Garner State Park: 3 Things You Should Know Before You Go

The view from Old Baldy at Garner State Park in Concan, Texas.

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Our time in Texas is quickly dwindling! And I just couldn’t leave the Lonestar State without a visit to Garner State Park.

I have seen so many gorgeous pictures of this park and the Frio River on Instagram and I had to see it for myself while I still have the chance. We PCS to Hawaii in November, so we are trying to mark as many things off of our Fort Cavazos and Texas Bucket List as possible.

However, there were a few things that social media conveniently forgot to mention about this park that you need to know before you go.

Here are 3 lessons we learned at Garner State Park:

Old Baldy towering over the Frio River at Garner State Park.
(Such a beautiful view while you’re swimming!)

Make Reservations WELL In Advance

Garner State Park is one of the most popular parks in Texas.

Camping spots fill up 5 months in advance. Even getting a day pass on the weekends in the summer and fall can be almost impossible if you don’t reserve them months ahead of time.

I mistakenly thought that I made day pass reservations for Garner State Park, but I accidentally made 2 reservations for Dinosaur Valley. A mistake that could have ruined our trip!

Thankfully, they hadn’t reached capacity in the park yet and we were still able to get in. It was honestly a miracle considering it was Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be sure not to make that mistake again.

If floating the Frio River at Garner State Park is on your Texas Bucket List, MAKE RESERVATIONS!

The Frio River is absolutely beautiful!
(The Frio River is absolutely beautiful.)
The trees are absolutely huge at Garner State Park.
(Such huge trees along the river!)
The dam at Garner State Park.
(The kids loved swimming & wading near the dam.)
(Views from Old Baldy are unmatched!)
(Another beautiful view of the Frio.)

Don’t Underestimate Old Baldy

The most popular trail at Garner State Park is the hike to the top of Old Baldy, one of the giant “Texas hills” towering over the Frio.

Old Baldy is technically not a mountain, but walking to the top of it certainly felt like hiking a mountain. It is one of the many rugged hills that make up the Frio Canyon, proving that some things really are bigger in Texas, and hills are one of them.

This hike is only a 1-mile round-trip – 0.5 mile to the top and 0.5 mile back down. However, the Old Baldy Trail is listed as challenging for a reason, as it is very steep and rocky. I huffed and puffed my way to the top and panic attacked all the way down.

It would be so easy to twist an ankle on the loose rocks or slip and fall on the slick rock faces. Make sure you wear good shoes and take your time.

beginning of the Old Baldy Trail at Garner State Park
(The beginning of the trail.)
View from Old Baldy in Texas.
(Views are better from the ‘almost’ top of Old Baldy.)
The top of Old Baldy at Garner State Park
(You know you made it to the top when you see the flag.)
The views from Old Baldy in Texas are gorgeous.
(The Frio River is beautiful even from 1849 feet above.)

The Park Has A LOT To Offer

We visited Garner State Park on Memorial Day weekend, but we were there on Friday. The park wasn’t quite full yet and all of the “extra stuff” was set to open on Saturday, which was a bummer.

But Garner State Park has SO MUCH to offer!

None of the state parks that we’ve been to in Florida, Washington, or North Carolina had a restaurant or food trucks IN THE PARK, but this one does! There are also equipment rentals for paddle boats, kayaks, and tubes for floating the river. And for campers, they offer table, barbeque pit, heater, and fan rentals! How convenient is that?

There is also a mini golf course for when it’s too hot to hike or too cold to swim. And the park has its own candy store and ice cream shop! My kids were in heaven!

In my best Billy Mays voice, “But wait there’s more!”

Since the 1940s, folks have been dancing the night away at Garner State Park’s pavilion. Starting at 8:30, these jukebox dances happen nightly from June to mid-August. I would love to go back and take the girls. I think they would love it!

(The girls really wanted to try the paddle boats.)
(We brought our own tubes with us to float on the Frio.)

I’m grateful that we were able to experience Garner State Park (especially without a reservation). But I would SO like to go back when everything in the park is open and we can get a paddle boat and go to the dance.

It’s one of the most popular parks in the state for a reason – it is absolutely gorgeous and so much fun!

You won’t regret making the trip and I hope these tips help.

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