Garner State Park has been on my bucket list since moving to San Antonio. We finally went camping there with our kids over Spring Break and it did not disappoint! With beautiful scenery, tons of activities, and a lodging option for every kind of camper (or non-camper), Garner is the perfect place to spend time outdoors with your family.
Kid-Friendly Hiking in Garner State Park
My kids are six and four-years-old. They enjoy hiking for short periods of time and need help on rocky or steep terrain. If you also have littles who are not seasoned hikers yet, do not fear. Garner State Park offers wonderful kid-friendly hikes that all will enjoy. There are trails along the Frio River where you can “hike” while also enjoying the beautiful water. We threw rocks, saw a snake, and watched people rope swing into the river (I’m surprised my kids weren’t begging to do this themselves).
The most famous hike at Garner is Old Baldy. The trail is only half a mile (one way) but is very steep. We opted out of Old Baldy on this trip but if your kiddos are a little older, the spectacular views are worth the climb! Alternatively we tried the White Rock Cave trail which is only .3 miles one way and started at the same trailhead as Old Baldy. My kids were intrigued by the idea of a cave, which got us through areas that were steeper than we expected. We had to squeeze those little hands pretty tightly, but we made it. They loved the cave, and there were a few nice views on this trail too. If you want something with easy terrain, try the Frio Canyon Trail, Nature Hike, or Madrone Walkway (this one is paved but right by the road in some parts). All hiking trails, distances, and terrain descriptions can be found on this map.
Things to Do with Kids at Garner State Park
If a cave doesn’t motivate your kids, maybe a playground will! We always promised playground time after hiking and it worked out great (we enjoyed the bench while they enjoyed the slides). Garner also has a mini golf course next to its restaurant, Garner Grill, and the Candy Shop. If it’s warm enough you can swim in the river. Many swim in the main area near the Pecan Campground, but you can find more secluded spots on the Blinn River Trail. If the water temps are a tad chilly for your taste (it’s called the Frio River for a reason), you can rent a paddle boat, canoe, or kayak instead. On summer evenings, an old school jukebox dance is held at the concession building. Of course, this activity depends on current COVID safety protocols. There’s also a grocery store in case you forgot any last minute items or run out of ice. I loved how there were so many different activities available; I never worried about being bored during our visit!
Camping at Garner State Park
There are many different ways to camp at Garner—RV campsites, tent campsites, screened shelters, and cabins. Here’s a map showing the many camping areas available. If you want to be near the boat rental, mini golf, restaurant, and grocery store, the Pecan Grove or Oakmont Camping Areas would be best. These campgrounds have many sites so you’ll have lots of neighbors, but there are great views in this convenient spot. Shady Meadows has close proximity to the playground and Visitor Center. River Crossing, Rio Frio, and Live Oak camping areas are not as big as Pecan Grove/Oakmont but still offer electric campsites.
We stayed in the Persimmon Hill camping area and really enjoyed it. It is one of the smaller camping areas and has water-only campsites. Since it wasn’t near any main attractions, there were rarely cars driving around. Kids were safely riding bikes on the road. It was a short walk to the bathroom and we didn’t feel like we were too close to our neighbors. With our huge tent, minivan, camp chairs, and camp toys, we had room to spare. I was also delighted to learn that there was no fire ban and we were able to have a campfire! Camping in South Texas sometimes means you’re camping sans fire. Always check the park website to see the latest park advisories including fire bans.
With so much to do, it’s no surprise that day passes and camping reservations need to be made well in advance. You can make reservations here to secure your spot!