A Travellerspoint blog

Lake Livingston State Park


sunny 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!

Posted by TheQuestForFun 13:41 Archived in USA Tagged horses lake kids summer swimming camping bicycle trails rv state_park travel_trailer lake_livingston_state_park piney_woods Comments (0)

Guadalupe River State Park Spring Branch, Texas

sunny 99 °F

A Road Trip With My Daughter...

As summer began to draw to a close I wanted to take my nine year old daughter on a “girls” camping trip since my husband had to work, and my two other children were off for two weeks on their own adventure. I decided that we would go to Guadalupe State Park in Spring Branch, TX since it was not only a state park I had never visited, but also because it is centrally located to several day trips I wanted to go on with my daughter. Our plan was to spend seven nights at the park, so early on Monday morning we set off. My husband was apprehensive about us traveling up there alone, so he followed me just to make sure I was able to pull our travel trailer and set it up and left the following day.

Setting Up Camp:

We drove the five hours from our home to Guadalupe State Park. This park is right in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, and is pretty close to civilization. It was only 8 miles to a HEB grocery store and 3 miles to a Valero gas station. The park is accessed from Park Road 31 and leads to the Park Headquarters. The Rangers were friendly and we had no difficulty checking in. Since it was a Monday the park wasn’t crowded at all. The Rangers originally assigned us to Site 76 in the park, but informed us if we arrived at the campground and found another spot to be more to our liking we were welcome to change. After getting to the campground we determined that Site 50 was more in line with what we were looking for. All of the sites were shaded with picnic tables and fire pits, but there is only one bath house in the campground. Site 76 required that we walk through a wooded trail to get over to the other side where the restrooms were. Since it was just my daughter and I, I made the change to Site 50 because of its proximity to the bath house and park host. I knew my nine year old would be unwilling to walk down a wooded trail at night to go to the restroom, and I liked the idea that the park hosts were there should I run into any trouble. Our site was level and easy to pull into- which was a blessing since I had to back the trailer in for the first time.

The River:

After setting up camp it was time to check out the Guadalupe River. The park has a designated river parking area and another overflow parking area. There are picnic tables, grills, and another bath house all located for park guests to use. The river is easily accessed from the parking lot and they have stone steps carved into the side of the hill leading down to the river. Once there, visitors find a pebble/rock beach area where they can set up canopy tents, beach chairs, coolers etc for the day. The water on this part of the Guadalupe River is not nearly as cool as people familiar with floating the Guadalupe in New Braunfels may be accustomed to. It took me by surprise how warm the water was actually. The swimming area has some shallow rapid areas, but most of it is between two and three feet deep. The bottom is rocky so make sure you wear river shoes. The water wasn’t moving fast enough the week we were here to tube the river, so we went to the Dollar Store a couple miles from the park and purchased some regular blow up pool floats. All of our river time from that point on consisted of us floating around the river on our floats and my daughter catching minnows using our standard bait- Cheeto’s. The river was uneventful during the weekdays with approximately twenty to thirty people maximum there, but on the weekend it really drew in a lot of day trippers who set up camp on the river banks and livened up the atmosphere.

Day Trip: Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas

We drove less than an hour from Guadalupe State Park to Gruene, Texas (pronounced “green”). This town is home to Gruene Hall which according to its website is the “oldest continually running dance hall in Texas”. This area outside of New Braunfels, TX was a great area to visit. The town has antique and gift shops, a general store with a variety of souvenirs and food stuffs, as well as several different options for lodging if you were to choose to stay. There are several restaurants to eat at, but we chose the Gristmill located right behind the dance hall. The food was outstanding and reasonably priced. We were seated in an outdoor area of the restaurant that overlooked the Guadalupe River. Although it was a really hot day, the area we sat in was shaded and had a cool breeze coming through that made it a really pleasant lunch. The only thing I regret was there wasn’t a concert happening for us to catch at Gruene Hall. We have checked the upcoming shows and have intentions of traveling back in November to celebrate our anniversary there. For a list of events and more information on Gruene Hall you may want to visit their website www.gruenehall.com


Day Trip: Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park

My daughter and I also chose to use one of our days to visit the LBJ National Park and his ranch which was home to the “Western White House” during LBJ’s presidency. It again was about an hour drive, and on this day trip we did everything. We started out our tour in Johnson City, Texas at the National Park Visitor Center. Here we toured the center, walked through the Johnson Settlement, and toured LBJ’s boyhood home. I was amazed at the size of the house he was raised in. For a turn of the century home (the 20th century) it was much larger than I expected from its appearance outside. Here we listened to stories of LBJ’s early life and the situations he encountered that would later form his political platform and legislation. For lunch we stopped in at the Silver K Café across the street. I really didn’t expect much at first glance, but the food was exceptionally good- especially the fried green tomatoes and spinach gorgonzola soup…delicious!!!! We then headed fourteen miles west to tour the LBJ ranch. This is a combined state and national park. We checked into the state park headquarters where they gave us a car tag and a CD to accompany our driving tour. We started out our tour by visiting the Sauer-Beckmann Farm which is a “living history” farm. The hosts were decked out in their pioneer apparel and we watched woman present milk in a variety of stages from cottage cheese to yogurt to a buttery type spread. The final product didn’t smell too appetizing, but I am assuming if I was hungry enough it would be okay on bread. We then drove through the park and followed the stops at the CD's prompting. There was a school house, the cemetery where LBJ and Lady Bird are buried, the hangar that houses a smaller Air Force One that would taxi the Johnson’s from Austin to the ranch, and then finally the house. To tour the house I had to pay $2.00, but it was worth all two hundred pennies. The park ranger was hilarious, but from what I figured out it was easy to be funny since LBJ himself provided so much amusement in his own personal ways. If you are ever in this area do whatever you can to at least take in the LBJ Ranch portion and pay the money for the house tour. It was fantastic. The National Park Service website has information on hours, things to do, and location of the LBJ Ranch.

Day Trip: Luckenbach, Texas

I think it would be difficult to find anyone over the age of 30 who hasn’t heard the Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson song “Luckenbach, Texas”. We took the opportunity on Friday night to drive over to Luckenbach and listen to the band that was playing that evening. If you are expecting tons of things to do in Luckenbach you will be greatly disappointed. It has a population of 3 according to the refrigerator magnets the general store sells and only has a food booth, beer garden, general store, and dance hall; however, this is an iconic Texas place and should be visited if you are this close. We purchased the standard “Everybody is Somebody in Luckenbach” t-shirt, ate a pulled pork sandwich and Frito Pie at the Feed Stop, and waited to hear the band. I may have led my daughter to expect something different from the band because she didn’t make it long. Let’s just say they were definitely not a Justin Beiber or One Direction cover band- which personally I think is a good thing. My nine year old disagreed. We left after a couple of songs, but had accomplished what we set out to do which was see Luckenbach. If you are visiting Luckenbach try to drive Ranch Road 1376. The scenery is absolutely stunning. It reminds you of why this area is appropriately called the Hill Country. Honestly the reason I didn’t mind leaving Luckenbach so quickly was because we had drove RR1376 coming in and I was ready to drive back on it before nightfall just so I could see the views again. For a calendar of events going on at Luckenbach their web site is www.luckenbachtexas.com.


Day Trip: Wimberley Market Days in Wimberley, Texas

Once a month the small town of Wimberley, Texas has a huge trade day. We purposely planned our visit around this Saturday because we both wanted to check out the “treasures”! It took slightly over an hour to get to Wimberley and then $5.00 to park. They truly had a little bit of everything here. Crafty items, antiques, wrought iron décor, clothing, food… tons of stuff. I would recommend going to the Market Days in the fall or spring because it was right at 100 degrees on the Saturday we attended. If you only want to devote a half day to the Market Days then Wimberley also offers a couple other cool spots to check out. The first is the 7A Ranch Resort and Pioneer Town. You don’t have to be staying at the resort to visit. You can pay $5.00 to park and visit all day. Pioneer Town has several streets of old time looking buildings, an ice cream shop, and an arcade for the kids. There is also access to the Blanco River from there if you want to swim. However, if you were planning on swimming I would suggest going to the Blue Hole. This swimming area was named one of “America’s best swimming holes” according to Travel and Leisure magazine and is shaded which gives double refreshment from the hot Texas sun. As you drive to and from Wimberley from Guadalupe River State Park you will travel on FM 306. This route provides some pretty spectacular views of Canyon Lake as well.

The Verdict:

This park really is one of the more “civilized” campgrounds we have stayed at. I can only assume it is because of the large amount of day trippers that come in to play in the river on the weekend. The speed bumps were only annoying because I kept visualizing my refrigerator in my travel trailer popping open as we were leaving for the five hour trip back to Houston. The park staff and rangers were friendly, and the park hosts were outstanding. They did their best to keep everything clean inside the park and were always out and about on their ATV. I was disappointed with the lack of wildlife we saw- two deer and one rabbit in seven days. Our site was excellent and spacious, but the bathrooms I would only give a 5 or 6 out of 10. There were plenty of sinks and stalls, but the plumbing system kept backing up in one shower causing it to overflow all out on the floor and one of the toilets seemed to be clogged every other day. We have stayed at other parks with much nicer restroom facilities, and this one could be improved with a little maintenance I suspect. I believe if I return back to this park I would want to go in the fall or spring to avoid the heat. Texas has plenty of warm days throughout the year so I don’t believe going in March, April or November would in any way hamper our ability to enjoy the Guadalupe River in this state park.

Posted by TheQuestForFun 05:56 Archived in USA Tagged swimming camping texas travel_trailer johnson_city guadalupe_river_state_park gruene_hall luckenbach lbj_ranch wimberley_texas Comments (0)

Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas

a weekend away with my brother and his family

sunny 93 °F

And we are off- Friday...

At the beginning of the summer it was my goal to be out and about in the travel trailer as much as possible. After a disappointing June we finally made our way to Pedernales Falls State Park around the Austin area in Texas. The trip from our house on the east side of Houston took us around five hours. We took I-10 to Hwy 71 which eventually hit Hwy 290 and led us to Ranch Road 3232 which leads you to the park. On the way we stopped off at a Mikeska's BBQ place on I-10 near the intersection of Hwy 71. It was amazing! Prices weren't too bad, and the food made up for any additional expense over regular fast food joints.


We made it to the park around 3:30 and were assigned site 61. I had never been to this park and really only had the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and YouTube video to go off of as far as expectations go. It was gorgeous! Granted it was hot, but it is July in Texas. I have lived here since 1979 and have yet to encounter a "cold" July. Although the park headquarters are on a bluff overlooking the park, the campsite is actually in a shady wooded area of the park. Some campsites are more wide open than others, but my site was surrounded by trees. A suggestion- if possible try to get site 66. It was not only shady, but the picnic table was covered and had a ceiling fan installed over it. Our site had a picnic table, fire pit with grill and a lantern pole, but it was not shaded.


The first thing we decided to do once camp was set up was to head down to the river and cool off. It was in the 90's so a little cooling off was in order. We chose to go to the designated beach area which was a short drive from the campsites. Here we encountered a walk down trail to a pebble beach area. Not knowing what we were doing we packed down five chairs, towels, and a cooler of drinks. All of that had to be packed back up so as the days went on we limited what we took with us. The swimming area at this part of the park had a shallow rocky area, as well as deeper areas where the kids could swim. I don't believe the water ever got deeper than 4', but Texas has also been under drought conditions for the past year.


After swimming for a couple hours we went back up the trail (I mean up... there are some steep areas to this path when carrying chairs, towels, and a cooler) and headed to camp for a dinner of brats and chili dogs- kids favorites!!!!


The next morning after a hearty egg, bacon, sausage, and pancake breakfast we decided to hike the Twin Falls trail while it was still reasonably cool out. This trailhead can be accessed from the campground area and is shaded throughout. The walk was very nice. There are some rocky areas that require climbing so sensible shoes should be worn. My sister in law and I did not make the best decision in choosing flip flops. We made it, but it would have been better if we were wearing hiking shoes or tennis shoes. The Twin Falls trail comes to an overlook area where you can see the falls. They are beautiful and I would strongly suggest seeing them if you visit this park.
After walking the Twin Falls trail we drove over to see the main attraction- the Pedernales Falls. Again, the trail that leads down to the overlook couldn't be described as short, but it wasn't too bad of a walk. The trail was easy to go down until the scenic overlook, but if you are planning to go on the rocks down by the falls and look around wear sensible shoes (at this point my sister in law and I still hadn't figured this out, so the flip flops were still on). Our one regret on this trip was that the falls weren't running due to low water. There were some areas of water going over the falls, but mostly it was just rocks. The fact that the area was mostly dry didn't take away the beauty of them. The pockets of water around the falls were crystal clear and looked so inviting, but unfortunately they have been closed to swimming since 1977 (at least I believe that is what the sign said). We scampered and explored for a couple hours. The kids were loving all of the secret caves they found and overall it is a really gorgeous place.


After a day of hiking trails and seeing the falls we went swimming again. This time we went down the Trammel River Road to a beach area that is accessible from the main campground. The path continued, but we saw a cut off that led down the river and decided to take that route since it appeared to be a short cut. This time we were smart- small cooler of drinks, and no towels or chairs! This short cut was indeed a short cut, but was also pretty steep in areas again. We all had on our river shoes since the river bottom consists mostly of rocks, but the climb back up when we were headed home was pretty difficult at times- especially for little kids. The water in this location of the river felt cooler than the water at the beach area we had driven to the day before, and there were a few small rapid areas that were pleasant to sit under. When we got back to camp that evening there were five deer including two fawns hanging out in our campsite. The signs inside the park urge people not to feed the deer, but the way these deer came up to my kids while they were at the picnic table eating supper leads me to believe they have been fed many times before. The kids absolutely loved the deer. The deer returned multiple times throughout our trip at varied times throughout the day, but evening seemed to be their favorite time.


On Sunday my daughter was to be picked up from cheer camp in Austin. While we were off to Austin, my brother and his family decided to drive into Fredericksburg, TX and check out the Nimitz Museum (I would strongly suggest this if you have never been). Fredericksburg is a great little town with tons of Hill Country charm. The German influence that can be seen throughout the Hill Country is found in Fredericksburg, and there are several restaurants and pubs that you will find offering German fare if you are in the mood for some spaetzle. There are also several wineries in the region to tour if you enjoy wine tours as well. While my brother headed west, My family headed east to Austin and made it in a little less than an hour. We spent the day at the "bubble" on the University of Texas campus and watched everything the cheerleaders had learned during camp. Once we were finished with cheer camp we took the opportunity of having lunch and touring a few things Austin. We ate lunch at a really cool barbeque place called Stiles Switch BBQ. They were featured in Travel & Leisure Magazine and we decided to give them a try. The food was delicious, but for our family of 5 it cost us $86.00 for lunch. I guess we could have cut the price down a little had we not allowed the kids to have the banana pudding, but what is the fun in that? Stiles Switch BBQ is really good (especially the pork ribs), but if you are limited in budget you won't find fast food prices here. An interesting side note: where the barbeque restaurant is located not only is the first shopping center in Austin dating back to the 1950's, but was also the scene of the Emporium in the movie Dazed and Confused. You know- the movie that introduced us to Matthew McConaughey and his "all right, all right, all right" line. While in Austin we took in the University of Texas Tower (we were unable to go to the top since the tours don't run on Sunday) and the state capitol grounds. There are a ton of other attractions in the Austin area, but we were on a limited time frame so we only devoted one afternoon there. If you are bent on seeing all Austin has to offer I would suggest finding a campground or RV park in the city or even consider staying in a hotel.
After we returned from Austin my kids wanted to swim while I wanted to nap. We each got our own way.


Monday we devoted the entire day to the river since it was our last full day at the park. This time we decided to go down the Trammel River Road again, but chose to follow it to the point it meets up with the Pedernales River. In my opinion of the three different routes we took to swim in the river over the course of our weekend this by far was the easiest. It may be the longest, but it was the least difficult. The trail slopes down to the river which meant we didn't have a lot of stairs or climbing to do. Walking back up does require energy, but you don't have to navigate rocky terrain. This trail still requires good shoes- so wear your river shoes. This trail lead us to an area of the river we called "the Jacuzzi" because the rocks in a couple places formed circle pools where the water flowed in like a Jacuzzi. It was really nice. BRING CHEETO's! There are a ton of minnows and if you have Cheeto's the fish will eat them from your hand or in between your toes if you put them there. This kept my daughters busy for hours. They practiced a weird form of catch and release. They would catch the minnows, put them into a Ziploc bag for a while, and then release them after a varied amount of time. My son and nephew fished for perch or brim, but only caught a few- none of them worth keeping. This swimming area had shaded areas along the bank as well as wide open areas for those wishing to get a tan. I would say there were only about 5 other people in this area other than my family, but it was also on a Monday and Sunday afternoon the park had mostly cleared out.
While fishing in this area my nephew, niece, and her boyfriend found a little cut that they followed which led them right to Twin Falls. We all walked up this stream and were able to have a view of the falls from below. It was gorgeous.

The Verdict...

Overall I would say this is a great park. The sites are spacious, the restroom/shower facilities are clean, and there are two park hosts that sell firewood and ice right at the entrance to the campground next to the dump station. Our site was equipped with water and electric, but there is also a primitive camping area if you are inclined to that form of camping as well. There are plenty of hiking trails, but I wouldn't suggest taking your bicycle down them unless you are a crazy accomplished mountain biker! The main nuisances at this campground were the flies and gnats. They were everywhere. We had six fly tape traps, two citronella candles burning and were all covered with off before they stopped "bugging" us. I would like to suggest a net tent to go over your picnic table/ cooking area, but with eight kids on this trip I know very well the tent would have rarely been closed so the bugs would have just followed us in. There were two shower facilities inside the campground with two sinks, three toilets and two shower stalls in each (hot and cold water). During the weekend the line to the ladies room was pretty long when it was peak shower time (right after dark before bed), but that was only on Saturday night. The rest of the time we were able to get right in and out. The TPWD staff were super friendly and helpful when needed and I can definitely see going back to this campground again. It would be amazing in the fall and winter when it is cooler, but I am not sure my kids would like to go without being able to swim.

Posted by TheQuestForFun 11:43 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls river kids swimming camping rv austin pedernales_falls_state_park texas_parks_and_wildlife travel_trailer johnson_city fredericksburg Comments (0)

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