Another camping trip down and a lot more to go this year! Last weekend, we were able to go on our camping/hiking trip at Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City, TX. I didn’t have work on Monday, so we used that extra day to stay here for two nights and three days. Let me tell you that it was all that wonderful and tiring at the same time! I’m here to help you navigate all the essentials and things you should take into consideration when camping AND hiking at Pedernales Falls State Park.
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Book Your Campsite – Park your Tent Anywhere
For obvious reasons, book your campsite ahead of time! I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog post, but these spots go out like crazy. It’s important to make a reservation by contacting the park or book your campsite online. Pedernales Falls State Park allows you to book 5 months in advance for both electric campsites and primitive campsites.
Now, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m focusing on Primitive Camping at Pedernales Falls State Park. With that being said, it’s important you should know that no matter where you ‘book your campsite’, when you actually get there, you can place your tent anywhere you find a spot available. That’s right, when I booked online I had P0013, but when I got to the site, there are no markings to tell you where that spot is at (compared to other parks that have signs to tell you where to park your tent.) So, don’t worry too much about how the photos on the online reservation look, you can choose whichever spot feels comfortable to you and your family. Tip: Choose a primitive campsite where the ground is as even as you can make it when you get to the park. It will help you sleep comfortably at night.
Prepare for the 2-Mile Hike to your Campsite
I would say to prepare physically for the 2-mile hike to get to primitive camping, but prepare mentally too! Since we were going to be getting to the park after-hours, we had already called in beforehand to let them know. You need to have your parking permit when you get to the parking area and once you’re there, the 2-mile hiking trail (which is also the Wolf Mountain Trail) is visible to your right side. You can download this map for your guidance.
Since we got to the park after-hours (which was definitely not a good thing when you have a toddler), we were hiking the 2-mile Wolf Mountain trail to the primitive campsite at night. I had this great idea of taking a wagon because I thought it would make things easier when getting to our campsite. I’m here to tell you, don’t do it! Don’t overpack. Take only the essentials, because we broke our wagon on the way back and it only gave you an excuse to pack as many things as you could. That 2-mile hike was no joke and the reality is, if you’re going to primitive camp, you should really only pack things as ‘ready’. If I were to do this all over again, I think I would just pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – with wood and charcoal fires prohibited, it’s the easiest and doesn’t take that much space. We packed our propane grill, our potty tent, and bucket, our huge tent, blankets, etc – this is not about being luxurious!
Find the Right Trail
I use my AllTrails app and I know this sounds repetitive, but when you find the right trail, stick to it! I had wanted to go do the scenic overlook by doing the Wolf Mountain Trail and Twin Falls Trail. If you’re going hiking for the day – plan the Wolf Mountain Trail, it really is worth it. If you’re going to do primitive camping, forget about it, because you just did 2 miles out of the 5 to complete it. Point is, we didn’t stick to our plan and decided to take on this whole new trail that I had not researched. Instead of doing 6 miles as planned, we ended up doing 13 miles of hiking that day! That is a half-marathon, believe me when I tell you that we were all tired because we had gotten lost. Thankfully, my AllTrails and physical map helped us get back on track, but by the time we hit the right trail, it was hot.
Plan Ahead Camping Meals
We took our entire house to go camping here, something I won’t do again, ha. But it’s important to plan ahead your camping meals and some that I recommend are your simple sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwiches – anything that will help you make things on the go, less to pack, and can also be great for when you’re hiking. As a reminder, Pedernales Falls State Park does not allow wood or charcoal fires (which is why we brought our Propane Grill), so it’s important to bring any food items that will be easy to make. Something I would love to make for the next time I come to this park would be tacos or burritos! They’re nutritious and easy.
The Bathroom ‘Situation’
If you’re worried about primitive camping, don’t worry too much about it! There is a restroom close-by the primitive campsites and there is also a ‘hot showers’ station inside the park. We hadn’t studied the map all that well to know that the restroom was going to be so close, but now that we know, we won’t bring our pop-up tent and potty bucket. Or – you can definitely find a nice spot to squat and bring your toilet paper (it helps if you need to go potty at night.)
Temperatures for All-Seasons
Knowing when to stay for primitive camping at this park is extremely important – it will tell you how much to pack and what things you need to take. The best time to come camp at Pedernales would be during Summer and Fall. We came during February and during the day it was 76 degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime being at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. We knew that it was going to be chilly at night, so we packed accordingly with the right clothing.
Services and Amenities at Pedernales Falls
I also like to mention the services and amenities at different parks, because it can make or break for you to visit. Some of the services and amenities available at Pedernales Falls State Park:
- Biking, Fishing, Hiking, Swimming, Trails – Hiking, Tubing, Wildlife Viewing
- Dump Station, Ranger Station, Hot Showers, Park Store, Picnic Area, and Restrooms
Take my advice and pack lightly when coming to camp at Pedernales – bring a small tent with your sleeping backs in your overnight hiking backpack. The great thing about this particular park is that even though it was filled with people camping or hiking, it’s so big that we rarely bumped into anyone on the trails. Just remember to have fun and don’t overthink the trip!