So my favorite Texas State Park for the past 20 years finally met its match…
I had discovered Daingerfield SP the first year I started camping (I was in a tent back then), and I immediately fell in love with the piney woods of East Texas. Daingerfield has a little lake with towering trees lined up at the water’s edge, complete with a swim out floating platform.
And it held my #1 spot for so, so many years.
Until I met Garner, and it’s a showstopper.
This park has something for EVERYONE. (Or maybe just me. 😆) Where do I start?
I guess we’ll start at the beginning. Check-in.
Garner is THE busiest park in Texas. And you have to take a number to check-in for your reservation. Yes, really.
You’ll pull a number when you step inside the Park Headquarters and stand in the waiting room or just outside the building. (We waited about an hour arriving on a Sunday summer afternoon.) You can watch the digital counter, and/or they will call your number over the speakers.
Once called, you enter the check-in room and approach one of the staffed windows (at least they multiple staff working to process their large number of visitors). I can only imagine what the park looks like on a busy holiday weekend.
We lucked out on our campsite. I will always check park maps when selecting a site for reservation, and this one turned out perfect for us. I’m debating on whether to share the loop in which we stayed. 😂 Give me a minute.
We look for quieter, less crowded loops with lots of trees, a playground, and well-spaced sites. We’d also prefer to share a bathhouse with the fewest possible sites and have it close by. (Waiting on a shower stall is a drag when you could be spending that time by the fire instead.) Is all of this too much to ask?? Nope. We usually do pretty well in our selection.
After setting up camp, we went straight to the river to see what all the hype was about. And it didn’t disappoint. It was love at first sight.
The Frio is beyond words for me. Spring-fed, cool (even in summer), crystal clear waters carving its way through a limestone river bed. Calm in places and perfect for floating the afternoon away, and faster moving in others and fun to tube. And there are plenty of areas with shallow splash pools that were a TON of fun for Little D to play in.
Our first morning at Garner, we started with a ride/hike after breakfast. We rode to the Old Entrance Road and then to the Old CCC Entrance (original entrance built in the 1930s). Then we locked our bikes and took the Foshee Trail up to the Shady Oak and had a picnic lunch looking out over the back of the park. Little D is such a trooper, but we are careful with distances when hiking with her, so we made our way back to camp and then to the river to cool off.
The next day we began our day with miniature golf, and if you watch the video, you’ll catch my should-have-been-hole-in-ONE! We had lots of fun playing. We always do. (Who doesn’t like putt-putt?)
Then we wandered through the candy shop, which is found smack dab in the middle of the golf course. (Well played Garner. Well played. No kid will miss it.) And I got to stop in at the cute gift shop and bought Little D and I matching blue Frio River tanks!
Then LUNCH!! I scoped this place out online before we arrived in Garner. (I think I’ve mentioned I’m big into planning, right?) Hippie Chic’s River Shack is in Concan, just 10 minutes south of the park. You order at the counter with their super friendly staff. This spot has all outdoor seating, cool indoor/outdoor bar seating, picnic tables, yard games, tetherball, and a little air conditioned building for restrooms. The three of us shared their specialty tacos, an order of half & half fries and rings, and their Pacho & Lefty burger which is served topped with two cheese enchiladas – Texas, y’all.
And then it was back to the river. We decided we would check out the Frio next to the Pecan Grove Camping area. It’s wide and slow-moving there. They have damned one end by Old Baldy (a picturesque rock summit at the curve of the river). There’s a sand volleyball court, several picnic tables, and lots of parking for day visitors. This area seems to be a very popular pick for camping, groups, and larger gatherings. There are lots of tubes just floating in groups, shallow areas in the middle you can stand on, and a few rope swings along its edge.
I’ll be honest. Usually, we do more hiking and biking on our camp trips, but the river kept calling us, and we couldn’t say no. Those waters are like a magic spring rolling through the Texas hill country. Crystal waters flowing all around you, bringing calm, peace, and brightened spirits.
On our final full day, we drove through the park’s various loops (Garner is big). I always like to check out the entire park in case I’d like to try a different loop on a future visit. And then we played tag on the nearby playground. Keep your eyes open for some Texas-sized fire ants, and make sure to stroll through the adjacent visitor center with hummingbirds aplenty outside. The local volunteers shared lots of info about the area, and I am smitten.
After lunch and another long afternoon splashing in the cool waters, we got dressed and drove to the pavilion for their evening dance. Little D was super excited because we promised her ice cream at the pavilion. That’s right. Garner also has a dedicated ice cream shop. This park is on top of it, I’m tellin’ ya. 😎
Garner hosts nightly outdoor dances from Memorial weekend through Labor day starting at 8 pm. Had I known about it beforehand (the visitor center filled me in), I would have brought my boots, and we would have gone all three nights! It was lots of fun, and we are definitely going back now that we’ve taken some progressive two-step studio classes. I absolutely love it.
Before rolling out the next day, we made another quick visit to the river to swim and soak it all in one last time. I wanted time to pause for another few weeks (or months).
The Frio River left us with wider smiles, lighter hearts, and a bit of gold on our skin. And I guess I’ll let you in on our favorite loop – River Crossing. Check out the Blinn River Trail to the river. Quiet, with splash pools and light rapids to tube, you’ll thank me later. 🧡
✪ Garner State Park – 234 RR 1050, Concan, TX 78838
✪ Hippie Chic’s River Shack – 721 River Rd, Concan, TX 78838