Garner State Park...the blessing and the curse of being Texas' most popular state park for overnight camping.

 

It is easy to understand why Garner is such a popular vacation destination for so many families.  First of all, the Frio River Valley is beautiful.  The Cypress tree-lined river winds through the rugged hilly land like a gorgeous blue ribbon.  The crystal-clear waters of the Frio River provide the backdrop for tons of family fun.  From tubing the rapids to swinging on a rope swing, there are dozens of ways to enjoy the cool refreshing river.  We saw families relaxing in camping chairs in the shallow waters and jumping off the steep bank into the deeper pools.  Our kids loved simply floating on a raft, hunting for "interesting" river rocks, and daring to try their first rope swing. 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to swimming in the river, Garner offers other opportunities for family fun.  We loved hiking a few of the nature trails; our kids were thrilled with hiking to "a real cave".  Garner is famous for its jukebox dance held at the Pavillion each night.  We loved taking a spin on the dance floor.  There is also a miniature golf course, paddleboat rentals, and a concession stand.

Now along with the park's popularity comes its downside.  It is just SO crowded!  I would recommend that families should never try to go to Garner on a summer weekend.  We visited the park for several days.  On the weekend, we could not enjoy (or even see) the beauty that surrounded us because all we could see were crowds.  Honestly, it really grossed us out.  By Tuesday, though, the crowds has thinned enough to really enjoy the fun and unique place.  The other huge downside to Garner (also related to its popularity) is the inefficient check-in procedure.  We already had a campsite reservation, but the line to simply check-in to the park was OVER TWO HOURS LONG.  The park ranger informed us that this wait time is simply to be expected in the summer.  We have traveled all over the state of Texas and have never encountered anything so frustrating.

 

 

While our trip began in frustration & over-crowding, by the end of our trip we had to admit that Garner had won us over.  We left the park as fans of Garner...just not on the weekend.