Houston may be the fourth largest city in the United States, but it also has plenty of natural areas just on its outskirts where you can go camping and enjoy the beautiful Texas outdoors. Near the Gulf of Mexico and among the state’s many wildlife refuges and a national forest, nearby parks offer campers a chance to observe the stars in an observatory, make a splash at exhilarating water parks, party with one of America’s favorite cartoon bears, and relax on the banks of winding rivers. Whether you’re looking for a place to pitch your tent or just want to park your RV, these are some of the best places for camping in Houston.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

Hey Boo Boo, let’s get a pic-a-nic basket at Jellystone Park. The most famous bear in the world invites families everywhere to join him for a truly unique, family fun experience. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park is about 45 minutes outside of Houston in Waller, Texas.

The park offers an incredible amount of fun things to do for all including a kid’s water zone, outdoor pool, thrilling water slides, splash pads, a lazy river, pedal boats, a lake for fishing, mini-golf, arts and crafts events, laser tag, and an arcade.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park allows visitors to rent golf carts for getting around the park easily, pool cabana rentals, and you can even schedule a visit from Yogi himself.

These fun activities won’t be conquered in a day (although day passes are available in peak season), so you’ll want to plan on camping overnight to keep the fun going throughout the entire vacation.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park fees and camping amenities

Day camp passes for ages four and up are $31, while children three and younger are free. Smarter than the average bear visitors will snatch up fun passes that give you instant access to paid activities, tasty treats, and bear visits. Passes start at $46 and go up to $88 per visitor.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park offers many ways to stay overnight in the park. Each camping option varies in price and availability depending on the season.

Larger groups (up to 28 visitors) can relax in the stately Grand Lodge, which offers a full kitchen and a detached billiards room. Park visitors who want to relax by the water will have their pick of several options, including Yogi Bear on the Lake Cabins, Cindy Bear on the Lake cabins, and more.

Travelers with RVs have their pick from pull-through, back-in, or paved sites with water and electric hookups. Standard tent sites are available and come with a picnic table, fire ring, water, and electricity hookups.

During peak summer months, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park is very popular, so you’ll want to head online and reserve your spot well in advance.

Splashway Water Park and Campground

The small Texas town of Sheridan holds one of the best family camping secrets in the entire state. Splashway Water Park and Campground combine all the thrills of a water adventure park with a clean and safe campground for the entire family to spend quality time together.

While Sheridan is an hour and a half outside of Houston, it remains a popular stop for travelers near and far for its variety of ways to spend the day having fun or simply relaxing under the sun.

The water park features tons of popular attractions such as the Dueling Splash Blasters and Jet Stream slides that will keep the older kids entertained for hours while younger visitors will have a blast in the Minnow Pond and Toddler Bay areas.

When mom and dad get a craving for Tex-Mex, they can head over to Tortuga’s Tacos and Cantina for delicious nachos, pulled pork, and an ice-cold beer.

Splashway Water Park fees and camping amenities

Daily water park tickets begin at $49 (with senior citizen and military discounts available) and can be purchased in person or online for a small discount. If you plan on multiple days at the park, then the season pass ($139) may be your best bet and it comes with discounts on food, drinks, campsites, and cabana rentals.

Splashway offers a variety of camping options: cabins, bunkhouses, cottages, RV sites, and tent camping sites.

Families in need of a getaway will find cabins available at Splashway for $199 per night. They accommodate up to 12 visitors and include a bedroom with a queen-size bed, a loft with two full-size and queen-size beds, a full bathroom, and a well-equipped kitchen. They also come with air conditioning, heat, a satellite TV, and a screened-in porch with tables and chairs.

Bunkhouses are fully equipped retreats with private showers, restrooms, and a kitchen. They sleep 20 visitors and cost $450 per night. The bunkhouses include plenty of beds, two full couches, a stacked kitchen, a picnic table, a covered porch, a fire pit, and air conditioning.

The Splashway cottages are $130 per night and sleep five guests. They include one twin bunk bed and a full-size bed with a twin-size bunk bed overhead, a small kitchen, television, bathroom with a stand-up shower, and air conditioning.

RV sites are $65 nightly and offer 30 or 50 amp electrical connections, pull-through or back-in sites, plus full hookups, including sewage.

And for $45 per evening, you can sleep under the stars in a tent. Who needs modern comforts when you have birds chirping, warm Texas breezes in the evening, a roaring campfire, and the sound of the air conditioning buzzing in the cottage next door you should have sprung for?

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park one of the best places for camping in Houston

Photo: Richard A McMillin/Shutterstock

Brazos Bend State Park is a one-of-a-kind park where visitors not only get to explore nature but the solar system as well. The park, located roughly 45 minutes southwest of downtown Houston, is home to nearly 40 miles of hiking and biking trails that keep outdoors enthusiasts happy for the extent of their stay. Designated areas also allow for horses on the trails as well. If hiking isn’t your thing, be sure to bring your fishing pole and cast off from one of four piers available inside the park.

After you spend the day under the sun, head to the George Observatory for an evening of stargazing, constellation laser tours from amateur astrologists, or enjoying live camera feeds of the universe. Visitors will also have a chance to bask in all that heavenly glory with deck and dome telescopes. The observatory is part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, so you’ll need a ticket to enter.

Brazos Bend State Park fees and camping amenities

Visitors 13 years of age or older are subject to a daily fee of $7 while children 12 years old or younger are free to enter. If you have a Texas State Parks Pass, the fee is waived for you and your guests.

The park also has many primitive camping options to choose from, including sites with electricity, water hookups, upright grills, and fire rings. The fees range from $12 to $25 depending on your needs. If you like to sleep with your horse, there are primitive equestrian sites located under a grove of pecan trees for ambiance. Water for your horse friends is available, but you’ll have to bring drinking water and the fee is $12 nightly.

Nonprofit youth organizations can find special group campgrounds for $25 and up that come with a large firepit, picnic tables, and a water spigot. Individuals or adult groups can not use these group campgrounds. All campsites have restrooms and showers nearby for convenience.

Screened shelters at Brazos Bend State Park are $25 per night and come with water, electricity, an upright grill, and a fire ring. Restrooms and showers are located nearby as well.

A single cabin is available for travelers who like to camp without the actual experience of camping. It’ll cost you $65 per evening and it comes with running water, air conditioning, beds (but you’ll have to bring bedding), a fire ring, grill, and more. Restrooms and showers are located nearby.

Brazos Bend State Park also has several group facilities for day use such as an amphitheater ($20 daily), pavilions ($50 daily), and a group dining hall for up to 100 park guests. The group dining hall is $150 per day with a $50 returnable cleaning deposit.

Lake Livingston

Lake Livingston State Park is a great place to get away from the city for a weekend. On the shores of Lake Livingston, the park provides ample opportunities for fishing, swimming, and kayaking. Several walking and biking trails wind through the woods, providing a chance to see some of the native wildlife.

In addition, Lake Livingston State Park offers a variety of camping options, from primitive sites to RV hookups. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, Lake Livingston State Park deserves a spot on your camping list.

Lake Livingston fees and camping amenities

Daily entrance fees are $6 for persons aged 13 years or older, while children 12 years old or younger are free. A Texas State Parks Pass gives you and your guests free admission to the park.

Campsites at Lake Livingston range from primitive sites with water hookups for $14 per night, plus the daily entrance fee to full sites with electricity and picnic tables for $20. Full RV hookups are available via reservation for $30 per night.

Screened shelters with water, and electricity, plus a picnic table are $35 but don’t allow pets.

A group hall with air conditioning, heater, outdoor grill, tables, and chairs, plus plenty of space for up to 50 guests, can be reserved for $125 daily.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park allows travelers to experience Texas beach camping in a pristine environment along the Gulf of Mexico. Located a quick jaunt from downtown Houston, Galveston Island State Park is a premier spot for biking, fishing, kayaking, hiking, as well as bird watching, and relaxation.

The park is home to three paddling trails: Dana Cove, Oak Bayou, and Jenkins Bayou. You’ll need to bring your own kayak or paddle because the park doesn’t offer rentals, but it’s worth the effort to see nature like our ancestors intended — in a plastic boat.

Galveston Island State Park fees and camping amenities

Entrance fees begin at $5 per day for visitors 13 years old or older, while children 12 years of age or younger are free. Again, if you have a Texas State Parks Pass, the fee is waived for you and your guests.

Campsites with electricity on the bay side begin at $20 per night and are for trailer or RV campers only. These sites are over a mile from the beach and share pavilions and fire rings with other sites. Restrooms and showers are located nearby.

Primitive campsites for tent campers on the bay side come with a shade shelter, fire ring, grill, water, and a picnic table. These campsites cost $15 per evening. Tent campers wanting the beach experience will have an option for grounded primitive sites with water (but no electricity) and sites that are on raised tent platforms. Platform sites cost $20 per evening and one ADA platform is available.

Dry camping is available for trailers and motorhomes only ($10 per night), while several beachside upgraded and premium camping sites that include water and 50 amp hookups range from $30 to $35 per night.

Stephen F. Austin State Park

Located just 50 minutes west of Houston, Stephen F. Austin State Park offers visitors a chance to get away from the controlled chaos of city living to rest along the shaded shores of the Brazos River.

Here you’ll have five miles of hiking and biking trails that meander along the river and historic sites that offer a glance at what life was like for some of the first Anglo-American settlers in Texas.

Stephen F. Austin State Park fees and camping amenities

Daily entrance fees for persons aged 13 years or older are $5, while children 12 and younger are free. And if you have a Texas State Parks Pass, the fee is waived for you and your guests.

Visitors can choose between primitive campsites, campsites with water, and RV sites with full hookups that vary between $12 and $28. A group campsite with space for up to 60 campers is available for $100 per night and comes with a fire ring, picnic tables, and water, but no electricity. Restrooms without showers are nearby.

Stephen F. Austin State Park also has screened shelters for $35 nightly with water and electricity available. Showers and restrooms are nearby the sites as well.

An ADA-accessible cabin is $75 nightly and sleeps four comfortably. The cabin has water, electricity, air conditioning, heat, a mini-fridge, and, perhaps most importantly, a microwave. So bring your popcorn, but leave your dog at home because pets aren’t allowed inside the cabin.

Groups looking for more amenities such as full kitchens, air conditioning, and ADA-accessible lodging will find options that will cost between $100 and $300 daily.

Lake Houston Wilderness Park

Marsh of Brazos Bend State Park one of the best places for camping in Houston

Photo: Charissa Enget/Shutterstock

Lake Houston Wilderness Park is a beautiful nature preserve located just north of Houston. The park covers nearly 5,000 acres of land, and it is home to a variety of plant and animal life. It is a great place to go for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, birding, fishing, and horseback riding for the day.

There are also several camping sites available for those who want to spend the night under the stars. The park is open year-round, and it offers a wonderful escape from the daily commotion of city life. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or an overnight adventure, Lake Houston Wilderness Park deserves a spot on your list.

Lake Houston Wilderness Park fees and camping amenities

The daily fee is $3 for those aged 13 to 65, with kids 12 years of age or younger free. There is also a discount for senior citizens and military members.

Lake Houston Wilderness Park offers an incredible choice of options for overnight campers including primitive campsites, lakeside cabins, A-frames, screen shelters, and RV sites.

Single campsites are for those groups of less than eight campers and cost $7 per night, plus the daily entrance fee for each visitor. There are a multitude of options available and include amenities such as a fire ring with a grill, picnic table, and lantern pole. There is also access to centrally located water and electricity.

Group campsites accommodate up to 50 campers overnight and cost $40 per evening. Group campsites at Lake Houston Wilderness Park include lantern poles, fire rings, one group fire ring with benches, a water table, and a pavilion with electricity.

If you desire spots that are still technically camping but guard you a bit from bugs and rodents, check out the five lakeside A-frames that sleep up to six campers and cost $35 per evening. The A-frames are screened facilities on raised platforms near Lake Dabney. Each offers an in-ground fire ring with a grill, picnic table, electricity, and water. There is one ADA-compliant lakeside A-frame available on request.

The Forest Cottage and Lazy Creek Lodge are less “cottage” and “lodge” and more “large screened shelters” but they sleep groups. Amenities include a large central room with a fireplace, running water, and electricity, but offers no bedding, air conditioning, heat, or showers. You will have access to floor and ceiling fans, a refrigerator, tables, and chairs, as well as restrooms.

Outside you’ll have use of an outdoor patio with picnic tables, a barbecue pit, and a fire ring with benches. An area around the back is available for those that wish to pitch a tent. Unfortunately, no pets are allowed, so leave Mr. Pugglesworth at home for this trip.

If you want less-than-primitive options, then the lakeside cabins are what you need. You’ll be “camping” on two queen-size beds plus a sofa that converts to a queen-size bed. The kitchen has a refrigerator, microwave, and oven. You’ll have modern comforts like ceiling fans, air conditioning, and a bathroom complete with a shower and hot water.

The Rustic Cabin sleeps eight and includes amenities such as air conditioning and heating, ceiling fans, kitchen appliances such as a microwave and small refrigerator, foldout table and chairs, an outdoor patio with a picnic table, barbeque grill, and fire ring. No beds are provided here, so bring an air mattress, or sleeping bag, or set up your tent outside.

There are four RV sites that cost $30 per night and full hookup access to electricity, water, and sewer. Amenities also include a fire ring with a grill, picnic table, and lantern pole.