5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Texas

Looking to go off the beaten path on your next Texas trip? Check out the best spots for boondocking in Texas to make your vacation unforgettable!
boondocking texas
Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? That saying certainly holds true for the state’s boondocking options, with plenty of unique campsites to explore. 

Texas is also home to some of the most underrated state and national parks in the nation. From Big Bend National Park to Lockhart State Park, Texas offers visitors a bit of everything. 

With just a little planning and preparation, you can have an amazing adventure boondocking in Texas! 

Keep reading to learn more about boondocking in Texas and discover some of the state’s best spots for RV boondocking. 


Can I Go Boondocking in Texas?

The short answer: of course, you can! While it doesn’t have the vast expanses of BLM or Forest Service Land found to the west of the Rockies, there are still plenty of places for boondocking in Texas.

Your best bets at boondocking spots will still be federal land; this includes national parks, federal recreation areas, and more. The state also provides some great boondocking habitats in state parks, natural areas, and even certain city parks. Dry camping is generally allowed in private parking lots like truck stops and Walmart, which is often prohibited in other states and municipalities. 

Texas is a state of extremes, though, with massive cities like Dallas and Houston contrasting with some of the least populated counties in the country out west. While most of us associate Texas with cacti, sagebrush, and humid afternoons on the Gulf Coast, the state has plenty of high elevation regions that get quite cold. Always come prepared when you’re boondocking in Texas.


Top Locations For Boondocking in Texas

Below you’ll find some of the very best places for boondocking in Texas. It’s by no means exhaustive though, as this state is loaded with great places to get off the grid.


Big Bend National Park Primitive Campsites

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Big Bend National Park is one of the best places for boondocking in South Texas. It’s an incredibly remote national park, a good four hours from a substantial city. Its primitive campsites get even more remote and are found down rugged backcountry roads. They’re not ideal for larger RVs, which could run into trouble in this rugged terrain.

Thirty-four of the 64 primitive campsites are available for advanced reservation, while the others require a permit from the visitors center at Panther Junction or Chisos Basin and are first-come, first-served. The 64 campsites are spread across ten different areas. Seven are located on improved roads, usually passable in good weather with an RV (Croton Springs, Grapevine Hills, Hannold Draw, K-Bar, Nine Point Draw, Old Maverick Road, and Paint Gap). The other three areas are on primitive dirt roads where soft sand and large rocks make them very difficult, and RVs are strongly discouraged (Glenn Springs Road, Old Ore Road, River Road). 

If you find that boondocking isn’t for you, there’s also a full-service RV park inside Big Bend that offers twenty-five sites with full hookups. 

Amenities: None of the sites offer any amenities beyond a gravel pad to park on. Additionally, generators are not allowed. 

Capacity: 64 sites

More information: Big Bend National Park Primitive Campsites


Big Thicket National Preserve

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Another great option for boondocking in South Texas is Big Thicket National Preserve, a massive 113,000-acre swampland to the northeast of Houston. It’s home to some spectacular biodiversity, with over 500 vertebrate species living here. As it’s pretty near to the Gulf Coast, camping is available year-round, though it’s prohibited in some sections of the preserve during hunting season (October through February). 

Amenities: As there are no designated campsites, just regions that are suitable for camping, there are no amenities to speak of in Big Thicket. Most of the camping areas have a few great trails to explore, though. Camping permits are free and are available at the preserve’s visitors center. Due to the presence of heavy metals in the water, it’s strongly recommended that you bring all of your own drinking water rather than filtering it.

Capacity: N/A—there are no designated campsites within the preserve. You must set up 200 feet from your vehicle, so you actually can’t sleep in your RV. The Turkey Creek, Canyonlands, and Big Sandy units north of Farm-to-Market Road 1276 are open year-round, while Lance Rosier, Beech Creek, Beaumont, and Big Sandy Unit south and west of Farm-to-Market Road 1276 are open during the spring and summer.

More information: Big Thicket National Preserve


Padre Island North Beach

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You’d probably never guess you could go boondocking in South Texas so close to civilization, but Padre Island offers some amazing spots you just can’t miss. One great spot for boondocking in Padre Island is its North Beach. 

Padre Island’s North Beach is just half an hour or so from Corpus Christi. Camping is allowed throughout the year, but you will need a free permit from the visitors center. The most popular activities here are sea kayaking, birdwatching, windsurfing, and fishing.

Amenities: There are no amenities at the campsites; this is beach camping, after all. There are some flush toilets and showers at the Malaquite Visitors Center, though, and Corpus Christi isn’t too far away. Generators are permitted but must be shut down from 10 PM to 6 AM.

Capacity: N/A—there’s about a mile of dunes on which you can camp between the north boundary of Padre Island and the edge of the Closed Beach area.

More information: Padre Island North Beach


Amistad National Recreation Area

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The Amistad National Recreation Area is a beautiful boondocking site that lies nearly three hours west of San Antonio and only a few miles from the US-Mexico border. The area’s lake is popular for swimming, scuba diving, and fishing, while the surrounding area accommodates hikers and hunters. There are also some beautiful 4,000-year-old Native American rock paintings to view here.

Amenities: Campsites have fire rings and picnic tables. There is also a dump station and drinking water available near the Diablo East boat ramp. 

Capacity: Five campgrounds with 72 sites

More information: Amistad National Recreation Area


Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area

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If you’re looking for a more developing camping area near Houston, Ratcliff Lake is an excellent choice. It’s a fairly small camping area that was once a sawmill. The nearby lake was used as a log pond but is now frequented by kayakers and year-round campers.

Amenities: RV sites have electrical and water hookups and a maximum length of 50 feet. They also have fire rings, grills, and picnic tables. Sites are adjacent to Ratcliffe Lake.

Capacity: Twenty-five sites in the Dogwood Loop area that have water and electrical hookups.

More information: Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area


Delve into the Beauty of Texas With Cruise America

There are so many great places to try boondocking in Texas. Fortunately, Cruise America has several locations across Texas where you can pick up your RV rental. They also have a big selection of RVs, from light and nimble rigs that are suited for the rugged backcountry to plush RVs that fit families of all sizes. 

With Cruise America, you’ll have everything you need for a great boondocking trip in Texas. Find a Cruise America location near you to start planning your Texas vacation today!
 

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