Along the Brazos River is a small town called San Felipe. Named after the ‘Father of Texas, it’s merely a blip on a map, but its history is important to the history of Texas. Stephen F. Austin state park doesn’t share in the same sense of history as the town’s namesake, but the park offers enough in terms of simple enjoyment. Continue to read about what to expect at Stephen F Austin state park.
As you drive off of I-10 you drive through a small town about 30 minutes west of Houston called Sealy. It is faced with the current spread of Houston’s population boom, and the highway that parallels the city is under heavy construction.
There is a historic square, tons of commercial business, but it doesn’t take much to drive through and head towards the smaller town of San Felipe.
Depending on which direction you drive in, the town greets you with a wood cabin and a sign denoting the historical significance of the town and its founding member.
After Moses Austin died, his son Stephen took over the helm of colonizing the brash land of the Texas landscape and settled in this area. (Read more about Moses here)
There is a museum nearby that exhibits the history, but across the street, there’s a more interesting section that showcases a little more in terms of the landmarks that were important to the growth, the desertion from Santa Anna, the fire, and more. Definitely recommended.
The park itself is right down the street from here and offers none of that.
In fact, the sign that greets you when you enter seemingly smirks regarding that fact by stating the ‘history here is nature’.
There is a golf course right next door to admire, but alas, it’s off-limits. The only golf course currently maintained by the Texas Parks & Wildlife is down in Lockhart. You can read about that park HERE.
Stephen F Austin state park is charming in its size, and it almost feels like a community park. It seemed more people were riding their bikes than were staying in the park, and that’s pretty cool.
And no way to know if it was a time of year thing, but with the amount of water, trees, and grass nearby- be prepared for tons of gnats. Gnats were everywhere and almost unbearable.
There are a variety of camping options. You can bring your RV, or stay in a sizable shelter area. You can do a regular tent, or if there are a few of you- the group camping area has plenty of spaces and plenty of room in between. You can learn more about reserving a site here.
The price breakdown is as follows:
Full Hookup Campsites
People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 38
RVs or pop-up campers only. A maximum of two tents may be set up outside the RV or pop-up occupied site.
Campsites with Water
People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 39
These sites are for tent camping only. RVs are not allowed. Maximum of three tents per site.
Primitive Campsites (Walk-in)
People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 25
Maximum of three tents per site.
People per Site: 60
Located in the Walk-in Campsite area, this is an open area with scattered trees, multiple picnic tables, and a centralized fire ring. A $5 excess vehicle fee will apply beyond 15 vehicles.
Even with the size of the park feeling fairly small, the camping options stood out as slightly impressive. The sites felt like they all had plenty of room, and each area had plenty of camp hosts.
One thing to note at the time of this posting is that the restrooms were all under construction except for the day-use area. Portable toilets were aplenty, but no showers were available.
The group camping area is a great place if you have more than one tent. These campsites had a ton of room, and each site was plenty spaced from each other. That being said, the coverage here felt a lot less than the rest of the park in the way of trees. The open space was noticeable because of that omission.
This camp area also has its own restroom, which was open, but without a shower area. (At least it didn’t show it had a shower on the map, there may be plans to change this restroom like all of the others.
Hiking at Stephen F Austin state park was very similar to hiking at Tyler SP, and probably a lot of the eastern parks in Texas.
Very woody, lush trails that offered plenty of shade throughout. Don’t forget; gnats! The trails here are all clearly marked, and nothing was too difficult in terms of the grade of the trail, or elevation.
Trails hiked included: Ironwood trail (1.04 mi), Barred Owl Trail (.65 mi), Sycamore Trail (.51 mi), Opossum Trail (.34 mi), Pileated Trail (.68).
So you can see, none of the trails here are too demanding in terms of mileage, and if you want to do it all in one day you definitely can. It would be a great way to see all of the different landscapes this park has to offer.
One note about the Sycamore trail. The trail map you’ll receive doesn’t have all of the updated trails on it. The park rangers are working on new trails that take you down to the river. You can access them from the Sycamore Trail and work your way through the trees. Just follow the path northeast and you’ll see a clearing that leads you down to the water.
Except for the group camping area, all of the remaining campsites will offer trailheads to get you throughout the park.
The scenic overlook gives you a great view of the Brazos River, but the wildlife viewing area was… interesting. It was just a tall, wooden fence with rectangular cutouts that let you see the birdbaths just in front of it.
The benches were too far away to see and view, which was outside of the norm from other bird blinds you’d normally experience.
The trails at Stephen F. Austin state park looked great for mountain bikes, so if you’re into shredding some fun bike trails give this place a visit. Again, the terrain here is great for beginner mountain bikers.
Overall this charming park was just enough of the experience for people that may be new to camping, or for those that live in Houston proper and just want to get away from the city life.
Despite it being near the town, the overnight noise was minimal, even with camping in the hammock, there wasn’t a lot of road noise in the evening hours.
And as the sign says, the history here is nature, so please go down the street and experience the Stephen F Austin state historic site and museum. You’ll learn a great amount about one of Texas’ forefathers and see some great outdoor exhibits as well.