McKinney Falls Camping - A Quick Overnight Camping Trip, on a Budget, within 30 mins of Austin, TX

Cameron Field

This camping trip began like any good adventure - a few friends talking about how badly they wanted to get outdoors, and then finally setting a hard date and making it happen! I was stoked to plan this trip with my brother-in-law and my 12-year-old nephew, both of whom love the outdoors and camping. Some of my favorite trips have been with people I love, so I couldn’t wait to make this one happen. They said they were open to anything, and since we both live close I decided Mckinney Falls would be a fantastic park to show them. We made our plans, put the date on the calendar, and I made the reservations online. To book this campsite which had water and electricity, it was $20 for one night.

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View from inside our tent

We arrived at the park around 3 pm on a Friday afternoon and were met with a small crowd. It’s hard to believe because of how beautiful it is, but Mckinney Falls is just thirty minutes from Austin - so it gets quite a bit of traffic in the summer and on weekends. We began our journey inside the park by checking in with the rangers and grabbing a few small items from the store. When we booked online a month prior we got one of the last campsites available, #79 in the Big Cedar camping area. We thanked the rangers inside and made our way to the campsite.

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Map of the park

As we pulled into the campsite I was excited - it was secluded in a corner, had a nice tent pad away from where you park, and overall it just felt very cozy. For anyone looking for an awesome campsite at Mckinney Falls, I highly recommend #79 in the Big Cedar camping area. We set up our old school 8-man tent, the same one my family used when I was younger, which I thought was a cool homage. Since this site had electricity, we were able to hook up two box fans as well, creating the closest thing to AC when camping in the heat. I don’t normally camp this way, but since it’s August in Texas and the electricity was there, we had to take advantage! We relaxed in the cool tent for a bit as we made plans and showed each other gear we had brought, and then we loaded up and headed out to explore. We first made our way to the lower falls area, which was barely flowing, but still a sight to see. A trickle of water split through the rock and splattered into the pool below, marking the deepest point in the water. Person after person jumped from this point, including my brave nephew. We hung out here for a while and then headed to the left side of the upper falls.

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View of the upper falls

After exploring around for a while we were all pretty tired, and it was getting late, so we headed back to the campsite to make dinner. We fired up our stoves and quickly whipped up a delicious dinner of corn, mashed potatoes, and some veggie sausage. The combination of the corn and mashed potatoes really hit the spot after a long day of work and then hiking around in the heat. After dinner, we cleaned our cooking gear and began preparing for bed. We tweaked our fan setup so we had the ultimate airflow, and I even plugged in a little USB fan that I was able to run off a power bank all night. Again, I do not normally camp with this kind of luxury, but we had electricity and I had some new gear and wanted to test it out. We all slept like babies, and surprisingly all ended up in our sleeping bags by the time morning came. Our fan setup was really that good!

We slept in and slowly woke up, enjoying the still-cool tent, and then began preparing breakfast. We made plans to head to the upper falls, and then packed our backpacks and hit the trail. As we arrived at the parking area, we realized it was packed, typical for a Saturday in August. We found parking spots and made our way down to the falls, met by a barrage of people. We stayed for a few minutes snapping some photos but quickly decided the lower falls would be less crowded and better for a swim. We made our way to the lower falls and were met with a half empty parking lot. We hiked down to the falls and were stoked to see only 15-20 people in the entire area. If you head to Mckinney Falls on a weekend (or anytime really) and want to enjoy a less crowded swimming area, I highly recommend the lower falls.

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Awesome patterns in the lower falls area

After swimming for quite a while we all agreed it was time for some food, and since we had to be out of our campsite soon it would probably be best to start packing up. We made our way back to the campsite, packed up our gear and belongings, and made sure to pick up all of our trash. We did one last walk around the campsite to be sure we weren’t forgetting anything or leaving trash, and then we hit the road heading our separate ways. Before we parted we were already throwing around ideas for our next camping trip, which we agreed needs to happen soon. Until the next adventure - take care, and thanks for reading!

For more info on Mckinney Falls check the official Texas State Parks page

To make reservations for any Texas State Park or to find a park near you, use the Texas State Park Online Reservation System.

If you are interested in the Texas Parks Pass check the Parks Pass Info Page, or ask one of the rangers next time you visit a state park. If you are going to be camping with multiple people for multiple days throughout the year, a parks pass is absolutely worth it!