Garner State Park, TX

garner-state-park1Friday, February 6

Today, Julie and I make the long haul down to Garner State Park, another idyllic park located in Texas hill country.

Garner State Park could be considered the flagship of the Texas state park system. It receives half a million visitors a year, the busiest of all the Texas state parks. Enchanted Rock’s quarter million visitors per year may sound paltry by comparison, but then think that Garner is about five times the size.

There are over 300(!) developed campsites (not including the cabins), and RV spots with hookups are available. The tent sites start at $15 a night, RV sites go up to $26 a night. Like E-Rock the entrance fee is $7 a person, unless you have the $70 annual Texas state park pass.

You might almost think you were visiting a village instead of a park. Garner has a gift shop, restaurant, numerous headquarters (including one specifically for Geocaching), numerous day use pavilions, and 11 miles of trails are available for hiking. And if that doesn’t give you enough to do, fans of outdoor sports can enjoy the basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts.

Fancy enough for a courtyard.

Fancy enough for a courtyard

But the defining feature would have to be the river. The Frio river runs for 2.9 miles through Garner State Park, held in place even in times of drought by a small dam. The water is crystal clear, the current is lazy, and the river bottom is level and free of obstacles. It’s a great place to go swimming, and there is water equipment available for rent. Enchanted Rock’s busy seasons are fall and spring, but Garner comes to life in the heart of summer, when a refreshing plunge in the river provides welcome relief on the hottest Texas afternoon.

Which means on a day like today the place is pretty much ours.

It’s overcast and in the 50’s, poor weather for water activities, but just fine for hiking. Julie and I park down by the gift shop, and do the 0.53 mile hike up Old Baldy for starters.

Old Baldy and the Frio river

Old Baldy and the Frio river

The trail is not very well maintained, but it’s not entirely the park’s fault. The rock here is not granite, it’s limestone, which crumbles easily leaving loose scree that is easy to slip on.. The vegetation is also quite different from Enchanted Rock, a forest made up mostly of Ashe Juniper and the uncommon Texas Madrone at higher elevations, but changing to oak and beautiful Bald Cypress down by the river.

It's a misty overcast day, but those hills!

It’s a misty overcast day, but those hills!

The view from the top is breathtaking. The hills are more, well, hilly here, and today are huddled together in the mist. It’s amazing how much landscapes can vary even two hours away from each other. I never cease to be surprised by nature.

Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave

As it turns out Garner also has a cave, and we feel it necessary to visit it to compare it to “our” cave.

From the Old Baldy summit trail, we detour down Foshee trail, to Bridges trail, to Crystal Cave trail, a total of about 2 miles. Crystal Cave has been carved into the limestone by water and weathering. It only runs back about 100 feet, so no light source is required. There are indeed crystals, but there is also sadly a lot of graffiti. I may be partial, but I think ours is better.

After hiking, we meet up with a fellow park hosting whom contacted me on RVillage a while ago.

He’s been here about six weeks, and his account of the park host experience is a bit different than ours. They have a lot of flexibility about the days and hours they work compared to Enchanted Rock, which is sometimes nice and sometimes a drag when you can’t find something to do to fill up your hours. He’s been doing a lot of trail maintenance, and always avoids working on the weekends to avoid the traffic.

Not that the weekend traffic here at Garner gets like Enchanted Rock this time of year. Tonight being a Friday, he figures they’ll have about 20 sites filled, whereas the Boy Scouts will likely have reservations for all 45 of our sites at E-Rock. In a few more months, the tides will change.

See the writing at the bottom of the river?

See the writing at the bottom of the river?

Julie and I leave shortly after 4 pm. There is no phone signal to speak of within miles of Garner (even on top of the peaks), and I need phone access to finish hammering out my summer Yellowstone job (which I do manage later that evening, see the last post).

So long Garner, it’s been fun! That’s two Texas state parks down, only… 50 more to go. Julie and I shouldn’t run out of places to visit while we’re here.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Krystlephype on December 31, 2016 at 1:20 am

    Happy New Year 2017!
    Hooooorrrayyy!!! 🙂

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Happy new year!

  2. Kathy on February 16, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    We are currently in Mission, TX and will be headed
    your direction by the weekend. Would like to stop in
    to say Hi if you are available when we come thru. I always
    enjoy following your posts and just thought since we will
    be in your area it might be nice to meet. We will be starting
    our first workamping adventure in April in Washington.


    • Becky on February 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      Heya Kathy,

      I would enjoy meeting up with you! What day will you be here do you think? I’m off from now until Saturday and Sunday, when I’ll likely be working the full day if the weather is good. I highly recommend stopping in on a weekday if you can because the crowds get so bad here, last Saturday we had folks waiting 2 hours to get in.

      Let me know either way. You can come meet Julie and I in the park, or we could meet up in Fredericksburg for dinner or something too.

      Congrats on the work camping gig! You’ll never forget your first. 😉

  3. Dave on February 12, 2015 at 5:27 am

    Speaking of a park being ‘loved’ to death, that’s Garner. Return in the peak Summer season and you will see what I mean. The visitors have no respect for the park or the natural wonder it offers. You will find trash everywhere, in and around the river and trails. It saddens me every time I visit. I take a small trash bag with me when I leave the RV and can have it full within an hour.

    The Friends Of have their hands full but do a great job. I hold deep respect for their efforts.

    • Becky on February 12, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      It gets that way at E-Rock on busy weekends Dave, it’s just impossible for the staff and volunteers to keep up. Luckily we have the weekdays then to get the park back in good shape for the next onslaught. I don’t know what they’d do here without the Friends group, so much gratitude for those folks.

      I’m sorry to hear that about Garner, and glad we went in the off-season.

  4. Pleinguy on February 11, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Nice review on the state park. Thanks for sharing. I’m taking notes for my next visit to Texas.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Mittry LakeMy Profile

    • Becky on February 12, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      You’re welcome Plein, hope you’re enjoying AZ still.

  5. Andrew on February 11, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Nice photos, Becky. What kind of camera are you using?

    • Andrew on February 11, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Oh, never-mind-I just read your post on travel photography–I guess I missed it when it came out.

      • Becky on February 11, 2015 at 7:30 pm

        Yep I’ve been using my smartphone camera exclusively since I hit the road. Can’t zoom in on things in the distance, but for landscape shots it works just fine. 🙂

  6. Jodee Gravel on February 11, 2015 at 6:26 am

    I agree your cave is definitely better! Theirs is really sort of just a “long hole” 🙂 One would have to really be in love to engineer the love note in the river – unless it is very shallow in that spot. Glad you’re temps are staying cool, our early 80s can go away any time!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..First Post From the First Day in Our First RigMy Profile

    • Becky on February 11, 2015 at 7:29 pm

      I don’t think it was deep there Jodee, but then it’s hard to say with water that clear. 3-4 feet would be my guess.