Determined to pack as much adventure into our lives as possible, my husband and I bought a Ford Transit van last year and outfitted it for camping.￼
We figured our new rig, which we dubbed Vincent VanGo, would make it easy to ramble from the beach to the mountains, exploring parks and public lands along the way. Our van has a bed, cabinets, and a “kitchen” with counter space, a portable stove, and a sink attached to a big jug of water. We have no toilet or shower on board (unless you count the bucket from Home Depot), but we’ve got everything we need.￼
After camping our way back home from Colorado Springs, where we picked up our vehicle, we’ve made a host of forays around the state.￼
Related: Central Texas Camping Guide
Are you looking for a good place to park your adventure rig this spring? Check out these six places where weI’ve parked Vincent VanGo.
Hill Country State Natural Area, 10600 Bandera Creek Road, Bandera; 830-792-1112. Entry $6 adults; free 12 and under. Camping starts at $10. For more information go to https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country. I parked my rig in the Comanche Bluff area of this off-the-radar state park near Bandera. (Check with park officials to make sure you’ve got an appropriate spot for a campervan.) You’ll find nearby vault toilets, and a nice shady alcove with a picnic table and grill. Walk a little farther and you’ll see West Verde Creek, which zigzags through this section of the park. The day I arrived, I hiked the Wilderness and Ice Cream Hill trails, which took me over rugged, hilly terrain and delivered gorgeous views of the Hill Country. The next morning, I took a thermos of hot tea with me when I trotted up the West Peak Overlook trail. Stay alert while you hike ––– the park is popular with equestrians. If you encounter horses, step off the trail and wait for them to pass.
Indianola Beach Park, Texas Highway 316, Indianola. Calhoun County operates one of the last free public beaches in Texas, and it’s the perfect place to park a campervan. You’ll find tidy but worn-out restroom facilities, and plenty of hard packed sand to park your rig on a 1.5-mile stretch of waterfront. The park ––– the northern stretch is dubbed Magnolia Beach and the southern stretch is dubbed Indianola Beach ––– fronts Matagorda Bay. Be sure to check out the boardwalk on the inland side of the road. At sunrise, I walked over and had a front row seat to the daily bird show, featuring roseate spoonbills, pelicans, hawks, herons and egrets. If you don’t feel like cooking, head a mile down the road to the Indianola Fishing Marina, which serves burgers, fried shrimp and other beach shack fare. Expect the sound of waves to lull you to sleep.
Martin Dies Jr. State Park, 634 Park Road 48 South, Jasper; 409-384-5231. Entry $4 adults; free ages 12 and younger. Camping starts at $14 per night. For more information go to https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/martin-dies-jr.
For an escape to the Pineywoods of East Texas, head to one of my favorites, Martin Dies Jr. State Park sitting at the edge of Steinhagen Reservoir, at the junction of the Angelina and Neches Rivers. The place always seems to be bathed in a slightly eerie (and photogenic) layer of fog, and it offers good hiking, paddling, and bird watching opportunities. The park is divided into two main sections, but I prefer the Hen House Ridge Unit because campsites there are more nestled into the forest than they are in the Walnut Ridge Unit across Highway 190. Bring your hiking boots to explore the Walnut Slough Day Use Area, where you might spot an armadillo trundling past, a shy alligator hidden in the water, deer, or some impressively large spiders. The park rents canoes and kayaks, too, and offers easy access to several well-marked paddling trails.
Matagorda Bay Nature Park, 6430 FM 2031, Matagorda; 979-863-2603. Entry $5 adults; $2 seniors; free 12 and younger. Camping starts at $40 per night. For more information go to https://www.lcra.org/parks/matagorda-bay-nature-park/.
This park at the mouth of the Colorado River is the last in a string of more than 40 parks operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority between San Saba and the Gulf Coast. Two paved loops along the riverfront provide convenient, if not exactly scenic, places to park your RV. We zipped into one that backed up against a warehouse and the highway. The beach access, though, makes up for the lack of ambiance. You can walk along the river, or skip down to the adjacent Jetty Park, operated by the county. A wooden walkway leads over a marshy section of land to the beach, then extends out over the water. Besides strolling the beach, you can fish, kayak, watch birds, play mini golf or rent a kayak. The park offers organized activities including hikes and archery lessons for a small fee.
Related: Adventures Await: Roaming the Road in a Campervan
Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area, 2820 County Road 414, Spicewood; 512-473-3366. Entry $5 adults; $2 seniors; free 12 and younger. Camping starts at $25 per night. For more information go to https://www.lcra.org/parks/muleshoe-bend/.
Our first overnight trip in Vincent VanGo, after returning from Colorado, was at Muleshoe Bend, where we parked under a grove of trees with a sweeping view of Lake Travis. It rained overnight, and we savored the tap-tap of raindrops on the roof the next morning, appreciating the fact that we were frying bacon and eggs in the warm, dry confines of our camper instead of wallowing in mud. The park is known for its bluebonnet display each spring, so April is an ideal time to visit. The park also offers monthly guided night hikes (you’ll get a blacklight so you can see scorpions, spiders and racoons along the way) and recently purchased a fleet of electric fat bikes, perfect for exploring nearly 10 miles of single-track trails.
Seminole Canyon State Park, Comstock, Texas; 432-292-4464. Entry $4 adults; free ages 12 and younger. Camping starts at $10 per night. For more information go to https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/seminole-canyon.
If you prefer the quiet of the desert over the hum of RV generators, park your campervan in the Roadrunner Flat Primitive Camping Area. You’ll have to walk a quarter of a mile up a hill to get to the developed restrooms in the Desert Vista Camping Area, but it’s well worth the solitude. Down in the flats, you have easy access to the Canyon Rim Trail, and every campsite looks out over the vast Chihuahuan Desert. This is the desert, so don’t expect a cozy curtain of trees around your perch, but do expect big West Texas skies and stark desert beauty. During the day, don’t miss the guided tours into the canyon to see ancient rock art at the Fate Bell Shelter.