Chase Fountain, TPWD
Let’s make a summer memory that lasts long after the bikinis, board shorts and cabana boys have been packed away for another year. Grab your GoPro, camping gear and bikes, hitch up the Airstream and head about 90 minutes west of San Antonio, where just 7 miles from nearby Concan lies one of the largest, most popular natural attractions in Texas. Beautiful and big, Garner State Park is a sprawling, 17,000-plus acre tract that’s part sun-dappled oasis, part austere rolling hills necklaced by the Frio River, where even the most tech-obsessed, plugged-in folks can shed their frenetic electronic lifestyle and let the lazy Texas Hill Country lifestyle work its magic.
Whether you’re an Eagle Scout-level camper who can have a tent staked in minutes or a tenderfoot used to more of a “glamping” style of accommodations, Garner State Park has more than 300 campsites and 17 cabins to choose from. The rustic cabins located in the older park section have charming cedar paneling and each comes equipped with heat and air conditioning, bathroom, kitchen and two full beds. The best feature may well be the storm windows, which wrap around the bedroom and when opened allow a cool breeze off the river to lull one into the best night’s sleep you’ll have all summer.
Old Baldy and Friends
This iconic, 400-foot-high limestone bluff stands silent guard over the park and offers some of the best hiking around, with breathtaking views of the Frio River and surrounding hill country. But if something less strenuous seems appealing, try floating the river on your canoe, kayak or inner tube, where people-watching is de rigueur, and makeshift rope swings test the foolhardy nature of Texans large and small. Mini golf, biking trails, fishing, geocaching and paddle boats are just some of the activities one can enjoy in a typical summer afternoon.
And if on a summer’s night you come down with a bad case of dance fever or just want to sit and enjoy classic Texas country music as young two-steppers glide by, pitching woo while the jukebox plays, head over to the Pavilion dance floor. The nightly party begins at dusk, with ice cream and trinkets available at the gift shop to win your sweetheart’s favor. Not a dancer? Then consider the nocturnal activities of Texas’ state flying mammal, the Mexican free-tailed bat, and join a Frio Bat Flight tour, offered every summer evening at GSP, where folks can witness the nightly dance of bat colonies swooping en masse into the twilit sky to eat several tons of insects.