What To Do in Garner State Park, Texas: Camping, Hiking and Nearby Gems
November 14, 2020
Garner State Park is located two hours outside of San Antonio and offers incredible views of Texas Hill Country, rocky cave formations and a river perfect for floating or paddling. The park opened in 1941 and visitors have been climbing Mt Baldy, dancing in the dance hall and camping beneath the stars ever since.
Most of the park sits within a river valley, but the canyon walls make for challenging and rewarding hikes. You’ll even find activities like mini golf here, so be assured that you will not get bored by spending a few days visiting this incredible Hill Country gem.
Please make it a priority to Leave No Trace when exploring the outdoors. This includes leaving nothing behind, respecting wildlife, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting those around you, planning ahead and traveling on durable surfaces. For more details, read about the seven principles at lnt.org.
Garner State Park offers campsites, screened shelters and cabins to stay within the park. It is a really popular place to camp, so book your spot in advance. The campsites are a perfect way to stay close to all of the exploration.
You can also find a variety of cabins in the surrounding area. The Inn Between is a really great option for unique cabins just five minutes outside of the park. The cabins are super colorful and a lot of care has gone into them. To be closer to the town of Concan and the Frio River, check out Neal’s Lodges or River Oaks Resort.
Camping is a widely popular thing to do in Garner State Park, there are 6 different camping areas! There are full hookup sites for your RV, campsites with electricity and campsites with water for pitching a tent. Some of the camping spots have waterfront views of the Frio River. Prices range from $15 - $35 nightly and bookings open up 5 months in advance.
The hike to the top of Mt ‘Ol Baldy reaches an elevation of 1,849 feet. It is only a half mile to the top on a map, but the entire trail is a steep and strenuous climb. I saw people of all ages doing the climb, but it might not be for everyone.
The views at the top make the effort worth it - you can see for miles from all directions. The view looking down at the Frio River, slightly before reaching the top, is my favorite. The water of the Frio is an aqua blue and in the fall, red trees border the river. From near the top of the trail, you can take the Foshee Trail to connect to more areas of the park or go back down the way you came.
There is a huge pile of rocks and a flag pole at the top of the mountain, so you’ll know you’ve made it!
You’ll find Crystal Cave up in the hills after another strenuous climb. It is worth the effort because the cave is about 30 feet deep, covered in crystals and you can climb inside! It’s dark inside, but shine a flashlight around and see the twinkle of crystals.
It was really cool to climb into a natural cave without a guide, I felt like an explorer. However, it was unfortunate to see graffiti. Please be respectful to the park so that people can continue to enjoy it for many years.
The Crystal Cave was really cool to experience, but it only has space for a few people. Be sure to be patient and go in one household at a time during Covid-19.
There are a couple different routes to get to the cave. I took the White Rock Trail, Bird Trail and Bridges Trail and connected over to the Crystal Cave Trail. The White Rock Cave Trail features a smaller cave that doesn’t have crystals but is still interesting. The Bird Trail is the most difficult with an intensely steep climb. The Bridges Trail offers beautiful views of the valley and a view of Mt Old Baldy.
There are many other amazing hiking trails in Garner too! Check out the Ashe Juniper Trail, the Campos Trail, the Frio Canyon Trail and more to explore the park and discover more Hill Country views!
The Frio River is a refreshing place to cool off in the summer months at the park. The park offers rentals of floats, paddle boards, kayaks and paddle boats to explore the water. You can also take a walk next to the Frio River and enjoy the views (it is especially beautiful in the fall!).
For a great place to take photos, look for the small dam near the campgrounds. Just south the dam, there is a rocky area right at water level that you can walk on. The spot has a stunning view of trees with Mt Old Baldy in the background.
One unique thing about Garner is that they have a dance hall with a jukebox! The park has been hosting evening dances in the summer since the 1940’s when the park first opened. Visit on a summer evening and dance the night away when the pandemic is over!
Concan is the closest town to Garner, located about 10 minutes south of the park.
For a sweet treat after hiking, visit the Frio Float in Concan for Blue Bell ice cream, candy, cupcakes and more. It’s a really cute shop with a colorful interior full of chandeliers.
I recommend calling ahead before visiting the Frio Float. It was closed when I tried to visit even though google and their Facebook page made it seem like it would be open!
If you visit during the summer, consider spending a day floating down the Frio River. The town of Concan has a couple of river access points where you can enter the water and go on a floating trip. If this concept is new to you, the idea is that you float down the river on a hot summer day while enjoying cold drinks and great company. It is a really popular activity in this area!
The banks of the river are private property, so you can only enter and exit at certain areas. Multiple businesses in Concan offer tube rentals and shuttle services for your trip. Check out Neal’s or Frio River Outfitters to rent your tube, shuttle ride or both. The Frio River Outfitters website has a great map where you can see all of the access points and decide where to start and end your trip!
If you’re visiting in autumn, I highly recommend visiting Lost Maples State Natural Area while you’re in the area. It is a 40 minute drive away and you can read all about it on my blog post.
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