The state of Texas has over 40 state parks, each with its own ecosystem and mysteries waiting to be discovered. Palmetto State Park is often called the most tropical of all the parks, with a mixture of wild animals and tropical plant life—it remains a little jungle full of surprises. The park covers 300 acres divided between two counties with a massive network of trails, rivers, and a four-acre lake, called Oxbow Lake, which is kept stocked with fish throughout the year.
The San Marcos River runs directly through the middle of the park, making it a great place to take your canoe or kayak. The campgrounds at the park are not the largest, but campers can choose between 37 RV and tent sites available. Monthly passes are available if you would like to stay more than a few weeks, and there are opportunities to become a park host, a person who helps visitors and keeps the park litter-free.
While you are in the region, visit some of the surrounding preserves and wildlife management areas like Lake Wood Recreation Area, where you can explore the 488-acres of freshwater with your boat or canoe and see what fish you can catch. The M.O. Neasloney Wildlife Management Area is also a lovely place to see and has several outdoor activities like an interpretive nature trail, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Palmetto State Park takes its name from the dwarf palmettos that can be found all over the area. These plants are extremely hardy and can grow even in the most deficient soil. With temperatures ranging on the warmer side during the day and the cooler side at night, it’s best to take a jacket with you just in case you might feel chilly once the sun goes down. While a campfire may warm you up, you can never be too cautious. Remember to bring binoculars as there are over 200 species of birds that call Palmetto State Park home throughout the year and a wide variety of plant life that lives high in the trees. When you visit Palmetto State Park in your RV, you’ll be guaranteed to see something new and exciting each time you visit.
Located 10 miles northwest of Gonzales and close to I-10, the park is easy to access. RVers with larger rigs will not encounter any height restrictions along the way to the park. Be mindful not to enter through the back entrance to the park because it will be harder to navigate with your rig or trailer. Just look out for Park Road 11, and you will see that you are on the right track. The roads through the park are well paved, but be cautious when it has rained a lot. The San Marcos River may cause flooding in some parts of the park. Palmetto State Park is located close to Luling City, so you are able to get little things like groceries and toiletries that you may have forgotten to pack for your weekend getaway.
Most of the RV campsites are back-in rather than pull-through, but despite that, they have plenty of space to maneuver your rig to the position that you like. Depending on how long your drive was, you may want to stretch your legs on some of the trails or simply relax in your shaded lot. While motor scooters are not permitted in the park, be sure to bring your bike to bike along the many trails available. Navigating in the park is very simple, just follow the signs to the park store and bathrooms. There are several parking lots located on the north and south side of the park.
There are 37 sites in the park, 17 of which have water and electricity hookups for RVs. Only one site is available that has a full hookup, and it is offered at a higher price. Nineteen of the sites provide only water access, but these sites are only available for tents or pop-up campers. Each site has a picnic table, a fire ring, and a grill. A few of the campsites have a smoker, just in case you want to try your hand at barbecuing. Amenities include clean showers, restrooms, and a playground for children. Most of the sites are located in a beautiful wooded area, offering a peaceful atmosphere and generous shade from the Texan heat. Pets are allowed to stay with you but must be kept on a leash. Pets are not permitted in any of the park buildings. There is a dump station available on the way out of the park since most of the campsites don’t have a sewer hookup. There is no limit on how long you can stay, but if you stay for more than two weeks, it’s best to buy an annual pass. For those who wish to stay at the park for an extended time, you can become a camp host responsible for greeting new campers and keeping the park litter-free. Primitive sites, group sites, and cabins are also available.
There is one cabin for visitors to use at the Palmetto State Park. This cabin is built with ADA accessibility. There is an ADA appropriate picnic table, and an ADA stove and fire ring. It can sleep up to six people and has a bunk bed and three larger beds. Visitors can also put up a tent outside the cabin, but the total number of visitors staying overnight inside or outside the cabin may not exceed eight people. Guests need to bring along their own lawn chairs. Cooking is not allowed inside the cabin unless you use the microwave. The cabin is equipped with a fridge, ceiling fans, and airconditioning. There are no indoor bathrooms in the cabin, and visitors will need to walk 400-800 feet to get to the communal bathrooms.
The San Marcos River flows next to the cabin, and there is a pathway down to the river that provides access for swimming and fishing. The cabin is situated next to a small pond and a short distance from Oxbow Lake.
A primitive group camping site can also be found at Palmetto State Park. Encircled by the San Marco River, the site is well shaded and secluded. The site is the size of 12 individual sites and can accommodate up to 100 campers. It is accessible for people with disabilities and mobility issues and has the appropriate facilities. You can find this primitive site a short walk from the parking area, and visitors can park up to 25 vehicles on the site.
Amenities include picnic tables, water, grills, and a fireplace for campfires and cooking. There are also two campfire rings to use, and ground fires are permitted. Campers will find restrooms a short walk away, and showers are located further along across the river. The group camping site is pet-friendly.
Palmetto State Park is full of rich history since the Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the structures in the 1930s. You can still explore many of the park's original historic structures today. Just head over to the picnic pavilion, water tower, or rock table to see these remnants of the past. Landscape architects were employed to ensure these structures fit in the natural landscape of the area. You'll see that native sandstone was used to blend these man-made structures with the natural habitat.
Geocaching has become a big thing at state parks in the last few years. If you have never heard of geocaching, then don’t worry about it. In simple words, it is a big scavenger hunt that the whole family can enjoy. You will need a few supplies to make it a successful scavenger hunt: a GPS or smartphone with coordinates, sturdy hiking boots, a pencil or pen, a water bottle, and a bag full of small items to trade. To play, you may have to download a geocaching app from your app store, but the object of the game is to find the hidden objects and record your name in the logbook. When approaching a coordinate, remember to be careful not to disturb the landscape or any of the wildlife around you, and always remember to put things back where you found them. Your cautious approach will help keep the adventure alive. Geocaching is a thrilling, interactive activity that the whole family can enjoy during your RV road trip to the park.
Palmetto State Park is one of the best places to go birding. With over 200 species of birds calling the park home, you have plenty of chances to see unique birds like the red-shouldered hawk and the crested caracara. The park is located on the Great Texas Birding Trail, making it a real hot spot for all different kinds of birds. Bring a set of binoculars in your RV and maybe a bird snack that you can find in the park store. If you look around the park store, you will find a book full of recipes for bird snacks ideas.
The park is a great place to picnic if you are stopping by in the area for the day or if you are camping overnight. There are several spots throughout the park where you can find picnic tables, restrooms, and, in some places, a playground for children to enjoy. These spots are mainly a short distance from the banks of the San Marcos River, and you can enjoy the stunning views over your meal, and children can splash around in the shallows and even swim. One of the park's historical remnants is its pavilion, which is still open for use. It can accommodate up to 100 people and is accessible for people with disabilities or mobility issues. The pavilion is equipped with picnic tables, a grill, folding tables and chairs, and a kitchen with refrigerator, oven, and range. This pavilion is an ideal place for family reunions and group get-togethers because it is reservable.
Palmetto State Park has several trails available for you to explore. These vary in length from 0.3 miles to 1.25 miles and are relatively easy, so if you want a challenge, try hiking all the trails while seeing who can find the most interpretive trail signs. The wooded area has a lot of coverage from the sun, but remember to wear your sunscreen when you go exploring. Pay attention to the warning signs about snakes because they help hikers learn how to interact with the wildlife. Hikers should try and wear closed shoes instead of open shoes when they are hiking because closed-toe shoes give more protection against snakes. Each trail is well managed and very clean. Hikers can expect to walk along the river and swamps and through the forest area.
Tubing along the San Marcos River can be a very relaxing pastime. The river runs through the entire park, so it is pretty easy to get in the water with your tube. While you are floating, you can use the time as an opportunity to see the different types of plants and birds. If you forget to bring your own tube, you can rent one from the main office at the entrance of the park. Once you exit the river, you will have to climb a steep slope that will continue onto a trail that takes you back to the camp, so remember to keep some energy for the hike back. While tubing, a life jacket is required and remember to read the safety guide on how to keep you and your loved ones safe on the water.
If you are bringing a fishing pole in your camper to Palmetto State Park, there are quite a few fishing spots available, and Oxbow Lake is regularly stocked with Florida largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and channel catfish. If you intend to do some pier fishing, then a license will not be required, but if you plan to go in either the lake or the river to fish, then you will need a valid fishing license. Several campsites are right next to the lake and the San Marcos River, so you can fish from the shore as well and enjoy the shade of your site. Visitors should note that the fishing lake is also the swimming lake and that the fishing pier is also the swimming pier. You may need to find a secluded spot on the lake or along its banks if the pier and certain areas of the lake are busy with people swimming.
Pack your canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard along when you visit Palmetto State Park. The park has a lot of water to explore, and you can meander along Oxbow Lake, the San Marcos River, Rutledge Creek, and other smaller canals. The San Marcos River doesn't have any rapids, but there is a steady current. Remember to check the river conditions before setting out. You can also rent stand up paddleboards and two and three-person kayaks at the park if you don't have one. These come with life jackets and oars. It is up to the parents and guardians of younger children to look after their kids while they are out on the water. The park has several safety tips that they recommend you implement when out on the water. While you are in the area, you can also try the Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail near Luling. This is a gentle, family-friendly paddling trail that travels along the San Marco River.