The Texas Hill Country is certainly one of the most prized jewels in our state’s bounty of natural resources. Rolling hills, amazing food and my personal favorite, the cool, natural bodies of water that run through it. I had heard amazing tales of Garner State Park but the drive always steered us to other wonders in our great state. The time had come to change that though and discover why everyone loves the land of the Frio River.
We camped at Andy on the River Road. I looked into camping at the state park itself but as springtime in Texas goes, those campsites book up months in advance. While the private campground route was more expensive, it ultimately was worth it to 1) have the place basically to ourselves at the end of April, 2) the bathrooms were so nice as far as campground go. We’re talking hot showers here and those things definitely matter!
With any large family, there’s a plethora of nieces and nephews around. This time we had 3 infants with us on the campout. I know the thought of taking babies camping can be nerve-wracking but our experience has been that they do really well. Of course there was the occasional crying but otherwise our littles loved being outdoors and even slept really well in the tents both nights. What was a bigger surprise even was how the slightly older kids wanted to sleep in the hammocks overnight. They were some brave kids!
While our base camp was at Andy’s, we spent our days at the state park a few miles down the road. We discovered that Garner State Park is the best Texas state park we’ve ever visited in terms of attractions and facilities. It’s a large park with several hiking trails offering gorgeous vistas of the surrounding hill country. Their options for accommodations were also varied with the traditional campsites, screened shelters as well as climate controlled cabins for those who plan months in advance. A fun surprise was the mini golf course, food truck, candy shop and gift store offering a lot of great treats.
The main attraction however will always be those crisp, blue waters beckoning to the park visitors. We spent countless hours in the river, varying our location from the areas several feet in depth, to the shallower river bed area great for lounging. You’ll want to bring goggles while you’re at it because there are many fish to be found in the deeper parts among the rocks. And if you’re less interested in getting wet, the boat dock rents kayaks, SUPs and paddle boats.
One of the days we took the Bridges Trail up to Painted Rock overlook which richly rewards those who are willingly to hike up its steep trail. After pictures and a moment to catch our breath we hiked downhill, thankfully, to Crystal Cave. This is a small cave that’s fun to climb down into to see and feel its dark, cool depths.
Our final highlight of the trip was booking the Frio Bat Tour our last night. Just down the road from Concan is the second largest bat population in the world, who knew! It’s on private land but they open it up to the public most evenings for a guided tour outside the bat’s cave. After an interesting discussion with a bat expert at dusk, the bats will begin streaming out of the cave. And not just a few bats…several million! I’ve seen the bat tour in Austin but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll see here. First of all, there are more bats than you can ever imagine. Secondly, they fly right over you! Close enough that you can throw a baseball cap up in the air and knock an unfortunate bat from its flight path. Don’t ask me how I came to know that…The cave itself is located on top of a hill so enjoy taking in the scenery as you wait for the bats to begin their journey. It’s a beautiful sight that only improves as the bats fill the sky.
We felt we visited at the perfect time of year, temperatures to still be comfortable camping or hiking while still warm enough to swim in the Frio River. Not to mention everything is green and wildflowers are on full display. We can’t wait to go back next year and see even more!