Texas is home to many beautiful sites and stunning landscapes, but there is nothing quite like the Texas Hill Country. For many families, a trip to Garner State Park is a summer tradition. With the crystal-clear waters of the Frio River, tall Cypress trees, and rolling hills, it’s no surprise that thousands of people visit every year. From logistics and price points to hiking trails, swimming holes, and campgrounds, this complete guide is here to help you plan your perfect getaway to Garner State Park.
When to visit:
Garner State Park is open year-round, but you are likely to get a completely different experience depending on when you go.
With the exception of Spring Break, Spring can be a great time to visit to avoid crowds. With the temperatures starting to rise, swimming is definitely an option, but the temperatures are not too hot to discourage other outdoor activities such as hiking or biking.
Summer is by far the hottest time of year to visit. With temperatures easily hitting triple digits, this is the most enjoyable time to float the Frio River; however, this is also the most brutal time to go hiking or biking. While most of the trails are short, under three miles, there is very little shade and visitors can easily get sunburned and dehydrated. To prevent this, always make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and avoid the middle of the day heat.
Summer is also the most popular time of year to visit. With kids home from school, most parents choose summertime for their family vacations. Because of this, there are the most activities during the summer months. This includes their summer dances and ranger-led activities. If you do decide on visiting during the summer, make sure to plan accordingly and make reservations well in advance.
Similarly to spring, fall is a great time to visit for less extreme temperatures and to enjoy a less crowded park.
Winter is the least popular time to visit. While the Frio River stays a constant temperature year-round, the colder temperatures outside make its waters less inviting. However, a positive of having fewer visitors is that the park is that it becomes much calmer, quieter, and more peaceful.
How to get to Garner State Park:
Garner State Park is in the hill country of South Texas. The closest airports are in Del Rio and San Antonio. Both have rental cars available to rent.
- San Antonio: 91 miles, 1-hour 38-minute drive
- Fredericksburg: 99 miles, 1-hour 36-minute drive
- Del Ri: 104 miles, 1-hour 45-minute drive
- Austin: 169 miles, 3-hour drive
The entrance fees are per person, not per car. It is an $8 dollar daily fee for those thirteen and older. Everybody twelve and under is free. The park does limit the number of visitors per day, so we highly suggest purchasing your tickets in advance. They do frequently reach capacity and have to turn away people at the gates. This is especially true during the summer season, holidays, and weekends.
If you plan on visiting other Texas state parks, we highly suggest purchasing the Texas State Park Pass. For only $70 dollars a year, you and anybody riding in the vehicle with you can gain entrance to all 89 state parks.
How long to stay:
Garner State Park is the perfect weekend getaway. We suggest staying between two to four days depending on how quickly or leisurely you are wanting to explore everything. If you have more time, we highly suggest making your vacation a road trip and checking out other great parks and small towns nearby.
- Enchanted Rock
- Lost Maples State Park
- Jacob’s Well
- Hamilton Pool
- Big Bend National Park
What to do in Garner State Park:
Garner is home to a variety of hiking trails. Most of them are fairly short, less than two miles round trip, and should only take you an hour or two to complete. The most popular trail is Old Baldy Trail. This short, but steep, hike brings you to views overlooking the Frio River canyon. If you only go on one hike during your stay, this is the one to do. A trip to Garner is simply not complete until you conquer Mount Baldy! Other great hiking trails are the Foshee Trail and Crystal Cave.
The Frio River is spring-fed and stays around 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. This chilly temperature is how it got its name, for Frio means cold in Spanish. A little over two miles of this crystal clear water flows throughout Garner State Park, making for plenty of great spots to go swimming. The park offers several different equipment rentals like kayaks, inner tubes, and paddleboards. These are great alternatives for those who don’t want to fully submerge themselves in the cold water. For those that love to dive in, make sure to check out the different rope swings found on the banks of the river. If you are the first to jump from a rope, please make sure that it is safe and the water you are jumping into is deep enough.
Since 1940, Garner State Park has been hosting a jukebox dance every summer evening at their park’s concession building. This is a family-friendly event that is fun for all. There is limited seating, so we suggest coming early and bringing your own lawn chairs to sit in.
Next door to the concession building, in the center of the park, is a mini-golf course. Putting around can be a great activity for those not wanting to take part in the dancing.
Ranger Led Programs:
To learn more about the history, culture, geography, and nature of the park Garner State Park provides Ranger Led Programs. Here you can check out a list of future events they have planned.
Where to stay in Garner:
We highly suggest staying within the premise of Garner State Park. By doing so, it allows you to get a full experience on everything it has to offer. Plus, Garner is a very accommodating park with plenty of water, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and even a small grocery store. They have several different lodging and camping accommodations to fit all different needs and budgets.
From full hook up to bare bones, Garner offers a wide variety of campsites. The prices range from $35 dollars a night to $15 dollars a night. There is a $5 dollar fee for each additional vehicle, so make sure to carpool to save some extra cash. To reserve a camp spot, check out their website here.
If your idea of camping is sleeping in a bed and having running water, then you can check out their lodging options. While these are definitely more expensive than the camping options, you are getting more accommodations. There are significantly fewer lodges than there are campsites, so if you know this is the option for you, then make sure to book in advance. To reserve a cabin, check out their website here.
Tips for visiting Garner State Park:
Pack plenty of water and sunscreen:
Garner is an outdoor lover’s dream, but there is very little shade, especially on the trails. Make sure to protect your skin by regularly applying ample amounts of sunscreen. Additionally, make sure to consistently be drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Nothing is worse than getting sick or feeling bad on a vacation.
Purchase tickets in advance:
The park only allows a certain number of visitors per day. To ensure that you will be granted access, plan ahead and purchase your tickets well in advance. Because once they hit their max capacity, they do not let anyone else in.
While Garner bases its tickets and occupancy on each individual, their parking is very limited. The fewer cars your group can come in, the better.
FOLLOW THE LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES:
Keeping our parks clean is so important. By following the Leave No Trace Principles you can do your part to protect our lands and wildlife. A great rule of thumb is to always leave it better than you found it. By staying on all hiking trails, picking up after yourself, and taking out any found trash, you can help keep Garner State Park a beautiful place for future visitors.
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