Sitting on the southwestern edge of Texas Hill Country, South Llano River State Park is best known for its title feature: the spring-fed, slow-moving South Llano River, which offers opportunities for swimming, floating, paddling, and fishing. While the park’s two miles of river frontage is enough to attract any water-loving visitor, South Llano River State Park is also a haven for birdwatchers, stargazers, hikers, and mountain bikers—making it an obvious addition to your growing list of RV adventures.
In addition to its many water activities on the South Llano River, this Texas state park has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, which means visitors can enjoy stellar views of the night sky, including the Milky Way. Those looking to explore the park by foot or on two wheels can then take advantage of the park’s 22.7 miles of trails, which wind through steep ridges and bottomland hardwood forest. You will have the chance to spot diverse wildlife in the park, including nine-banded armadillos, axis deer, gray foxes, and the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. Visitors who want to feel connected to the park’s history can simply stop by the park’s headquarters, which used to be the home of Walter White Buck, Jr. He donated this land to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1977.
The park offers 58 RV sites with water and electric hookups, and is open mostly year-round, except for selected winter dates for drawn public hunts. The peak season runs from March through October. The park enjoys mild winters, with average lows of 32 degrees in January, and very hot summers, with average highs of 94 degrees in July, so there is something unique to enjoy every time of year.
If you'd like to explore more of the surrounding area and its natural beauty, you could take a day trip down south to Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area. This natural landmark, 42 miles south of the park, is home to an enormous colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Bat-flight tours are offered between May and October, as well as bird tours and nature walks.
Getting to and around South Llano River State Park in an RV is relatively easy, as the park is located just a few miles off Interstate 10, right off of US Highway 377. RVers won't experience any restrictions driving to the park. While the park offers many miles of trails, there is not too much driving to do within the park, which makes navigating in your rig fairly simple. The campground is located just a short walk from the park headquarters and only about two miles from US-377.
Visitors in search of gifts, food, and other supplies can stop by the Texas State Parks Store located in the headquarters building, or drive the six miles north to Junction, which has several restaurants, shops, and a grocery store. If you're needing to refuel your RV, the nearest gas station is also in Junction. The park is fairly remote, being 125 miles northwest of San Antonio and 145 miles west of Austin—but visitors will find it is worth the trip.
Once inside the park, parking is available at each campsite and in designated areas throughout the park, including near the entrance of the campground, at the park headquarters, around the turkey roost area, and near the tube and canoe put-in point.
South Llano River State Park has 58 RV sites with water and 30-amp electric hookups. These sites can accommodate up to eight people per site, and each has a covered picnic table. There are no sewer hookups, but guests can make use of the dump station located near the entrance to the campground. The campground also offers restrooms with showers. These sites—sites 1-58—are located in one big loop just steps from the park headquarters, and offer easy access to Buck Lake Trail and Overlook Trail, which means you can stretch your legs and enjoy a scenic view just a short walk from your site. Domestic pets are welcome to camp with you, as long as they are kept on a leash.
Tent campers can enjoy some extra privacy and space at one of the six walk-in campsites at this park. Just a short 30- to 70-yard walk from the parking area near the campground, you'll find some spacious sites shaded by beautiful big trees. A maximum of eight people can camp on each site, which has its own fire ring and picnic table. There are also restrooms and water nearby, making this a comfortable place to camp out for a few days. The Fawn Trail and Scenic Overlook Trails can both be accessed directly from this campground.
About 1.5 miles in from the trailhead along the Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail, you'll find five primitive campsites. You'll have to hike to this site so pack lightly! Each site can accommodate four people and has its own picnic table, and there is a good chance of spotting many of the birds and animals that roam the park while you are relaxing here. There is even a viewing blind that you can sit in while you watch the birds and wildlife.
Fires are not permitted at this campsite so make sure to pack in lamps and torches and make alternative plans for cooking. While there are no showers there is a composting vault toilet. These campsites are the perfect place to admire the sky on a clear night.
Visitors looking to do something can take advantage of South Llano River State Park’s 22.7 miles of trails all year round. The trails can be enjoyed by both hikers and bikers. Take a stroll along the easy 0.4-mile Interpretive Trail and enjoy the shade offered by the oaks, cedar elms, and other hardwood trees. For something a bit more challenging try the moderate 2.6-mile hike or bike along Fawn Trail or the difficult 4.0-mile trek on Frontera Trail. The park has a trail to suit every level of hiker and mountain biker.
While you're out exploring the park look out for the deer and other wildlife that call this park home. In the spring you'll be able to enjoy a beautiful display of Texas wildflowers and kaleidoscopes of butterflies along the trails. An added bonus is that the trails at this park cover a variety of ecosystems so you'll get to enjoy a variety of fauna and flora.
South Llano River State Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise: the park is home more than 250 species of birds. The park offers four bird blinds and even has its own birding field checklist available. The checklist details how common each bird is during each season of the year and birdwatchers can use it to track their sightings. There are many local birds to look out for, and in spring and autumn, you'll see up to 250 species of migrating birds.
Look out for golden-crowned kinglet, great blue heron, cedar waxwing, spotted sandpiper, black-bellied whistling-duck, sandhill crane, and the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, among others. Those eager to watch the turkeys, though, should make sure to visit between October and late March, as this is when the turkeys roost.
No matter how you choose to spend your days at South Llano River State Park, consider reserving some time at night to take in the stars above during your visit. This Texas state park is an International Dark Sky Park. This means you can expect an exceptional view of the night sky—you can even glimpse the Milky Way. For the stargazing experts, South Llano’s Bortle Scale rating is Class 3 on a scale of one to nine—where Class 1 is the darkest skies available on Earth, and Class 9 is inner-city skies.
In addition to its great tubing and paddling opportunities, the South Llano River is a natural habitat for the Guadalupe bass, which happens to be the state fish. So, if you are looking for an exciting day of fishing, head straight to the South Llano River and try your luck at catching this challenging fish. Anglers can also take advantage of the paddling opportunities on the South Llano and fish from their boat.
Those looking for a more active way to enjoy the South Llano River can bring their canoe or kayak—or rent one locally—and paddle it. The park has one designated spot for paddlers to park and put-in, and shuttle services are also available locally, so if you would prefer to get your heart rate up and paddle along this scenic stretch of river, rather than just float on it, gear up and plan to paddle to your heart’s content.
One of the most popular ways to enjoy the South Llano River while visiting South Llano River State Park is to float the river in a tube. Visitors of all ages can enjoy hours of fun floating along in the spring-fed South Llano in the warmer months. Tubing is a relaxing way to enjoy the serenity and scenery here. There are multiple put-in and take-out points for tubers along the two miles of river frontage, so hop in and out the water as you like. The park even makes it easy and offers tube rentals, though you are also welcome to bring your own.