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Car Camping in Texas (6 Free Spots)

6 Dispersed Camping Spots in Texas (Free)

Dispersed CampingReservation?Cost
Magnolia Beach City ParkNoFree
Padre IslandNoFree
Fort Lancaster Scenic Overlook Overnight ParkingNoFree
Neches Bluff OverlookNoFree
Elephant Mountain WMA CampgroundNoFree
Big Bend National Park Primitive SitesNoFree

1. Magnolia Beach City Park

Texas beach

Magnolia Beach is located in Port Lavaca, Texas, and is a 1.5-mile stretch of drivable beach. Camping is free here!

Just be sure to arrive early for a good spot. This beach spot is known to get busy during peak season.

The beach itself is only a 20-minute drive to the center of Port Lavaca where they have grocery stores.

Amenities: Restrooms and Showers available for day use, Picnic Tables, Barbecue Grills.

Check the tides before camping here!

Campers may stay at the national seashore for up to 14 days but then must vacate their site and leave the national seashore for at least 14 days before returning.

2. Padre Island

Padre Island

While camping at Padre Island isn’t technically free, it only costs you a small fee to get into the actual park. The annual fee is only $45 and a weekly pass is $25.

There are a few campgrounds you can choose from that you can find here. These campgrounds offer up to 60 miles of beach!

Again, park entrance fees are required. To camp on North Beach, fill out a free camping permit in the kiosk at the entrance of the beach. Camping is not allowed on Malaquite Beach specifically. 

Campers may stay at the national seashore for up to 14 days but then must vacate their site and leave the national seashore for at least 14 days before returning.

Amenities: Beach/Water Access, Pets Allowed, Primitive Campsites, Tent Campsites, Toilet – Vault, Trash

3. Fort Lancaster Scenic Overlook Overnight Parking

Fort Lancaster Scenic Overlook offers easy parking, a beautiful view, lovely sunsets, and an overall quiet camping spot. Even the drive-up is beautiful. The overlook is located in West Texas.

There are no amenities here except for a few picnic tables.

5. Neches Bluff Overlook

East Texas

Neches Bluff Overlook is technically a trailhead inside of Davy Crockett National Forest and offers views of pine forests in the Neches River bottomlands with picnic and primitive camping facilities. Neches Bluff Overlook is located in East Texas.

There are restrooms and picnic tables at this site, but no portable water or firewood.

Typically, in all National Forests, you can go to any office where park rangers are located and ask for any dispersed sites that offer car camping.

6. Elephant Mountain WMA Campground

Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area near Alpine, Texas, offers primitive camping. This area, managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife, is located south of Alpine along Highway 118, a route that leads to Big Bend National Park.

The Elephant Mountain WMA is accessible throughout the year except during special hunts when the entire area is closed. It’s important to note that camping is only allowed in designated campsites, and registration is required upon arrival at the self-registration station.

The primitive campground offers 14 sites with gravel pads, available seasonally from December 12 to November 25. Facilities are basic, with amenities such as pit toilets, and it’s a great spot for tent camping.

7. Big Bend National Park Primitive Sites

my photo from big bend

Big Bend National Park offers over 50 free primitive campsites that all require permits. The most popular are available via up to 6 months in advance.

If you want to car camp here, I recommend making a reservation as early as you can in advance as they fill up fast.

Remember, like most primitive campsites, there are no amenities.

3 Campgrounds in Texas (My Favorites)

Pedernales Falls State ParkFirst-come, first-served$14/night
Bastrop State ParkFirst-come, first-served$14/night
Garner State ParkFirst-come, first-served$16/night

Check out the full list of Texas State Parks here. You can car camp at them all!

1. Pedernales Falls State Park

my photo from Pedernales Falls

Located an hour northwest of Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park is over 5,000 acres of rolling hills and is known for the Pedernales River that flows over layers of limestone.

The park offers sites with water and electricity, as well as primitive sites for a more rugged experience. The average cost of a campsite here is $14 per night.

My favorite and the most popular trail is the .5-mile Twin Falls Nature Trail which leads to the Pedernales River.

I’ve been going to Pedernales Falls for years now and it’s one of my favorite spots.

For more detailed information, you can visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Pedernales Falls State Park page

2. Bastrop State Park

my photo from Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park is located a short drive east of Austin, Texas. It spans over 5,900 acres and is part of the larger Lost Pines ecosystem, an isolated stand of loblolly pines in Central Texas.

The pine trees in this area are gorgeous. It’s always hard for me to believe I’m still in Texas when I car camp here.

Campsites also cost $16 per night.

There are a few different campsite options you can find here.

3. Garner State Park

Garner State Park is in the heart of the Texas Hill Country along the Frio River. This iconic state park, sprawling over 1,774 acres, offers visitors an escape into a world of clear-flowing rivers, towering cypress trees, and rugged limestone cliffs.

You can find campsite information here.

Car Camping Near Austin, Texas

Windy Point

I’ve lived in Austin for over 10 years and have only found one free place to car camp in Austin or in the surrounding areas.

If you are willing to spend a little bit of cash to camp, here are my favorite camping spots in the Austin area and the cost to stay overnight:

McKinney Falls State Park$20
Pedernales Falls State Park$20
Walnut Springs Primitive in GeorgetownFree
Windy Point$15
Inks Lake State Park$16

Does Texas Have BLM land?

There is only one area in all of Texas that has BLM land that allows camping. The area is called Cross Bar Special Recreation Management Area and is a few miles north of Amarillo.

Here’s a statement by the Bureau of Land Management regarding camping:

“Dispersed primitive camping is allowed throughout the property. Please pack out what you pack in and practice a good land ethic. The Cross Bar follows Potter County outdoor burning guidance. Most of the time, campfires are prohibited.”

How to Find Free Camping Near You

  • The Dyrt (my favorite)
  • iOverlander
  • Free Roam
  • Campendium

All the above are apps you can download on your phone. They all show free campsite options all over the states!

As for my favorite website options to find free camping sites, check out Free Campsites and Hipcamp.