On the day after Thanksgiving in 2012, my four-year-old son and I loaded up our camping gear, along with half a pickup load of firewood, and drove south to Lake Brownwood State Park. Neither of us had been there before.
At the time, Texas was in the middle of one of the worst droughts since the 1950’s. The lake was at a record low. That, along with it being the day after Thanksgiving and very cold, gave us almost the entire state park to ourselves. We did a little exploring, but a lot of sitting by the fire with Ben wrapped in a blanket sitting on my lap.
As of this past weekend, we’ve now had seven annual boy’s fall camping trips. And though we’ve camped at several other state parks, Lake Brownwood continues to be one of our favorites.
Unlike other Texas state parks, there are always camp sites available at Brownwood. That’s good for me, because I’m a last-minute planner. But it also means the park is usually not crowded.
There are only six miles of hiking trails, but three of those miles are rugged and fairly challenging for children. Another three-mile trail makes a loop through the woods that is perfect for trail running or biking. The trails can be combined or hiked separately.
Our favorite trail is the Lakeside Trail, which features the rock handy work of the Civilian Conservation Corps workers, who built the park in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. There are a few challenging climbs, along with some beautiful views of the lake.
Besides hiking, the park offers several great fishing spots, including our “secret spot,” which isn’t really a secret, but was the site of our best fishing ever. Within a few hours, I caught eight large bass, and Ben caught over 30 perch. That, by the way, was in 2016, and was almost the only time we caught anything.
Brownwood sits near the geographic center of Texas and a long way from any metropolitan area. It’s mostly ranching country, and there is abundant wildlife. We always see lots of deer, and we’ve seen the occasional fox. Coyotes show up to sing you to sleep nightly, but that’s common for any Texas state park.
Though Ben and I are usually tent campers, we’ve stayed in the screened shelters and the cabins at Lake Brownwood, and we’ve been happy with them all.
If you’d like a stress-free, relaxing weekend, I’d recommend Lake Brownwood State Park. By the way, the lake is full. And if you find a little Winchester pocket knife around shelter number 8, please let me know. There’s a little boy who’d love to get it back.