Pedernales Falls State Park is one of the best known parks in Texas. Besides the iconic limestone water falls, there is much more to the park. During my spring break (senior year of college), a group of friends and I adventured out and primitive camped for three days in the beautiful park.
Address: 2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636
- 55 Minutes from Austin, 1.2 hours from San Antonio, 3 hours from Houston, 3.6 hours from Dallas
Price:$6.00 entrance fee, primitive camping sites are $10/night
Primitive Camping in Pedernales Falls State Park
Our mission: have fun.
Primitive camping (for Texas State Parks) means no direct access to water or electricity at the site. In my opinion, camping is most fun when it is “primitive.”
The biggest hurdle to primitive camping in the heart of Texas is carrying in all your food for 2-3 days without a fire to cook it. That means sticking to granola bars and PB&J or schlepping a giant cooler of ice through the woods. Definitely the least fun part.
At Pedernales State Park the primitive camping sites are a two mile hike from the nearest parking lot so you’re going to want to pack light and take one trip of supplies.
A WORD ON OVERPACKING: The friend group was two men and four women. With three of the four having little or no camping experience. The biggest mistake they made was overpacking stuff they didn’t need for an overnight trip. A mistake like this is fine when camping in areas with nearby parking lots, but at Pedernales Falls every round trip to the car was 4.0 miles.
Just check out the ridiculousness.
The Primitive Camp Site
In the area of the park there was 20-30 sites but they all had privacy and plenty of trees between them. At our site it often felt like we were the only campers there!
Another important note about Pedernales Falls State Park’s primitive camping section is access to a pit toilet about 0.25 miles from the sites. This is a nice luxury to have during camping!
Following the Creek to the River
Nearby the primitive camping section the Mescal creek flows into the Pedernales River. It is a fun and slippery route to take, so use caution!
The water was spring water cold, probably 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. The swim was quick!
5.5 Mile Loop Hiking Trail
There are lots of trails to choose from in the park, so I will have to revisit and rank those later. We decided on the 5.5 mile loop trail because it was a good distance for a 3 hour hike with a lunch at the scenic overlook.
Most of the trail was a dusty and gravelly trail that seemed to be perpetually uphill…
At the beginning of the trail I wanted to make sure we were headed the right way by crossing the river.
The trail was fairly uniform as it winded through the Texas Hill Country and the only part that stood out was the mini-forest at the midpoint of the trail. Around lunch time we made it to the top of the trail and enjoyed the scenic overlook.
The Famous Pedernales Falls
The most iconic and well known section of the park is the Pedernales Falls (probably why it is called Pedernales Falls State Park, just a guess though).
It is an awesome section of the park where you can climb over all the rocks and dip your feet in the water. Geologically awesome!
My Advice for Beginner Campers
Part of what made the trip so exciting was sharing my love of camping and the outdoors with new campers. Yes, it is uncomfortable. But it is worth it.
If you are reading this post and hoping to try camping at Pedernales Falls State Park or any other location, just plan it and do it. Look up the weather, make the reservations, buy the trail food, borrow a tent, just get out there and make it happen.
Final Review and Recommendation
Pedernales Falls State Park is one of the most popular parks in Texas because it is awesome. It is worth the travel from out of state to experience this unique section of hill country Texas and spring waterfalls.