyone at Inks Lake State Park.

Product Review of Wenzel's Shenanigan 5 Teepee Tent 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I am provided products to test. For this outing I was provided a Wenzel Shenanigan 5 Teepee Tent. Weeeeeee!

For more info: https://wenzelco.com/shenanigan-5/

We arrived at our campground somewhat late in the evening at 7:30pm. Luckily we were able to quickly and easily set up our new Wenzel Shenanigan teepee tent. 

Basically, all we had to do was to find a flat clear area, spread out the tent, stake in the 6 stakes and then place on end of the included pole into the top of the tent and the bottom of the pole into a fastener in the bottom of the tent. And the tent was ready. 

I'd say that this is one of the best features of this tent - it is so easy to setup. 

Another benefit is that it is so fun. Weeeeee. Who wouldn't want to hangout in a teepee tent? The tent is available in your choice of two color patterns - blue or red. I chose the blue. It makes we want to smile every time that I see it.

The tent is a single wall tent. I believe that the material is treated for weather protection, but I wouldn't say that it is built for extreme rain or weather. It does have some nice ventilation options with a vented door, 3 windows, 2 ceiling vents and 2 floor vents. 

In the middle of summer in the middle of the day, this is a cool and fun place to chill.

The Shenanigan 5 tent is specified as a 5 person tent. However, like most tents the specified number is probably optimistic. Perhaps 2 adults and 3 children would fit inside. We found that there was plenty of room for 3 adults and gear.

I'd say that the pros of this tent are: 1. it is just so much fun. 2. it is easy to setup. 3. it is reasonably priced. 4. the color patterns are cool. 5. even tall people can stand up in this tent. 6. kids of all ages will love it.

I'd say the cons of this tent are: 1. not designed for extreme weather. 2. the side walls do limit shoulder space. 3. I prefer door entrances with one continuous zipper instead of three separate zippers. 

In summary, I'm pretty happy with the tent. I plan to use it for car camping weekends, as a shade tent for day outings and maybe even for fun times in the backyard.

Abilene State Park + Trees + Swimming Pool + Lake (sort of)

Abilene State Park is an interesting park to visit in the middle of Texas. The park is a short drive from the City of Abilene so it receives quite a few visitors on the weekend. During the weekday, you'll find considerably more peace and quiet. 

You can pick up supplies in the city and there is also a small store within the park office with some snacks and souvenirs.

The park has a nice grove of trees scattered around the open spaces and the campsites which can provide sanctuary shade from the summer sun. The campsites have clearings for tents, picnic tables, fire pits and water. There are restrooms nearby which have sinks, toilets and shower, all of which could stand some updating. There's a swimming pool which is often the main attraction of this park. 

When I was planning a visit to the park I thought that it would be nice to be right on the shores of Lake Abilene. However, I discovered that the main park area and campsites are in one area and the access point to the lake is in another area. You actually need to drive outside of the park, down the road and enter into another part of the park. There's a dirt road to access the lakefront and once you are at the lakefront there is a little beach. I guess that this is one reason why so many people appear to prefer hanging out at the swimming pool. 

The arrangement of the facilities is a little strange and many of the facilities could use an update. For this reason I only rate this park 3 out of 5.

Lake Brownwood State Park + Swimming + Boating + Fishing

I would rate this park 3.5 out of 5 stars. The park has a variety of facilities which earns it a 4 star rating. But the quality of the facilities only earns it a 3 star rating. So it averages out to 3.5 in my opinion.

Lake Brownwood State Park is pretty much located in the center of Texas. However, it is a bit of a drive from many of the major cities like Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. It is fairly convenient to reach from Abilene and San Angelo. If you need to pick up camping supplies there are grocery stores and sporting good stores in the nearby town of Brownwood.

The main attraction of the park is that it is situated on the shores of Lake Brownwood. There are ample opportunities to take advantage of lakeside activities like swimming, boating and fishing. There are a variety of camping options with tent sites, cabana sites and RV sites. At most of the sites there are nice oak trees that provide shade and can support a hammock. Note that Texas State Parks require 2 inch suspension straps when hanging a hammock. There are boat ramps, fishing piers and a loop hiking trail. The hiking trail is a loop trail, fairly level, but I would say moderately interesting. The real attraction of this park is the lake.

Some of the facilities such as the restrooms and the cabanas are a bit dated and could benefit from an update. The staff was very friendly when I visited. And the other campers were respectful.

I would like to say that I visited the park during a weekday when the park had few visitors. However, I've heard that on the weekend the park fills up quickly and can be quite busy.

Guadalupe Peak + Views + Carlsbad Caverns

The main reason why you might want to stay at this campsite during your visit to West Texas and Guadalupe Mountains National Park is to summit Guadalupe Peak and stand on the highest point in Texas. And the main reason why you hike to the peak is to see the views. 

There are no facilities or amenities at this campsite - no water, no restrooms, no shelters, no firewood, no wifi. Just views that stretch on for miles and miles.

You'll likely start your trip by checking into the Pine Spring Visitor Center where you can obtain a backcountry use permit. Permits are issued on a first come, first serve basis so try to arrive as early as possible and preferably before noon. During peak visitation periods permits may be in demand, so it might be a good idea to stay one night at the Pine Spring campground. If the Pine Spring campground is full, there is some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land nearby in New Mexico. Ask the visitor center for more info. The backcountry permit authorizes camping in designated sites in the established backcountry campsites. Fires are prohibited so containerized fuel is your best bet to be used for cooking.

The hike from the Pine Springs Visitor Center to the Guadalupe Peak campground is 3.1 miles - and it is almost all uphill. The hike from the Guadalupe Peak campsite to the peak is an additional 1 mile. The campsite is on a nook of the mountain and marginally protected from high winds. There are a few trees and a few rock windbreaks near the tent pads. The winds often exceed 80 miles per hour, so even if it is not windy when you arrive, secure your tent with additional guy lines. Elevation gain from the visitor center to this campsite is about 2200 feet. You'll need to carry all of your water for your ascent and descent so be prepared to haul 4 to 8 liters depending on the season, heat and personal needs. 

After you've conquered Guadalupe Peak and hiked around other parts of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, check out the nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

Caprock Canyon South Prong primitive camping area + Bison + Red Rock

Caprock Canyon South Prong primitive camping area

The Caprock Canyon South Prong primitive camping site is about a 1 mile hike from the South Prong Tent camping area and the trailhead.

You’ll hike up and down some ravines and up a hill to reach it. If you’re able to camp at this site you’ll be rewarded with great views of the mountains and the valley. The red rock formations in this park are amazing.

I highly recommend hiking the Upper South Prong trail to the Fern Cave and then returning via the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail.

Other highlights at this park include watching the prairie dogs and bison roam freely on the plains.

The only downside for this park is that to see some of the attractions you might need to drive because they are located far apart. The bison tend to gather on the open plains. The prairie dogs are located near the Honey Flat campground. Both of these attractions are far from the South Prong Camping Area. 

This park is located in the panhandle of Texas so it’s likely that you will have to drive a long distance to reach this park. if you would like to breakup the drive consider stopping over in Abilene to grab a bite to eat, see the worlds largest buffalo skull, or see the worlds largest paper airplane.

Long Creek Campsite on the Eagle Rock Loop + Fish!

The Long Creek Primitive Campsite is located in the Ouachita National Forest along the Little Missouri Trail on the eastern section of the Eagle Rock Loop. The only way to access this site is by entering at a trailhead and hiking in to the site. The nearest trailhead is at Albert Pike Recreation Area. This is a primitive dispersed campsite, but the ground has been cleared. The site is located alongside a creek.

On your hike into this site you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery as you walk through majestic forests of oak. You'll also see a variety of plants and forest creatures. The campsite is along Long Creek so you will have access to water. Perhaps 100 feet up river from our campsite I found a nice fishing hole and caught and released 7 trout and 1 sunfish within about 1 hour. 

There is adequate clear space to set up a tent or numerous trees to string up a hammock. There are no facilities nearby. You can collect and filter water from the river and dig a hole to poop in the woods. Please practice Leave No Trace in this area. 

Trekking poles are recommended to aid in tackling the various inclines and declines of the trail.

If you need any supplies before entering the Ouachita National Forest stop off in the town of De Queen where there are various grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. 

During the spring and summer the insects can be intense. I advise treating clothing and gear with permethrin to prevent ticks and pacaridin for other insects.

Big Bend National Park - Chisos Basin Group Campsite

This review is specific to the Chisos Basin Group Campsites. I actually prefer the Chisos Basin Group Campsites over the regular Chisos Basin Campsites. The group sites require a minimum of 9 people and a maximum of 20 people. The group campsites are located on a separate loop with only 7 campsites. The regular campsites are located in a cluster with about 60 campsites side by side - there is little privacy. I've found the group campsites have a similar view of the Chisos Mountains and the valley. There is one restroom for the group sites which has sinks and toilets, but no showers. There are no showers in the Chisos Basin except at the Lodge. 

Three of the group campsites have sun shades (sites P, Q and R) and the remainder are exposed. If you can reserve a campsite with a sun shade it will be worth it. The sun and the wind can be very intense throughout the year. It is highly recommended that you secure your tent with extra guy lines and tent spikes. 

The Window Trail trailhead starts from one corner of the group campsites. It's a short and moderate difficulty trail with a scenic view of the valley and sunset. If you hike the Window Trail to see the sunset, be sure to bring a flashlight because it can be difficult to find your way back once the sun goes down. Other highly recommended trails include the Emory Peak Trail, Lost Mine Trail and the Santa Elena Trail.

Living Waters on Lake Travis - Glamping on the Lake

Living Waters on Lake Travis is a lakeside venue for romantic getaways, yoga retreats, weddings, songwriting retreats, family reunions, work retreats and glamping (glamorous camping). You can rent one structure for a personal getaway or rent them all for a group event.

I attended a special event at this venue. There are various whimsical houses, cabins, yurts and tents in which to stay. There is an open lawn for group gatherings, a covered gazebo for outdoor yoga and a boathouse for lakeside activities. In addition there are amenities such as hammocks, lawn chairs, porches and tents in which to relax. The venue offers a variety of personal services such as massage, yoga, a private chef and watercraft rental. 

Whether you would like to be active or sedentary, Living Waters on Lake Travis might meet your needs.