The Ultimate Family Guide to Garner Texas State Park I Hill Country Homestead Texas
Garner State Park in the Texas Hill Country is an easy road trip for families with kids. The Frio River in Uvalde County is a quick drive west of Austin, Houston or San Antonio, and features some of the best Texas Hill Country towns south of Fredricksburg. The State Park is well known for its shimmering water, limestone river rock ledges and abundant bald cypress trees lining the banks of the water, but there is more to see and explore than what normally lures folks to this vacation destination. Family adventures await off the beaten path to the river and into the hills of Garner's expansive trail systems and hidden caves.
A quick glance at the online reservation schedule for Garner State Park will more than likely come up with a lot of zero's and no availability. With a little planning and a few insider tips, one can masterfully land a vacation weekend at this pristine park. The Texas State Parks and Wildlife website allows reservations to be made exactly 333 days in advance. The trick here is to have a date in mind 333 days in advance. Then get up early and beat the internet, making a reservation before anyone else gets to it. This early morning reservation making will need to take place first thing each day a reservation is desired. A deposit of half the price is required to hold the reservation and is Non-Refundable if not used. On the day of the reservation, be sure to arrive as early as possible. Check in 'starts at 2 PM' but the office starts handing out numbers long before that time. Gates open at 9 AM for day use and usually close again before noon at full capacity. At this time the attendants are calling numbers in batches of 5 or 10 for the overnight reservation check-in counter. We received our number around 11:30 AM and we were granted admission at about 2:30 PM. So even though check-in officially starts at 2 PM the early bird gets issued the number that will GET YOU IN at 2 PM. So be ready to tailgate at Garner State Park's entry gates! It was a sight to see with family's pitching pavilion tents, lawn chairs, and grills for lunch. Make sure to have plenty of food and water on hand and also, something to do. There is limited space in the air-conditioned lobby and this space is already taken up by groups of people whose numbers are close to being called. There are no chairs in the lobby, standing room only, full of people bursting with anticipation.
1. The Garner State Park Store I was really stunned to see how contemporary and upscale the Park Store was. You can buy the traditional State Park key chains, bird and insect guides and T-Shirts. Also available are local crafts and jewelry from artisans in the area. Name brand boutique items like Chacco and Sanuk shoes, which are two of my personal top favorites so I was on cloud nine! You can also find customized insulated cups, car stickers and river gear.
2. The Sugar Shack This is also the place to rent mini golf equipment so be prepared for a sugar overload if you go golfing! The walls are lined with every kind of sweet treat imaginable from old fashioned candy sticks to modern organic chocolate with sea salt and caramel. This was certainly one of our children's favorite place to visit. It's a nice way to grab a sweet snack when you are on your way to the putting green!
3. Mini Golf The course had a variety of obstacles from wagon wheels to tunnels to keep it interesting for little kids and the teenagers. It was nice to get out of our campsite for a little while each evening and play golf under the Texas Hill Country stars!
4. The Garner Grill This grill is inside a vintage Airstream making it cool if not cooler than the food truck popularity sweeping the nation. Tables and chairs are situated outdoors and some under a pavilion inviting patrons to stay and enjoy themselves and the atmosphere. When your hunger is satisfied you can stroll over to the photo booth or ice cream shop nearby for some more fun.
5. The Dance! There has been an evening dance at Garner State Park since 1941. Chairs are set up early each night for patrons and it takes place in front of the State Park Store. The dance is held nightly from Memorial Day to Labor day. The dance is scheduled to start at 6 PM although the majority of the crowd makes it by 8 PM and it ends at 11 PM. The dance is open to overnight guests and the Park reopens at 6 PM to allow outside guests to attend as well. This activity is a definite must when visiting Garner or even if you are in the area for the evening.
There are a few caves to explore in this State Park making it particularly interesting to hikers young and old. The atmosphere and coolness of the inside of the caves can be a welcome break if you are visiting during the summer. Spectacular views are available even inside the caves through rock cave windows giving a view of the outside world from the darkness and seclusion of the cave. A must see if you are hiking in Garner!
In Conclusion, Our Texas State Park's pass has taken us a lot of places this year but none as deep and wide and as beautiful as Garner State Park. The beauty of this State Park is not a well-kept secret. The deep blue, crystal clear pools, dramatic riverside cliffs, and the thick, lush vegetation make this a highly sought after Texas Hill Country vacation destination. While it may seem like an impossibility to land a reservation and get your family here, there are a few expert tips to gaining access and getting into this beloved and historical Texas State Park.