This breathtakingly beautiful state park combines a laid-back atmosphere with various wildlife viewing opportunities and well-kept amenities. Camping near Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center is perfect for families, couples, or friend groups.
Ever dreamed of seeing an alligator in its natural habitat? How about a cardinal, or a massive water lily complete with hopping frogs? See all kinds of wildlife when you go camping near Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center. Featuring various ponds, countless fishing spots, and sprawling views from the observation tower, gorgeous sights abound at this hidden gem outside of Houston.
Houston, TX (2 miles away)
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Sheldon Lake State Park is a really unique offering in the Texas State Park system. With an attached outdoor education center, it’s a great place for families to enjoy the outdoors while participating in an engaging educational presentation. While you can pick one or the other facet of this park and only focus on that, participating in both the park and the Environmental Learning Center is going to produce the most fulfilling and well-rounded visit.
The Gulf Coast section of Texas gets notoriously hot and humid during the summers. While you’re right near the beautiful beach, the trade-off is oppressive levels of humidity. Some travelers might be willing to make that exchange, but most are going to be better served waiting for spring or fall to visit Sheldon Lake State Park.
Spring in the Houston area is quite pleasant, especially in the first half, when daytime temperatures are in the low to mid-70s and drop to around 50 overnight. The second half starts to climb back into the low 80s, making March and April the ideal spring months to be here. The Houston area does have a good wildflower bloom during those months as well, with the state flower, the bluebonnet, peeking from late march to mid-April.
While fall doesn’t have wildflowers, it does have similarly moderate temperatures. There are some fall colors in the Houston area, though only in certain sections. Much of the trees in the Houston area are evergreens, but small patches of parklands see good colors. Fall sees lighter rains and relatively lower humidity, with highs around 70 by November.
The Gulf Coast is a reasonably popular stopping ground for those seeking warmer winter weather, so RVers shouldn’t have much trouble finding a campground any time of year. Winter highs are in the low 60s, and the overnight temperatures only drop to around 45, so don’t count winter out when heading to Sheldon Lake State Park and the surrounding area.
This is a really cool and unique spot, so you’re likely to see plenty of people on weekends and holidays. Of course, since you’re just 15 minutes from downtown Houston, the state park is a prime outdoor spot to visit while still keeping you within close access to the city.
You don’t need to spend a weekend here, though you absolutely could. But don’t leave after just a couple of hours. You want to spend at least a full day here to walk the trails, enjoy the observation tower’s views, and learn some new information at the Environmental Learning Center.
There are a couple miles of hiking trails here to enjoy. However, if you’ve already worked through those, why not try your hand at fishing? This isn’t unique to Sheldon State Park since you can fish for free in any Texas State Park, but this is a great place to start.
The park has a handful of fishing poles you can borrow if you’re heading to one of the two catch-and-release fishing ponds. However, supplies are limited, and you might want your own gear, especially if you want to see the 1,200-acre lake that the park is named for.
Like I mentioned, there are a couple miles of hiking trails here, but avid hikers will want to see some of the surrounding state parks for longer and more substantive trails. Families out on learning excursions though should find the trails more than adequate for day trips.
Beyond hiking, the most popular pursuits are paddling, fishing, and nature watching. With a 1,200-acre lake and a pair of catch-and-release ponds, water sports are prevalent at Sheldon Lake State Park. Nature watching can be done anywhere in the park, but the John Jacob Observation Tower is over 80 feet high and easily offers the best views.
The St. Ives RV Resort is for the traveler who wants to be able to get into the city occasionally but mainly plans on enjoying the Texas outdoor scene. While you’re within a perfectly reasonable driving distance to Houston, St. Ives is a relaxing outdoor retreat in its own right with a swimming pool, mini-golf course, and its own lazy river. It’s as easy to explore Texas from this basecamp as it is to stay put and just watch the world go by.
Houston, we have absolutely no problems. Everything is tranquil and perfect at this relaxing resort in Houston. Between Houston and Galveston, you have prime access to everything that the Houston-Galveston metro area offers, though the resort itself has great outdoor access on-site with its own nature trail. Jetstream NASA has plenty of entertaining activities to enjoy at the clubhouse, pool, or arcade.
This resort is perfectly constructed. From the manicured grass on the sports field to the modern swim-up bar, every detail here is handled with precision to make your stay maximally comfortable. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach promises an elevated RV experience, and with an amenity list a mile long, they certainly deliver.
On the other side of the Houston-Galveston metro from Camp Margaritaville is Rayford Crossing. This RV resort gives quicker access to some of the trendier areas of Houston, like the Woodlands and Sugar Land.
While you’re just minutes from some of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods, you’d never know it from how Rayford Crossing RV Resort feels. All sites are lined with trees, and the campground itself is nestled in a dense tree grove. You can go fishing, relax by the pool, or stay active playing outdoor games, all within moments of your spacious RV site.
The retreat is an aptly named getaway for RV and tent campers alike. Focused on providing a relaxing outdoor experience for campers of all experience levels, The Retreat has a wide variety of sites to cater to all campers. You can stay in a covered wagon, rental cottage, glamping tent, or retro RV. Of course, the classic RV and tent sites here are plentiful as well, depending on what you’re looking for in your campsite.
Though The Retreat RV & Camping Resort is focused on creating simple outdoor memories, they’ve modernized their amenities list to offer a wide selection of activities. The resort has its own 320-foot boardwalk that offers boat slips and a fishing pier. After a long day on the water, head to the open space that’s being used as a beer garden (BYOB for the moment) and lawn game area to wind down and meet your neighbors.
There aren’t many National Park Service (NPS) sites out this way, but Big Thicket National Preserve is within driving distance. Beyond NPS sites, there are a pair of national forests worth seeing for those willing to make the drive out of the city.
While all four of Texas’s national forests are within driving distance, the Sam Houston and Davy Crocket National Forests are definitely the closest. Sam Houston is just a short drive north of the city and holds some of the best hiking trails in the eastern half of the Lone Star State.
This is the only NPS site within a reasonable drive from Houston. The preserve expands over some of Texas’s most dense forest land and conserves a good portion of the state’s hardwood and pine forests. There are also plenty of waterways to enjoy through paddling trips, swimming, or floating, though paddling trips are often the most popular choice.
(1 hour and 45 minutes)
North of the Sam Houston National Forest is the Davy Crockett National Forest. This forest preserves over 160,000 acres of East Texas woodlands and offers a similar experience to the Sam Houston National Forest. However, unlike the Sam Houston, this park sees a much lower rate of visitorship. Travelers can enjoy all the same beauty of the Texas woodlands here with a fraction of the crowds.
(1 hour and 15 minutes)
Galveston Island State Park is one of the best places to experience the Texas section of the Gulf Coast. Not too far out of the Houston-Galveston Metro, this state park is easily accessed from anywhere in the area and puts you right on the waterfront on both the north and south sides of the park. The whole area spans roughly 2,000 acres and serves as one of the best spots for hiking and wildlife watching on Galveston Island.
(1 hour and 15 minutes)
If you spend time in east Texas, the name Stephen F. Austin pops up a lot. Named the “Father of Texas,” he has his name all over the oldest parts of the state, including this state park. The park sees moderate visitation, though it has more than 600 acres to explore and enjoy.
(1 hour and 15 minutes)
Of the parks in the Houston area, Brazos Bend State Park is easily one of the most popular. Because of that, the park tends to hit capacity on weekends and holidays, so get a reservation beforehand if you aren’t visiting during the week. This spot really is, as it advertises, a “nature lover’s paradise.”
The aquarium is one of the most exciting spots in downtown for young families. While there are plenty of interesting exhibits here, travelers short on time can see the highlights in about an hour at most. Of course, those with extra time should see the Aquatic Carousel and dine at the on-site restaurant.
This massive urban park covers well over 400 acres near the edge of the Museum District, one of the most exciting parts of the city for arts and culture. The park charges no admission, so it’s a great place for a picnic lunch or catching a sunset.
Right near Hermann Park is arguably the best museum in Houston. Young and old minds alike will light up with all the exhibits here, from dinosaurs to the Ancient Egyptians. The ideal way to visit is by spending at least the entire morning here and having lunch in Hermann Park afterwards.
Most of the best food spots require you to drive towards the center of Houston, but Las Palomas is towards the outskirts of the city’s eastern half and has been here since 1999. This family-run spot has a variety of rotating specials and other promotionals, but the biggest draw is their wide selection of margaritas.
This upscale Texas steakhouse has a location in Houston and Fort Worth. The Houston location is a former bakery that’s now been made into a fine dining establishment. The quality here is of the highest order, and it’s best enjoyed as a special occasion dinner.
This Thai spot is a hidden gem too often overlooked in Houston’s Greater East End. Serving up authentic Thai food, Street to Kitchen is a microcosm of the diversity and level of quality in Houston’s exciting food scene.
Sheldon Lake State Park has the perfect location for a Texas getaway. Close to all the best parts of Houston, time spent at the park will make you forget that you’re moments away from a city of more than 2 million people.