Outdoor Fun

From Bats to the Frio: 9 Top Things to do near Garner State Park

perfect spring getaway to Garner State Park
The jewel of the western Texas Hill Country, Garner State Park is the most popular state park in Texas. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, one state park is more popular than the rest. Garner State Park is the most popular state park in Texas. With a roster full list of outdoorsy activities, like hiking, tubing and more, visitors make reservations weeks and sometimes months in advance for a spot. Garner State Park was one of the first parks developed in Texas, located on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country.  Garner State Park is a top destination for those wanting to enjoy the outdoors, along with good food and entertainment, all located in the area. Here are the top things to do at Garner State Park in Concan, Texas.

Top Things to Do at Garner State Park

  • Camp in Garner State Park
  • Cook Out on a Camp Fire
  • Hike up Old Baldy
  • Float the Frio
  • Take a Scenic Drive
  • See the  Mexican Free Tail Bats
  • Grab a Breakfast Taco
  • Order a Chicken Fried Steak
  • See Live Music
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Explore Garner State Park

Starting in Spring, Garner State Park pops in color, thanks to the wildflowers. The Cypress trees sprout new needles and the clear waters of the Fio River beckon visitors. Garner State Park is an ideal getaway for those who love the outdoors.

With a river to play in, lots of camping options, hiking and even a playground, it is no surprise this is the most popular state park in Texas. In fact, it has been the park of choice for several generations, arranging their family get-togethers at the park every year.

Top Activities at Garner State Park

Garner State Park offers 1,774 acres with activities like miniature golf, hiking up Old Baldy or floating along the Frio River in a paddleboat or kayak. The state park offers 16 miles of hiking including the hike up Old Baldy, the focal point of Garner.

Garner also features a playground, a butterfly garden with native plants and an interpretive center. Kids can complete a Junior Ranger booklet covering the state parks of Texas. It’s also an easy park to bike.

The fun centers around the original park concession building that offers a souvenir store along with a grill in an Airstream trailer. Under the shade of bald cypress trees, couples dance the night away on summer weekends with a DJ.

At the Concession building, campers can find rentals for tubes and kayaks along with SUPs. Fans, heaters and even portable tables are available for rent as well.

Find 347 campsites, 37 screened shelters and 17 historic stone cabins for camping. All are outfitted with a picnic table and a fire ring, perfect for a cookout. Check out the park’s website for current burn bans.

History of Garner 

Dedicated in 1941, it’s named after Jack Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, the Vice-President of the United States from 1933 to 1941. Developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the Great Depression, the CCC was created by President Roosevelt to put young men to work.

During their stay, the CCC built the rock buildings and cabins in Garner. In addition to Garner State Park, the CCC developed several Texas State Parks along with National Parks at the time.

Located 10 miles north of Concan, Texas, at 234 RR 1050, Garner State Park features 2.9 miles of Frio River access. Admission is $8 for adults (13 and older) and kids under 12 get in free.

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Frio River. perfect spring getaway to Garner State Park
Rent a tube to float down the Frio River. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Float the Frio River 

It might be named the Frio River, but it’s not that cold. So plan to do a float trip if the weather is warm. First, if visitors don’t have their own tube, they can rent tubes, kayaks or a SUP board in Concan. Those on the water will enjoy its scenic beauty, floating past its century-old cypresses and limestone outcroppings.

Tubes are available for rent inside Garner State Park at the park store. Or use an outfitter, like Andy’s on River Road, that drops off and picks up their guests for their float trip.

Andy’s Outfitters is located at 21488 U.S. Highway 127 in Concan. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on weekends) during the summer. September to May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday). Tube rentals with shuttle start at $20 per person.

Texas Wildflowers. perfect spring getaway to Garner State Park
Along the highways and scenic byways, see wildflowers, including the Texas Bluebonnet. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

See the Texas Bluebonnets

The Texas state flower blooms along the highways during the Spring, usually from late March through early April. People stop and pose with the dainty blue flowers, pets included.

Since all roads leading to Concan are scenic byways, find patches of bluebonnets along with Indian Paintbrushes and Evening Primrose. Enjoy the scenery along U.S. Highway 83 then take a side trip to the town of Utopia along Ranch to Market Road 1050 (RM 1050).

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Frio Bat Tours

From Spring until Fall, Mexican Free Tail Bats live all around Texas, especially in the Texas Hill Country. Frio Bat Tours offers an evening show with 10 to 12 million bats each night. At sunset, visitors will see the bats swirl out of their cave for a night feeding of insects across the Hill Country.

Located at 8984 FM 2690, Uvalde, close to the intersection of SH 127. Adult admission is $15, kids (6 -10 ) are $12, and those 5 and younger enter for free.

Where to Eat near Garner State Park

Concan General Store

Sometimes gas stations offer crazy good food in Texas. Offering gas and the basics for a picnic along with coolers full of drinks. But the house-made chicken salad sandwiches are a treat. Sink your teeth into thick, homemade bread covered with chicken salad so good it could take center stage at a bridal shower.

Located at 23269 U.S. Highway 83 in Concan.

Lost Maples Café

Tacos aren’t just reserved for Tuesdays. So head to the Lost Maples Café and find homey favorites in a building from 1904. I recommend the kitchen sink breakfast taco. Sample a burger or sandwich basket.

Doesn’t matter it’s breakfast, you can still get a slice of house-made pie. Find apple, cherry, and meringues—chocolate, coconut, and lemon along with local faves buttermilk and pecan.

Located at 384 Main St. Utopia. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The red poppies at the Laurel Tree during the spring pop. Photo Credit: Hattie Barham Photography

The Laurel Tree

Make it an evening to remember with fine dining in a picturesque dining room. Enjoy a seasonal and locally sourced menu by Chef Laurel Waters. Waters, a French-trained chef paired with culinary experience from Provence, blends French technique with Texas tastes.

The Laurel Tree is open for lunch and dinner on Saturdays only. Located at 18956 N. 187 in Utopia. Reservations are required.

Neal’s Dining Room 

An institution since 1926, Neal’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from Spring until Fall. Specialties include fried chicken and chicken fried steak. For kids, there are hamburgers along with a kids’ menu.

Located on Highway 127 N. with seasonal hours.

Stripes Convenience Store

Another hidden gas station treasure, sample one of its breakfast tacos, a Tex-Mex staple. Located in the back of Stripes, head to the Laredo Taco Company.

Located across Texas and at 2815 East Main St. in Uvalde.

Where to Find Live Music

Don’t let the fun die after dragging the tube out of the river. Find several places in the Concan area offering live music.

House Pasture Cattle Company

Find a solid line-up of Texas-sized acts at the outdoor venue with a covered dance area. Features picnic tables, a grassy area and an indoor bar.

Located at 2 River Road in Concan. Gates open at 5 p.m. with shows starting at 9 p.m. All ages venue. Live music spring through fall, most weekends. Admission.

The Historic Leakey Inn

This intimate venue features live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Make it an evening with homemade soups and sandwiches. Beer and wine are available with indoor and outdoor patio seating.

Located at 527 S. Highway 83 in Leakey, north of Concan. Open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Garner State Park

Since the 1940s, Saturday night dances have been a must from spring through fall on popular weekends. Head to the park concession building to dance under the trees and twinkling lights.

Where to Stay near Garner State Park

Visitors can find cabins up and down the Frio River and the surrounding small towns. However, I recommend staying in the the historic cabins in Garner State Park.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Depression, the cabins offer rustic charm and some feature fireplaces. Bring bedding for the beds and everything you need to cook. Check out to see if a burn ban is in effect for the county preventing campfires.

Know Before You Go

  • Cell service is spotty at best. So pick up a map at the Uvalde Visitor Center at 21170 Highway 127 in Concan.
  • Reservations for popular summer weekends book up ONE year in advance for Garner State Park.

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Located in the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, Garner State Park is an iconic state park and the most popular state park in Texas. During your stay, enjoy the cool water of the Frio River or a hike up Old Baldy. Got all the details for Garner State Park along with neighboring Concan, like where to eat and where to stay along with live music and outdoor activities. Plan a trip to see why it's been a favorite for generatons. Most Popular State Park in Texas | Best of Texas | Top River Floats in Texas | Where to go in the Texas Hill Country #Garner #Texas

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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