10 great outdoor options for ‘winter’ Texans
Monday, December 11, 2017
Like many of us, I like being warm during the winter. However, I don't like staying in one place. I enjoy moving around to see new things.
Texas provides plenty of parks to visit during the colder months with all sorts of things to do. Here is a list of great parks and places to see in central and southern Texas where things are a bit warmer. Northern Texas parks are great, too!
1. Choke Canyon State Park
Adult javelina helping the kids cross the street at Choke Canyon State Park.
There is no canyon — it's under water — but the animals are amazing. We've had javelina and bobcats walk through our camp site. Turkeys, rabbits and deer are seen every day. Other creatures we've seen include armadillos, squirrels and coyotes.
I am not a big birder, but I've seen Audubon orioles, road runners, Mexican eagles (crested caracara), western kingbird, vermillion and scissor-tail sapsuckers, turkey and black vultures, crows, killdeer, grackles, cardinals, green jays, egrets, ibis, doves, red-headed woodpeckers, ducks, coots, herons, swans, and swallows. Go to the ranger-led talks to hear more.
2. Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Gray fox at Lake Corpus Christi.
I don't love the camping here. It's one open circle so if the outside sites are filled, you are stuck watching your neighbors and listening to the kids screaming as they play in the center of the loop.
However, I love the animals. I saw my first gray fox here on one of the hikes. Plus, you can frequently see flocks of cardinals. Sure, I'd seen cardinals before, but flocks? Fishing is supposed to be good here as well.
3. Goose Island State Park
The Big Tree at Goose Island State Park.
Go see The Big Tree, a live oak tree that is one of the biggest in Texas. I geocached in this area, and birding is also big here. Take one of the volunteer-led bird walks to learn more.
As of Nov. 28, the park was still closed after damage from Hurricane Harvey. Be sure to call ahead of time to see if it's open.
4. Beach camping
Magnolia Beach on the Texas Gulf Coast.
I hesitate to mention this since I enjoy the lack of crowds, but Texas has plenty of spots along the Gulf Coast where you can park on the beach for free or for a small fee. Watch that you don't get stuck (towing is expensive), but it is an incredible experience.
5. Goliad State Park
The spring flowers at Goliad State Park.
History is the big draw here. The mission is close to the campgrounds. A short bike ride takes you to General Zaragoza’s statue, the Angel of Goliad statue, the museum at Presidio La Bahia, the hanging tree at the town courthouse or the Goliad Market House Museum (ask about the beam caught in the tornado).
Take a drive to Fannin Battlefield. If you are here at the right time (we were there in March), the spring flowers are amazing.
6. Lockhart State Park
Vultures in the trees at Lockhart State Park.
Lockhart State Park has a range of activities. There are turkeys and deer that come up to your campsite. I am not sure why, but the vultures (both black and turkey) abound here, and it can be rather creepy to hike under a tree full of them.
The ranger-led programs are good. Plus, there is a golf course within the park to enjoy.
7. McKinney State Park
Wagon wheels at McKinney State Park.
Enjoy the hiking at McKinney State Park. The falls and several ruins are well marked on the trail maps. Ask about "Old Baldy" (a large bald cypress tree), the old rock shelter and the wear marks from a major wagon trail where El Camino Real de los Tejas crossed Onion Creek.
Enjoy the fun ranger-led programs here on everything from geocaching and edible plants to using an atlatl. Take a drive into Austin to see the sights there.
8. Holidays at San Antonio
Mission San Jose in San Antonio.
There are lots of options for camping near San Antonio. I like Travelers World RV Resort since it is right on the Riverwalk hike and bike path. There are five missions along this path including the Alamo. You can bike, take the bus or drive to downtown to enjoy the restaurants.
During the holidays, there are more than a million lights in the downtown Riverwalk area to enjoy. The fireworks show at New Year's Eve is considered one of the best in the U.S., or you can just enjoy the neighborhood fireworks displays, which are enthusiastic, to say the least.
Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg.
The Fredericksburg area has an amazing amount of things to do. There are several RV parks in the area, but we like Fredericksburg RV Park. Using the park as a base, we hiked at nearby Enchanted Rock. We've taken the walking tour of town, and there are many wineries and breweries to visit.
Fort Martin Scott is in town along with the amazing National Museum of the Pacific War, and the Texas Rangers Heritage Center is a work in progress. Lyndon Johnson National Historical Park is a short drive away. Even the cemeteries are special, especially Der Stadt Friedhot. Be sure to visit nearby Lukenbach to enjoy music and a beer.
10. Big Bend National Park
Beautiful view in Big Bend National Park.
It takes some determination to get here since it is hours from anything, but it is well worth the trip. The hiking is incredible. The views are gorgeous. The birds and animals include javelina, road runners, vermillion flycatchers and tarantulas (really, watch the roads for them). The stars are jaw-dropping.
Be prepared with food (limited stores) and gas (it takes over an hour to get from the campground to some of the trails). Everyone should go at least once to this national park and stay at least a week.
What is your favorite park in Texas?
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