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Our Visit to Garner State Park:

Garner State Park Tour

Said by many people to be one of the very best state parks in Texas, we've been trying to make our way to Garner State Park for years. We have had countless folks tell us time, and time again, how much they love Garner State Park, how it is one of their favorite parks, how they return year after year to build on their decades of memories made in this park. After hearing so many glowing reviews of Garner, we were finally able to visit for ourselves, curious to see if it lived up to the expectations that we had developed over the years. So did it live up to the hype? In one word: ABSOLUTELY!

Garner State Park is located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country near Concan, Texas. The scenery on the drive in is reason to visit this area all on its own. But the stunning beauty of this park is matched by its history as a CCC park, and the almost overwhelming number of amenities within the park boundaries. Here you can hike, bike, swim, fish, tube, paddle, dance, play basketball, volleyball or mini golf... there's so much to do at Garner, you might need a vacation from your vacation!

Our Campsite at Garner State Park

Our Campsite at Garner State Park

Our home during our stay at Garner State Park was campsite number 478 in the Rio Frio Camping Area. At first, we admit, we were a little disappointed that we could not camp in Old Garner (our 35 foot motorhome is too big for the original campsites). But we have to say, we really enjoyed staying in Rio Frio and will absolutely stay there again in the future. While our camping loop didn't have the large trees, most of the sites were well spread out and very comfortable. You can drive, bike or hike to Old Garner where most of the amenities and trailheads are located (although it would be a pretty decent walk). We didn't have our bikes with us, so we drove to the Visitor Center and to the CCC Park Pavilion area. From there, we were able to explore the rest of the park on foot. The benefit of being a little bit further away from all of the action in the heart of the park was a quieter, more relaxing experience at our campsite.

One thing that really surprised us about Garner State Park was the check-in. We knew that this is an extremely popular Texas State Park. We have always had trouble trying to find availability here and it seems like EVERYONE always raves about the memories they've made in this park. So we planned to arrive at the park around 5:00 pm on a Friday during the last weekend of September thinking that we could avoid most of the crowds. Well, yes, the park wasn't nearly as crowded as it would have been during the summer, spring break or a holiday weekend, but when we arrived at 5:15pm on that fall Friday, it took us an hour and a half to check in! We have truly never seen anything like it at a state park, so we thought we would explain a little bit about the process to you.

When you arrive at Garner State Park, there is a large parking lot to the right of the headquarters. Park your RV and go into the headquarters. When it is busy, you take a number (like you would at a county office or drivers' license office). When your number is called, you go into the next room to check in at one of the six check-in booths. Folks have told us that during peak times when a lot of folks are checking in (like on a Sunday in the summer), the wait to check in can be as much as 4 to 6 hours!!! To minimize your wait, we suggest arriving during the week and in the off-season if possible.

Garner State Park Headquarters

Garner State Park Headquarters

Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys

We had a great experience at Garner State Park! The park was clean, the restrooms were clean, the staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful. The scenery was jaw-dropping, the river was cool and clean and the hiking was a ton of fun. We absolutely understand why this park is so popular and why so many people spend time here year after year for decade upon decade! If you have not yet been to Garner State Park, definitely put it on your list of places to visit.

Do Not Miss While at Garner State Park:

There is so much to see and do here, that our answer to this is almost impossible! We suggest trying to spend as many days here as you can.

If you like to hike, you will love Garner State Park! We would absolutely rate the hiking here as a "must do" experience. Whether you are looking for birds, historic information, river views or incredible vistas, you can find it on a hike here.

Be sure to walk down by Garner Dam at the Frio River and take a look at the huge Bald Cypress Trees. We've read that this type of cypress tree can live to be 600 years old, but we've also read that some of these trees at Garner State Park might be as much as 1,000 years old! One thing is for sure, these trees are HUGE and they obviously thrive here drinking water from the Frio. A tip we learned from Kay and Gaylynne: walk past the dam and toward Old Baldy on the foot path... you'll find a huge bald cypress tree on the right that is hollow. An entire family can fit inside this tree!!

Bald Cypress Trees on the Frio River

Bald Cypress Trees on the Frio River

Huge Hollow Cypress Tree

Huge Hollow Cypress Tree

Mentioning Kay and Gaylynne brings us to another "do not miss" point. While you are at Garner State Park, talk to as many folks as you can. People have been coming to this park annually for decades and are eager to share their experiences and memories. We heard so many great stories during our stay and learned to look for things in the park that we probably would never know about without these conversations.

And finally, we would be disowned by a lot of Garner fans if we did not mention the dances as a "do not miss"! We visited in October, so there were no dances during our stay, but everyone we met at the park and everyone we've spoken with about Garner goes on in great detail about how fun the dances are here. So if you visit during the summer, spring break or a holiday weekend, be sure to attend the Garner Dance! In fact, music and dancing is so ingrained in the history of Garner State Park, BJ Thomas and the Triumphs recorded a song about it back in the day!

Garner CCC Pavilion and Dance Floor

Garner CCC Pavilion and Dance Floor

Garner Pavilion Jukebox

Garner Pavilion Jukebox

The History of Garner State Park:

Once part of an ancient sea, the canyons and rock formations that we see today at Garner State Park were formed millions of years ago when the limestone of the Edwards Plateau shifted upward. The Balcones Canyonlands, of which this park is a part of, are home to unique topography and eye-catching views. Some folks we met on the trails were excited to meet a geologist in the park who showed them how to identify prints of ancient sealife in the rocks!

Attracted by the spring-fed, clear waters of the Frio River, historians believe that people began inhabiting this area as many as 12,000 years ago. As the automobile began to make travel easier and camping started to become a favorite pasttime, the family who owned this land in the 1920s began to allow visitors to camp along the river.

Mary and Marshall Stockton

Mary and Marshall Stockton have been camping at Garner since 1958!

During the Great Depression of the early 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a program to develop public parks and restore natural areas. To be considered for a CCC project site, communities had to present their application showing donation of interesting, unique, culturally or historically important land. Roosevelt's Vice-President was John Nance Garner who made his home in nearby Uvalde, Texas. Garner wasn't thrilled with the idea of requesting federal funds for a park project in his home county. Mrs Garner, however, disagreed. She and several community members led the successful charge for this area to be considered for park development.

CCC Company 879 worked to build Garner State Park between 1935 and 1941. They built the original entrance, the CCC Park Pavilion and dance floor, roads in Old Garner, culverts, trails, a lodge, picnic tables, benches and 14 cabins. Originally, 50 cabins were planned for Garner State Park, but as the United States entered World War II, the CCC work ended and many of those men entered the military. Like many parks being developed by the CCC in 1941, work here stopped. Today there are 17 cabins in the park.

Over the years, Garner State Park has become a favorite park and campground for generations of families. Its growth in popularity has led to expansion, and today the park is made up of approximately 1,400 acres. The original section of the park is dubbed "Old Garner" and the newer sections (appropriately) "New Garner". But don't be confused by the "old" and "new" references, it is all one phenomenal state park! After one of our hikes we met Mary and Marshall Stockton who have been camping and volunteering at Garner State Park since 1958. The Stocktons were nice enough to share their memories of the park and changes they witnessed as the park expanded over the years.

Garner Trailhead Markers

Garner Trailhead Markers

Hiking Trails with a View

Hiking Trails with a View!

Things to Do at Garner State Park:

Hiking: Definitely our favorite activity at Garner State Park, we counted approximately 16 miles of hiking trails here. Trails range from easy, wide and flat to challenging and rocky with some pretty good inclines and declines. Be sure to bring good hiking boots or shoes that give you good grip and stability. We found hiking sticks to be helpful on the more challenging trails. For great views of the park and surrounding areas, make sure to hike the Old Baldy Trail and the Bridges Trail. To check out some small caves, take the Crystal Cave Trail and the White Rock Cave Trail. For an easy walk back into history (one main hill on asphalt), we enjoyed the Old Entrance Road Trail which takes you along the original park entrance built by the CCC. For other easy hikes, consider the Nature Trail, Madrone Walkway, Wild Horse Creek Trail, Blinn River Trail or Frio Canyon Trail. Many of the trails intersect with others, so you can build your own unique hiking experience. Most trailheads have a short explanation of the trail along with what to expect and trail maps are available at the park headquarters and visitor center.

Biking: Biking might be a good way to get from the Persimmon Hill, Live Oak and Rio Frio Camping Areas to the rest of the park without driving or hiking the Frio Canyon Trail. But we don't remember seeing any dedicated areas to lock up bicycles (maybe we just didn't notice since we didn't have our bikes with us?). Bicycles are allowed on some trails like the Madrone Walkway, Old Entrance Road, Highway Trail, Frio Canyon Trail, and Ashe Juniper Trail. But most of the trails are off limits to bicycles. (You'll understand why when you see the terrain!)

Paddling: Stand-Up Paddleboards, Pedalboats, Canoes and Kayaks are available for rent near the Garner Dam on the Frio River in Old Garner. You can also bring your own. River access is easy near the Oakmont Camping Area and in the Day Use Area near the dam. No motorized boating is allowed and the river is typically calm and easy to paddle up and down.

Tubing: Tubing our rivers is a favorite pasttime of Texans in the summer, and the Frio River is no exception. Bring your own tube or rent tubes from the park store located at the entrance to the Pecan Grove Camping Area in Old Garner. They will take you up river towards the front of the park and you can float back down to the Garner Dam at the boat rental area.

Boat Rentals on the Frio River

Boat Rentals on the Frio River

Garner Mini Golf Course

Garner Mini Golf Course

Bird Watching: Garner State Park's location as part of the Balcones Canyonlands gives it a unique ecosystem compared to much of the Texas Hill Country. We hear this is a great place to see a large variety of birds, particularly during migration seasons. Visit the park's birdblind on the Frio Canyon Trail just a short walk from the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center also has a list of birds commonly found in the park.

Wildlife Viewing: During prime seasons like summer, spring break and warm weekends, Garner State Park can be incredibly busy. To improve your chances of seeing wildlife, try to visit during the week from October until spring break. We didn't see much wildlife activity during the weekend of our stay in late September / early October, but once the crowds thinned out, we saw bunnies, squirrels, deer and wild turkeys.

Fishing: Bank fishing is available on the Frio River. If you forget some of your equipment, you can pick up what you need at the park store. No fishing license is required to fish in the river within the boundaries of the state park.

Swimming: "Frio" means cold, and while the river is definitely colder some times of the year than others, it is springfed so the temperatures stay fairly constant. Taking a dip in the river can be a refreshing way to cool off on a warm day. We suggest bringing water shoes with good traction. The rocks and cypress roots can be slippery!

We Made It to the Top of Old Baldy!

We Made It to the Top of Old Baldy!

Old Baldy Summit Sign

Summit Marker on Top of Old Baldy

Geocaching: At the time of our visit, there were 10 geocaches hidden throughout Garner State Park including one official park cache.

Dancing: This is one of the reasons that Garner State Park holds a special place in so many hearts. This park is famous for its dances! Back in the days of park construction, it was common for the Civilian Conservation Corps to host dances and invite the local community to mingle. That tradition has continued here at Garner with nightly dances during the summer and spring break, and weekly dances on some holiday weekends. The dance is held, appropriately, on the dance floor behind the CCC-built Park Pavilion which overlooks the Frio River. Be sure to arrive at the park early, dance nights are extremely popular and the park closes to additional visitors when it reaches capacity.

Mini Golf: An unusual amenity to find in a state park, you'll find Garner's 18 Hole Mini Golf Course in Old Garner right next to the CCC Park Pavilion. The course is well-maintained by Brett, the park's concessionaire and is shaded by beautiful trees. During busier days, you can rent putters and golf balls at the Candy Shop located at the Mini Golf Course. On quieter days, rentals are available in the Gift Shop inside the Park Pavilion.

Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave

Looking Out From Inside Crystal Cave

Looking Out From Inside Crystal Cave

Other Amenities at Garner State Park:

Stores: You don't have to worry if you forgot anything for your trip! Garner State Park has 3 stores located within its boundaries. The Visitor Center offers souvenirs and books about the local area, birding and wildlife. The Gift Shop in the Park Pavilion offers a variety of souvenirs, and the Park Store near the Pecan Grove Camping Area sells everything from food, to charcoal, ice, swim gear and camping supplies.

Nature Center: The Visitor Center next to the Shady Meadows Camping Area also houses a small nature center. This building used to be the park headquarters before the current entrance was built.

Butterfly Garden: Right behind the Visitor Center you will find a butterfly garden which is maintained by the Friends of Garner State Park. You can wander its paths or sit and watch.

Playground: Located between the Shady Meadows Camping Area and the Visitor Center, the park's playground gives kiddos an area to run around and blow off some steam.

The Garner Grill

The Garner Grill

A Small Section of the Park Store

A Small Section of the Park Store

Garner Grill: If you want a break from cooking, wander over to the CCC Park Pavilion and visit the 1974 Airsteam International which now serves as home to the Garner Grill. The grill is open daily during the summer and on weekends in April, May, September, October and November. It is closed December through February. We love their slogan, "Where fat free can take a hike!". You can view their menu and get more information about some of the amenities at the park by visiting GarnerStatePark.com.

Ice Cream Parlor: We love that Garner State Park actually uses it's CCC Pavilion today. One of the businesses housed within the Pavilion is the park's ice cream shop. The shop is open daily during the summer and on weekends in the off-season.

Candy Shop: Besides being the place to rent your mini golf gear, the park's candy store offers a variety of unique candies and sweet drinks, as well as some old favorites. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to check this place out.

Sand Volleyball: Garner State Park has two sand volleyball courts! One is located in Old Garner between the Oakmont and Pecan Grove Camping Areas, and the other is located at the entrance to the Rio Frio Camping Area in New Garner.

Basketball: Right next to the sand volleyball court in Old Garner, you will also find the park's basketball court.

Park Details:

Contact Garner State Park:

Park Address: 234 RR 1050, Concan TX 78838

Park Phone: 806.488.2227

Reservations Phone: 512.389.8900

Reserve a Campsite at Garner State Park Online

Visit Garner State Park's Website

Connect with Garner State Park on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Total RV-Only Sites: 12

Total Tent/RV Sites: 335

Sites that Accomodate up to 20 foot RV: 347

Sites that Accomodate up to 30 foot RV: 211

Sites that Accomodate up to 50 foot RV: 172

Sites that Accomodate over 50 foot RV: 12

Total Screened Shelter Sites: 37

Total Cabin Sites: 17

Also Available: Group Camping with Dining Hall and Bunkhouses

Shady Meadows Campsite

Shady Meadows Campsite

Rio Frio Campsite

Rio Frio Campsite

Camping at Garner State Park:

Oakmont Camping Area

Section: Old Garner

Total Campsites: 39

30 Amp Electricity

Water and Electric Hookups

Back-In Sites

Shady Meadows Camping Area

Section: New Garner

Total Campsites: 28

30 Amp Electricity

Water and Electric Hookups

Back-In Sites

Shady Meadows "Vendor Row"

Section: New Garner

Total Campsites: 12

30/50 Amp Electricity

Full Hookups

Pull-Through Sites

Pecan Grove Camping Area

Section: Old Garner

Total Campsites: 49

Water Only Hookups

Back-In Sites

Rio Frio Camping Area

Section: New Garner

Total Campsites: 113

30/50 Amp Electric and Water: 73

Water Only Hookups: 40

Back-In Sites

River Crossing Camping Area

Section: New Garner

Total Campsites: 10

30 Amp Electricity

Water and Electric Hookups

Back-In Sites

Live Oak Camping Area

Section: New Garner

Total Campsites: 65

30 Amp Electricity

Water and Electric Hookups

Back-In Sites

Persimmon Hill Camping Area

Section: New Garner

Total Campsites: 35

Water Only Hookups

Back-In Sites

There is a lot of variety to choose from at the campsites at Garner State Park. Some sites are long, some short, some wide, some narrow. From what we could tell, it looks like many of the sites in Rio Frio, Live Oak and Persimmon Hill tend to be a bit more spaced out. Those sections also have fewer trees (particulary Rio Frio) and are further away from the amenities of Old Garner. According to the Texas State Parks reservation system, you need to have an RV 30 feet or shorter to camp in Old Garner. Pop-Up Campers and RVs under 20 feet long have the same options as tent campers (so maximum choices among campsites). However, there are sites in New Garner that can accomodate any size rig. There are 4 dump stations within Garner State Park. They are located in the Oakmont Camping Area, near the Visitor Center across from Shady Meadows, on the main park road near River Crossing and just outside the Live Oak Camping Loop. Every Camping Area has its own restroom with showers. Each site has a picnic table, firepit/grill and lantern hook. Tents are allowed in all sections except Shady Meadows Vendor Row.

Live Oak Campsite

Live Oak Campsite

Persimmon Hill Campsite

Persimmon Hill Campsite

Group Camping at Garner State Park:

Cypress Springs Group Camp

Maximum People Allowed: 40

Bunkhouses: 5

The group camping area at Garner is actually a private dining hall and five bunkhouses. It is located on the other side of the Frio River from the rest of the park. No RVs, tents or pets are allowed in this area. The bunkhouses are equipped with air conditioning and heating, and each house 4 sets of bunkbeds. The area also includes a restroom with showers.

Cabins at Garner State Park:

Cabins

Section: Old Garner

Total Cabins: 17

CCC-Built? Yes! (14 of the 17)

Cabins with Fireplace: 13

Includes Toilet and Shower

Park at the Cabin

Each cabin includes running water, electricity, air conditioning and heating. No tents or RVs are allowed. Each cabin is equipped to sleep 4 people with two double beds, but the park will allow up to 6 people to stay in a cabin. The kitchens include a microwave, refrigerator, sink and stove. No utensils, dishes or linens are supplied. A firepit/grill and picnic table are outside.

Garner State Park Cabin

Garner State Park Cabin

Shelter in Old Garner

Shelter in Old Garner

Screened Shelters at Garner State Park:

Premium Screened Shelters

Section: Old Garner

Total Shelters: 21

CCC-Built? No

Park at the Shelter

Screened Shelters

Section: New Garner

Total Shelters: 16

CCC-Built? No

Park at the Shelter

Every shelter includes electricity with a light and outlet on the inside as well as a picnic table. A water spigot and firepit/grill are on the outside. No RVs are allowed. The only difference between the premium and standard shelters is location. The premium shelters are located in the Pecan Grove Camping Area and the standard shelters are in the River Crossing Camping Area. Restrooms with showers are available in each loop.

Visiting Garner State Park For a Day:

Day Use Areas

Picnic Areas and Day Use parking are located primarily along the Frio River in Old Garner. Additional parking is available near the CCC Pavilion and Mini Golf Course, as well as next to the Visitor Center. If you plan to visit for the day during the summer, spring break, or on a holiday weekend, we suggest arriving as early as possible. Garner State Park is incredibly popular and the park will close to new visitors when it reaches capacity.

Garner State Park Information:

Year Opened: 1941

Discount Passes Accepted: Texas State Parks Pass

CCC Park? Yes! Visit the Park Pavilion and Old Entrance Trail

Park Store? Yes! Next to Pecan Grove Camping Area in Old Garner

Gift Shop? Yes! In the Park Pavilion in Old Garner and Visitor Center in New Garner

Pet Friendly? Yes! All pets must be on leash. Pets are not allowed inside buildings.

Lodging Options at Garner State Park: RV Camping, Tent Camping, Group Camp, Cabins, Screened Shelters

Garner State Park Reviews: Campendium, RV Park Reviews, RV Parky, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews

Amenities: CCC structures, birding, wildlife viewing, geocaching, hiking, biking, nature trails, mini golf, Garner Grill, nature center, playground, tube rentals, boat and paddleboard rentals, fishing, store, ice cream parlor, candy shop, basketball court, sand volleyball, birdblind

Operated By: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Region: Texas Hill Country

Nearest Towns: Concan TX (9 miles), Leakey TX (10 miles), Utopia TX (15 miles), Vanderpool (25 miles), Uvalde (32 miles), Sabinal (36 miles)

View Garner State Park Map

Garner State Park Trails Map

Weather at Garner State Park

Tags: Texas State Parks, Texas Hill Country, camping near Concan

Approx. Distance to Garner State Park:

San Antonio: 100 miles

Austin: 165 miles

Corpus Christi: 215 miles

Waco: 265 miles

Houston: 285 miles

Fort Worth: 310 miles

Dallas: 340 miles

Lubbock: 345 miles

Amarillo: 465 miles

El Paso: 510 miles

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Safe Travels and Happy Camping!

Disclaimer: These details are accurate to to the best of our knowledge. We try our best to provide accurate information, but we are human and sometimes details change. Please check with the park directly to confirm current information.