I had never heard of Mission Tejas State Park when a friend of mine suggested in the middle of February, that we camp there over spring break. “If I’ve never heard of it, it must not be much” I said to myself. When I asked him why he wanted to camp there, he told me that it was the only place that still had openings during spring break. “Great” I said to myself, “It must be pretty lame if nobody knows about it and it still has openings this late in February.”
Here in Texas, pretty much every state park is completely booked for spring break by the end of January. If a park still has openings in February, there must be a reason for it. Given it was the only option, we decided to go for it. After all, mediocre camping is still way better than no camping at all. Besides, we had already booked three days at another state park for the second half of spring break. This trip was a bonus and if it didn’t work out we still had the second trip to look forward to.
Tiny and Out of the Way
Mission Tejas State Park is about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Houston on the northern border of the Davy Crockett National Forest. It is close to absolutely nothing, so make sure you bring what you need because the nearest Walmart is over 30 miles away. The park itself is beautiful with a wide variety of trees, including towering pines, dogwoods, and huge oaks. The terrain is hilly and there are several small streams and creek beds running through the park.
History of the Park
According to the Mission Tejas State Park website:
“The park was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a commemorative representation of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas, which was established in 1690. Also in the park is the restored Rice Family Log Home, built in 1828 and restored in 1974. The home is one of the oldest structures in the area. The home served as a stopover for immigrants, adventurers and local residents traveling the Old San Antonio Road across pioneer Texas.”
With out a doubt, hiking is my family’s favorite thing to do when we camp during the cooler months. This park may be one of my favorite places to hike because the undergrowth has been removed with controlled burns. The trails are well marked and well worn. No getting lost here.
Mission Tejas S.P. is small in terms of acreage (less than a square mile), but every single acre is accessible. Despite it’s size, there are several beautiful hiking trails to choose from, and all of them go up and down the numerous hills and stream beds in the park. One of the cool trail features are the signs that allow the kids to learn while they hike.
Great For Kids
Despite the fact that there is no swimming, this park is a paradise for kids, and a wonderful place for groups and family reunions. There are all sorts of places for kids to play, ride bikes, hike and there is a very nice playground near the fishing pond. We went with three other families, 15 kids in all, and there was no shortage of things for the kids to do. They even built a fort under one of the many foot bridges.
The spaces between the camping spots are open and relatively close, so if you like your privacy you might be disappointed. If you are part of a group of friends or camping with extended family, the openness and proximity of the camping spaces is perfect.
Because there are only 15 spaces in the entire park, the vehicle traffic is very light. The hills and curves make this park an awesome place for the kids to ride their bikes.
There are several interesting features that you can find in and around Mission Tejas State Park.
- The Baths – On one of the trails within the park, there is a stairway that goes up a hill. At the top of the hill are two what appear to be, baths. Nobody knows for sure why they are there, but someone (most likely the CCC workers that built Mission Tejas State Park) created the baths by digging holes and lining them with rock. The tubs were then filled by a natural spring bubbling up from the ground several yards away.
- Chimney Loop – Once there was a house on top of a hill that lies inside the park. I don’t know what happened to that house but the only thing left of it is the chimney. The park put in some benches and that site is now a perfect place to have a picnic.
- Caddo Indian Burial Grounds – I didn’t get a chance to visit the site, which is just a few miles away from the park, but I definitely will the next time I go. Their history is very interesting and I believe that as Americans we need to learn more about the first nations who inhabited North America long before the Pilgrims, Spaniards and French explorers ever showed up.
- I’m sure you have heard of the Appalachian trail, but have you ever heard of the El Camino Real de los Tejas Trail! Well, it’s 2500 miles long and intersects with the park. It begins in Natchitoches, Louisiana and ends in Mexico City. You can walk a little of it, or the whole thing. Just remember to bring enough food and water.
First of all, the camping area at Mission Tejas may be the prettiest that I have encountered in Texas. No circle, no square and definitely no parking lot style camping area here. The road winds around, up and down the terrain.
Like most Texas State Parks, every space is paved and comes with a table, fire ring, and grill. All spaces have 30/50 amp electricity and the bathrooms are above average. None of the spaces have sewer. There are a few items available at the park store which is near the park entrance. Wood is also available. There are two park hosts located near the entrance and they were very helpful. Never the less, bring everything, because the park store is the size of a walk in closet and there are no stores close by.
Cooking and Camping
We camp so often that it would get boring if we only grilled up hamburgers and hot dogs. We purchased a dutch oven a few years ago and now we use it on almost every trip. During our time at Mission Tejas State Park, we camped with three other families, 22 people altogether. We ended up having an impromptu Greek themed dinner one night. One family made shrimp kebabs and flatbread, while I grilled some eggplant and fried up 50-60 falafel and served both with tzatziki. The falafel were devoured in short order. It was fun to bring some culture to the picnic table.
If you would like the recipe for the falafel, grilled eggplant and tzatziki, I will provide them in my next issue of Timeout, my weekly email newsletter. To sign up for Timeout, just click here and fill out two simple fields. Timeout is free, but if you want the recipes you will have to sign up before my my next issue goes out on March 22, 2019.
A Couple of Negatives
The asphalt is beginning to crumble on several of the sites and there aren’t a lot of flat ones either, so bring plenty of planks for leveling. My trailer is 26 ft. long, and the tight corners and spaces, as well as, the fact that very few of the sites are level, might make it challenging for anything over 30 ft. You should check with the park before bringing your over sized glamper!
There is no cell service and no wifi, which isn’t necessarily a negative, unless you are one of those folks who works or watches TV when you camp.
Even though there is a small fishing pond, the fact that there is no swimming, means this is a cool weather camping destination for this family. Compared to Houston, it freezes frequently in the winter, which is something to take into consideration when camping during winter months.
If you have kids, this campground is perfect. There is so much to do. There were kids everywhere, so if you don’t have kids and like it quiet, you might not enjoy it as much. Right now, this place seems to be a well kept secret, as we were able to book spaces here during spring break on short notice. Even with only 15 camping spaces, it should not be difficult to get a slot on relatively short notice.
Overall, this is one of the prettier and better hiking parks I have visited in the state.
One last thing. If you live up North where camping in the winter is out of the question, I would strongly encourage you to drive down to Texas and try out this state park. It is completely worth an 8-10 hr. drive to bring your kids out of the snow and cure their cabin fever.
One of Many to Come
Our family has been camping all over Texas for the past four years. The eight of us have been to 24 Texas State Parks during that time, some great and some not so great. We camp all year long and spend an average of 30 nights per year in our trailer. If you found this review helpful and entertaining, I have good news for you. Campground reviews will become a regular feature of my blog. From now on, I will post a review about once per month.
If you like to camp, especially if you camp with children, you should consider signing up for Timeout, my weekly email. Timeout is free. By signing up for Timeout, you will be sure to see all of my campground reviews when they come out. Did I mention Timeout is free? I also post recipes each week, most of them you can make while camping. To sign of for Timeout just click here.
If you don’t take your kids camping, you are really missing out on a lot of fun and learning. So, give it a try. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section. If you are a camping family, I hope we run into each other sometime soon.
Brian at Daddy Go To Timeout