The Best Camping Near McKinney Falls State Park, Texas

The Best Camping Near McKinney Falls State Park, Texas

Breathtaking scenery, accessible trails, and exciting recreation opportunities characterize campgrounds near McKinney Falls State Park. Explore the limestone rocks and waterfalls before taking a refreshing dip in Orion Creek or Williamson Creek.

McKinney Falls State Park, Texas
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About Camping Near McKinney Falls State Park

Explore nine miles of trails, two creeks, bouldering opportunities, and picnic areas from campgrounds near McKinney Falls State Park. Right within Austin’s city limits, indulge in a McKinney Falls State Park camping trip complete with swimming, historic landmarks, hiking and more. Conveniently located and brimming with natural beauty, camping near McKinney Falls State Park makes it easy to reconnect with nature.

Top Campgrounds Near McKinney Falls State Park, Texas

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McKinney Falls State Park Camping FAQs

Located just outside Austin, TX, McKinney Falls State Park is one of the best places to go camping near an American metropolitan area. This state park is only a 15-minute drive from downtown Austin but feels a world away with its serene waterfalls, idyllic swimming holes, and endless acreage.

Whether you want to stroll through the concrete jungle or discover a secluded swimming spot, McKinney Falls State Park is the perfect place for your next outdoor adventure. Here are some of your questions answered about camping in McKinney Falls State Park.

What’s the best time of year to go camping in McKinney Falls State Park?

Scorching summers and mild winters in McKinney Falls State Park mean that some months are better than others for planning a camping trip. Early spring and late fall are the best times to go camping in McKinney Falls State Park. March and April see lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s with only 2 to 3 inches of rain.

While temperatures are relatively mild in May, this month also usually sees the highest amount of rain all year. October and November are also great months for camping near McKinney Falls State Park as temperatures are similar to spring, although October sees a fair amount of rain.

What should I pack for camping near McKinney Falls State Park?

Camping near McKinney Falls State Park means you’re about to experience everything nature has to offer, with the metropolitan city of Austin right at your doorstep. From waterfalls to tranquil fishing spots, McKinney Falls State Park is a great place to have the best of both worlds. Here are some things to pack for camping near McKinney Falls State Park.

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Bug spray
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun shirt
  • Hat
  • Headlamps or flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Map
  • Waterproof matches
  • Multi-tool
  • Biodegradable wet wipes
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Binoculars

Summer Sun

The UV Index and intense summer sun can reach epic proportions in Austin, especially from May to September. Don’t leave home without packing SPF, sunhats, sunglasses, and plenty of water. Sun shirts are also a perfect, breathable clothing option for days when you’ll be exposed to the rays.

Fire Safety

McKinney Falls State Park does allow campfires as long as they’re built within designated areas. Backcountry campfires are not allowed. Follow signage for safe fires, sometimes posted near ranger stations or at the park entrance to see what the fire risk is for the time you’ll be camping in Mckinney Falls State Park.

What are the top outdoor activities near McKinney Falls State Park?

McKinney Falls State Park is perfect for spending a few days in the peace and serenity of nature. With cool, crystalline natural pools to swim in, historic homesteads to see, and prime fishing, here are the top outdoor activities in McKinney Falls State Park.


With several trails available, including one that leads to a historic homestead, you could spend days hiking in McKinney Falls State Park. Take the 3.5 mile Homestead Trail to investigate the abandoned grist mill and, of course, the McKinney Homestead. Mount Bonnell, even closer to downtown Austin, is a popular day hike and offers stunning views over the Colorado River.


Try your hand at mountain biking or hit the trails if you’re an avid cyclist. There are 744 acres just waiting to be explored on two wheels.


There are two designated fishing areas in McKinney Falls State Park, Onion Creek and Williamson Creek, and no fishing licenses are required within the confines of the park itself. Various species of bass, catfish, crappie, and sunfish are found in the creeks and streams. Be sure to follow harvesting regulations and happy fishing!


Upper Falls in McKinney Falls State Park is one of the premier swimming areas in the hot summer sun. For the record, the Lower Falls swimming hole is also an excellent place to cool off.

Paddle Boarding

Austin’s waterways make the city a picture-perfect paddle-boarding destination. Hit up Lady Bird Lake, the Colorado River, or the Barton River to stand-up paddleboard (SUP), an increasingly popular outdoor activity.

What major sights should I see near McKinney Falls State Park?

McKinney Falls State Park is located within the metropolitan area of Austin, TX, making it the perfect place for a camping trip if you want to stay close to all of the sights of Bat City. Learning about Texas state history and taking a dip at the public swimming pool are just a few of the highlights. Here are the major sights to see near McKinney Falls State Park.

Zilker Metropolitan Park

With sprawling fields fringed by Austin’s skyline, the Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Gardens, and the Zilker train, this is possibly the best place in downtown Austin for spending time in the outdoors. Several festivals are held here throughout the year including Austin City Limits.

State Capitol Building

Austin is the capital of the Lone Star State. The State Capitol Building is a fantastic place to learn about Texas history and visit a historic landmark in one fell swoop.

Barton Springs Pool

Although the pool itself is man-made, the water that fills it comes from nearby natural springs. The water temperature remains warm year-round, making it a great place to dive in, even in the winter months. The pools aren’t just dazzlingly pretty, they’re also historic and everyone from the Tonkawa people to pioneers knew the springs were important.

Blanton Museum of Art

Over 21,000 pieces of art are housed in the Blanton Museum of Art, spanning thousands of years of creation from Ancient Greece to modern day. Some of the museum’s most famous artists include Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso.

Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake, named for President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, is an idyllic ode to nature at the center of downtown Austin. This is one of the best places in Austin for kayaking and paddle boarding.

Are there any national parks or state parks near McKinney Falls State Park?

Although McKinney Falls State Park has its own natural wonders and scenic enclaves, most of the park can be seen in a few days. If you want to venture a bit further afield, here are the best national and state parks near McKinney Falls State Park.

Bastrop State Park

(37 minutes)

It’s thought that Bastrop, TX, might be the oldest city in the Lone Star State, founded in 1832. Bastrop State Park hosts several unique features, including the Lost Pines, a singular grove of loblolly pines, and the El Camino Real, an ancient road of which portions can still be seen.

Pedernales Falls State Park

(50 minutes)

The Pedernales River is the star of the show in Pedernales Falls State Park. Rushing over the limestone rock face of Pedernales Falls, this river and park might be the best place in all of Central Texas to seek out a natural pool. Be cautious of flash floods if the weather turns sour.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

(1 hour, 35 minutes)

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area centers around three mystical and ancient rock domes, Turkey Peak, Little Dome, and Enchanted Rock. All of these rock formations are considered exfoliation domes and vernal pools have formed on their surfaces, which are home to an enchanting microcosm of creatures. Enchanted Rock just happens to be a dark sky park. Pitch your tent among the primordial boulders and gaze up into the Milky Way.

Big Thicket National Preserve

(3 hours, 50 minutes)

Bayous and streams entangle their way through the wilderness of Big Thicket National Preserve. Navigate through the thick cypress slough and uncover a world of carnivorous plants, whimsical fungi, and delicate wildflowers.

Where are the best places to eat near McKinney Falls State Park?

McKinney Falls State Park’s location is virtually in Austin, TX itself, meaning foodies are in luck. Breakfast tacos, Texas BBQ, and a gathering of food trucks all make a name for themselves on this small list of the best places to eat while camping near McKinney Falls State Park. Who says you can’t eat well on a camping trip?

Dovetail Pizza

Slow fermented dough is at the heart of Dovetail Pizza. Designed to be a gathering place for all, this joint offers favorites like the White Pie and baked ricotta.

Odd Duck

Serving ingredients from Austin-based farms only, the Odd Duck was born out of a rustic, Fleetwood Mallard trailer. Today they focus on contemporary American eats like blackened redfish, cheddar cornbread, and a wagyu burger in a more modern setting.

Paco’s Tacos

Breakfast tacos were practically invented in Austin, and no one does it better than Paco’s Tacos. Housed in a funky shack, Paco’s Tacos is especially known for their homemade salsas and build-your-own breakfast tacos. They also serve other Mexican breakfast staples like migas and chilaquiles.

Franklin BBQ

Texas BBQ has a cult following and Franklin BBQ might be its pinnacle, drawing in famous celebs like Barack Obama and the almighty Anthony Bourdain. Their James Beard Award is just the cherry on top. The brisket is the piece de resistance, but their potato salad is also legendary.

The Picnic Barton Springs

Located only a stone’s throw from the beautiful Barton Springs, The Picnic is the best place to refuel after a long day of swimming in the hot, Texas sun. The Picnic is a food truck park that regularly hosts Thai, Lebanese, and New Orleans cuisine, along with others.

What are some camping mistakes to avoid when camping near McKinney Falls State Park?

Mistakes are easy to make in an unfamiliar environment. To nip the possibility in the bud, check out this list before your trip in the great outdoors near McKinney Falls State Park.

Leaving a Trace

Leave No Trace is standard practice in the wilderness around Austin, TX and any natural environment around the United States. Pack out trash, even if it’s biodegradable, and especially toilet paper!

Forgetting Bug Protection

Austin is buggy and no stranger to mosquitoes and ticks, both of which can spread disease. A few measures to help prevent bites are bug spray, treating clothing and tents with permethrin before your trip, and wearing long sleeves and pants.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Austin’s summers really heat up and temperatures can creep well past 90°. Bring plenty of water (drinking a half-liter an hour is standard), as well as electrolyte replacement like Gatorade powder or salt sticks. Avoid hiking in the heat of the day during July and August to ensure you’re not at risk for heat stroke.

Collecting Firewood

From millipedes to chipmunks, collecting downed wood as fire kindling is a form of habitat destruction. Buy your wood from local vendors near or within the park itself.

Not Paying Attention to Animals

Central Texas is home to several species of rattlesnake. Be cautious when hiking and listen for their warning rattle. Some of the preserves and national parks near Austin are also home to Louisiana black bears. Unlike grizzly bears, you should always fight back if a black bear attacks and keep your food and toiletries stored in a bear-proof canister.

What wild animals might I encounter while camping in McKinney Falls State Park?

Many animals call the wilderness near Austin, TX home. Just some of the species you might encounter on a camping trip in McKinney Falls State Park include banded armadillos, squirrels, white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, and the famous Austin bats. Bird species like the painted bunting, monk parakeets, great blue herons, and cedar waxwings are only a few of the hundreds of bird species found near McKinney Falls State Park. As mentioned previously, native fish like bass and catfish are right at home in their natural habitat in the parks rivers and streams.

One particularly interesting critter near McKinney Falls State Park is the Barton Springs salamander, an endangered species. Never growing larger than 2.5 inches, you’ll have to search hard to find these little fellas!

What kind of camping is available in McKinney Falls State Park?

Camping in McKinney Falls State Park is straightforward. There are 81 campsites, all of which have electric hookups and water. These camping areas are grouped into five loops, the Big Oak, Little Oak, Moss Loop, Big Cedar, and Grapevine. Amenities include hot showers, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a park store. Be sure to reserve far in advance and call ahead if you aren’t going to make it into the park before 4:30 p.m., as you’ll need to be given the gate code ahead of time.

What are some benefits to camping near McKinney Falls State Park in a private campground?

There are several private campgrounds in Austin’s surrounding areas, including a few that are near McKinney Falls State Park. While the campsites within the state park do offer amenities, they aren’t quite as luxurious as the pristine swimming pools, full-service laundry facilities, dog parks, and WiFi that the private campgrounds afford you. Camping in McKinney Falls in good weather can be tricky as the small amount of campsites they offer sell out very quickly. Private campgrounds offer a comfortable and enjoyable respite from the basic offerings elsewhere.

Does McKinney Falls State Park have free camping?

There is no backcountry camping in McKinney Falls State Park. All campsites require a prior reservation.

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