03.07.2014 - 06.07.2014 92 °F
In a last minute effort to get out of our hometown for the July 4th weekend, we began to scramble to find a place to take our trailer out and find some fun. It was almost impossible to get a reservation this year with the 4th falling on a Friday. All of the Hill Country state parks were full as were a lot of the privately owned parks that I have had recommended to me. With the help of the customer service center for Texas State Parks, I was able to secure a site at Lake Livingston State Park for 6 (three of us and three friends).
Let me just start out by saying that contrary to what some people will say, I feel the only way to have the optimum amount of fun at this state park is to have a boat. We did not. We ended up having a pretty decent time, but I really believe we left a lot of fun on the table by not having some sort of watercraft at our disposal. The moral of the story is this- we invited some friends to come camp with us in our trailer. We should have invited friends with a boat! If you don't believe me, ask the friends who we invited camping this weekend. They think we should have invited friends with a boat too!!!
Getting to Lake Livingston from our side of Houston was relatively easy and pretty quick compared to the other state parks we have visited. We were there within 90 minutes. Check in is at 2. We were early, but had no problem getting in. Since we had made reservations late, we didn't have much in terms of site selection. Lake Livingston State Park has five primary camping areas. Pin Oak Loop, Yaupon Loop, Red Oak, Piney Shores, and Hercules Club Loop which is where we ended up camping in site 75. The sites were all wooded and nicely shaded. They all had paved pads for RV's or parking, as well as raised tent bed sites and fire rings. Our campsite had partial hookups (water and 30 amp electric service), and was in close proximity to the bath house. Although our campsite was fine, it did not have any type of view of the lake. If you want that, you will need to try and get a reservation in the Piney Shores camping area. Sites 50-71 are listed as "premium" sites according to park signage and as we were driving through we noticed these sites not only had spectacular views of the lake, but also had full hookups as well! There was still a bath house and a dump station that could be used, but if you are really wanting a full hookup this would be the place to reserve. If I was to return, I have determined that I am going to try to get one of the following sites: 57, 59, 61, 64, 65, or 67. These were excellent spots. Since we didn't stay in the "premium" spots, I cannot tell you how much they are to reserve, but I am assuming they are more than the $15.00 we paid for our spot as Texas State Park Pass holders.
The facilities were standard state park fare. A couple sinks, three toilet stalls, and two shower areas. The restrooms were dirty or in need of attention most of the times I was in there, but I am going to give the park staff the benefit of the doubt since it was July 4th weekend and the park was packed full of people. I know people regularly cleaned them; they were just dirty from the level of use. On the final night of my stay I had an invigorating cold shower due to the lack of hot water because of the crowds. Again- I imagine if I were to show up at other times of the year when the park isn't busting at the seams, the level of cleanliness of the restroom facilities would be better.
BICYCLES!!!! Bring your bikes! My husband literally pulled our bike rack off our rig the night before we left because the past couple of parks we have visited we haven't used our bikes the entire weekend. This park is a pretty big size park as well as being level so this is the perfect place to enjoy a bike ride. Lake Livingston State Park has a primary trail- The Livingston Trail, which is 2.73 miles and connects all of the campgrounds. It is wide and a really nice gravel bike path. We walked it in sections, but would have really enjoyed it in its entirety had we brought our bikes. There are also other trails located within the park, but we didn't venture onto those. There is a portion of the Livingston Trail that is cut off from bicycle use and restricted to walking only. This trail led down to the lake and even had a section with a wooden bridge where some families had set themselves up for a day of fishing. It was really nice at sunset and the view over the lake was spectacular.
Okay so I have already given my opinion on the necessity of a boat to fully enjoy this park, but that doesn't mean we didn't get wet while we were there. The park has a swimming pool next to the lake if that is you speed, but you will need to pay to enjoy it (the cost of the pool is $3-5 dollars depending on your age). There are lifeguards on duty during pool hours. We didn't swim but did walk around the pool area and it looked nice enough. We chose to swim in the lake. Down from the pool is a designated swimming area. This area has a paved sidewalk around it and a ladder for easy access to get in and out of the water. We had some blow up floats and pool noodles and a really nice swim. There were plenty of families around cooking, swimming, and even watching the World Cup. I am not sure which team won, but judging from the viewer’s reactions it was their team. Lake Livingston State Parks has numerous warning signs about alligators. If visiting the park, it is strongly suggested sticking to the designated swimming area. I guess the park officials have worked out a deal with the gators.
Horseback riding is also an option when visiting LLSP (look I have gotten lazy and it is only the 5th paragraph). I have a cruel streak when it comes to my marriage and attempt to get my husband on a horse whenever possible. I also pray to the horse gods that his horse will spook, trip, or just be temperamental. It makes me laugh. His horse Bentley didn't completely live up to the expectation, but at one point did come to a standstill and refused to move until he had thoroughly relieved himself which held up the latter half of the trail ride, so I guess the gods were doing their part to amuse me. The horseback stables are located inside the park, but are not run by Texas State Parks. They are independent contractors. There were five main riding times: 9, 11, 1, 3, and 5. Our wrangler said sometimes they run a 6 if it is busy, but they didn't the weekend we were there and it was packed so I wouldn't rely on a 6:00 ride time. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and made sure we were all comfortable with our horse and safety information. They made kids under 16 wear safety helmets (much to my 11 year old fashionista daughter's dismay), and after a quick safety meeting we mounted up and were off on our 45 minute ride. The cost was $30.00 per person. I don't know if I recommend this. It was basically riding up the side of the road to a turnaround point and then back again. Scenery consisted of passing cars and woods. Again- the people running it are very nice people and I know they rely on the money to keep their business going, but for $30 bucks I just didn't have any sort of wow factor that would justify these funds. It would have been better spent on a boat rental. The map of the park shows a pretty large horse trail. I just want to warn you- this is not the route we took on this day. If that is your expectation, you may want to talk with the wranglers before paying your money. We just went up the Briar loop trail from the horse stalls to the main road intersection, turned around, and returned to the stables.
Overall this is a good park if you are looking for something close to Houston or you have a boat. I personally have camped there once and will probably not return unless someone I know is going and asks us if we would like to go camping for a weekend (I never turn down a chance to get out of the house if possible). If I do go again, I will make sure to definitely bring my bike and if some miracle happens a boat!