In 2014, my wife and I sold our house and spent two years on the road, living in our Airstream trailer with a pair of hound dogs, five bicycles, two inflatable paddle boards, and a plethora of mobile workout gear. We grew accustomed to friends and family making “Cousin Eddie” jokes—references to the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “That there’s an RV.”
Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole country is embracing the “Cousin Eddie” lifestyle. According to the RV Industry Association website, RV shipments to dealerships are up 4.5% from last year, and the forecast for 2021 is an increase of 19.5%.
Once you’ve got that recreational vehicle and a desire to roam, you may be wondering where you should go. Here are 11 RV parks and campgrounds that showcase Texas’ diverse outdoor offerings, and some tips to make your experience painless.
Hords Creek Lake is an Army Corp of Engineers campground that features spacious sites, large oak trees, and a top culinary experience a mere four miles down the road. Rancho Loma is a destination dining experience with a set menu that will satiate your palette and your soul, and Coleman has become a mecca for foodies with Black Cur Steakhouse, Rancho Pizzeria, and Rancho Loma Vineyards.
Quick Tip: Park entrance gate is closed and locked at 10 p.m., so make an early dinner reservation.
Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi
Camping on Padre Island National Seashore is an experience every Texan should have. You will be lulled to sleep by the ambient sound of waves crashing onto the sand as the outer traces of the high tides gently kiss the tires of your rig. For a paltry $25 seven-day pass and free camping permit, you get an ocean-front property in Texas.
Quick Tip: You’ll need a 4×4, and be sure to read the website’s “driving down island” info.
The Maverick Ranch RV Park at the Lajitas Resort is the best place to launch your Big Bend adventure. This park was built to be an exclusive Class A motorhome-only resort, but that idea fell by the wayside, and the current owners welcome all rigs. The park offers epic mountain biking in nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park, as well as a great pool.
Quick Tip: Plan early and make reservations. This park stays full in the winter.
Shadowed by massive pecan trees and towering condos, the Pecan Grove RV Park on Barton Springs Road is a throwback to “Ye Olde” Austin. It’s quirky, gritty, and chock full of characters. Per the quirk, reservations are a challenge as the phone is only sporadically answered.
Quick Tip: This is a cash-only park.
Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque:
Where the buffalo roam the Panhandle.
Fredericksburg RV Park, Fredericksburg:
One word: wine.
The Vineyards Campground and Cabins, Grapevine:
In winter, the site becomes a full-on Christmas extravaganza.
Ratcliff Lake Campground, Ratcliff:
Located within Davy Crockett National Forest.
Jetstream RV Resort at NASA, Webster:
A 15-minute drive to Johnson Space Center.
Most of these sites and campgrounds stay full. Plan in advance, check the websites for COVID-19 restrictions, and always call before you haul.
Will Rogers Memorial Center, Fort Worth
Home of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth has full RV hookups available year-round (with exception to a few weekends). It’s smack dab in the cultural district and a stone’s throw from the Trinity Trail, facilitating bicycle access to the best of Cowtown.
Quick Tip: Call ahead for restrictive events. Once you pull in to the RV lot, call 817-991-8497. It’ll take several attempts to get connected to the RV attendant.
The very first state park in Texas was Mother Neff. Located in Central Texas outside Temple, Mother Neff has the best RV sites (full hookups with concrete pads) in the system. It’s 45 minutes from the Magnolia Market in Waco and within earshot of SpaceX, where evening rocket engine tests are routine.
Quick Tip: Google maps will take you to the old entrance that was destroyed by past floods from the Leon River. Follow the website’s driving directions.