Lake Bastrop North Shore Park

The new tent cabin at Lake Bastrop North Shore Park. Photo courtesy LCRA Parks

Five minutes after arrival at Lake Bastrop North Shore Park, my friend and I are relaxing around the firepit as flames crackle and the sky darkens into a canopy of stars. We’ve come to this park outside of Bastrop for a relaxing dose of the outdoors—and a break from the chores that can make camping feel too much like work.

Thanks to a new collection of safari-style tents, this Lower Colorado River Authority park offers hassle-free camping with no need to pitch a tent, inflate an air mattress, or set up a stove. It’s just the end-of-summer getaway I need in these stressful times.

We stay in the tent cabin, which has a private restroom inside and, outside, a hot tub, fire pit, dining table, and outdoor kitchen with a sink, grill, propane stover, and cooler. Scattered in a wide circle among the trees nearby are seven tents, each furnished with beds, porches, outdoor sinks and coolers, grills, and fire pits. These share a bath house with restrooms and showers. All are operated by GLAT, a company whose name is a portmanteau of glamorous camping—aka glamping—and atmosphere. The new tents add to the park lodging options that include air-conditioned Airstreams, campsites with water and electricity, and water-only campsites.

Lake Bastrop

Kayaking on Lake Bastrop. Photo courtesy LCRA Parks

The next morning, we start our day with a hike on the North South Trailway, a 4.5-mile route between this park and Lake Bastrop South Shore Park. That property sports other trails ranging from about a mile-and-a-half to a half-mile. All are relatively flat and mostly shady among the pines and hardwoods—which were unscathed in the infamous Lost Pines fires—with a surface of sand mixed with some rocky areas.

Back at North Shore, we pick up a couple of rental kayaks, paddle them to the dock near our cabin, and take a break for lunch. Tuesday through Saturday, Base Camp Deli delivers sandwiches and other campsite goodies, including the makings for s’mores, directly to your tent flap or RV door.

After lunch, we hop in the kayaks and paddle along the shore, gliding between walls of cattails with dragonflies perched on their ends like tiny flowers. Herons startle from the shoreline, squawking in protest as they flap into the trees. Exploring another inlet, we pass under stately pines standing on the shore and over fallen ones lying ghostly white beneath the water. The 900-acre lake, an LCRA cooling reservoir on Spicer Creek, remains bathtub warm no matter the season, making water sports possible here nearly year-round.

One our second evening, we soak under the stars in the hot tub, listening to a chorus of frogs in the lake, before turning in on real beds in air-conditioned comfort.

North Shore features a boat ramp, fishing pier (largemouth bass are a popular quarry), picnic areas, and a grassy swim beach. South Shore offers rustic cabins (beds, table and chairs, electricity, AC/heat), camping and RV sites, boat ramp, fishing pier, swimming area, watercraft rentals, mini-golf course, horseshoes and washers, and pedal cars for rent.

The parks are close to downtown Bastrop’s restaurants, breweries and shops, and the 6-mile El Camino Real Paddling Trail on the Colorado River (rentals and shuttle service available).

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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