Palmetto State Park is approximately 60 miles east of San Antonio, and south of Austin. The San Marcos River runs through this dog friendly park, which is filled with tropical vegetation and wildlife. Although it is less than 300 acres in size, there are many things to do including hiking, fishing, swimming and kayaking.
How to Get to Palmetto State Park in Texas
Fees: It is $3 to enter the park, unless you hold a Texas State Parks Pass
Hours of operation: The park is open daily, but the open hours of the visitors center are from 8:15am – 4:45pm.
Palmetto State Park is a few miles south of I-10 in Gonzales, Texas. The entrance is just north of the San Marcos River. If approaching from I-10, you will pass an overlook along the way.
The Palmetto State Park Trail Map proclaims it is part of Hill Country, but the real hills are an hour north. From the overlook the land seems to stretch for miles, but Hill Country will not be close enough to see. In fact, this park is located in the bottomland, and its elevation is less than 300 feet above sea level.
Things to Do
- Swim in the San Marcos River
- Hike or bike along five miles of trails
- Hangout at the pavilion
- Fish Oxbow Lake
- Paddle the San Marcos River from Luling City Park
- Complete Junior Ranger tasks
- Camp at tent sites, group cabin, or RV sites
- Walk through the dwarf palmettos
- Visit the re-created mud boil
The pavilion at Palmetto State Park has A/C, a kitchen and overlooks the San Marcos River. Head down the concrete path to get a much better view of the river at the (low water) crossing. This crossing leads to the group camping area and connects the north side to the south side.
The HQ is located on the north side of the park. Two points of interest are near the HQ; Oxbow Lake and the re-created mud boil. Water rises out of the mud boil and flows into the lake. A fishing pier, playground and public restroom can also be found near these points of interest, as well as the cabins.
The more adventurous trails are located on the south side of the park. There you will also find the CCC Water Tower and more extinct mud boils. Camp at one of the electric hookup sites, or follow the San Marcos River through the park.
Hiking Trails at Palmetto State Park
Palmetto State park only has about five miles of potential hiking, or biking, distance. There are eight short trails which are very easy to hike. At least seven different loops can be made throughout the park. Hike around Oxbow Lake on the north side of the park, or cross the San Marcos River and make a three-mile loop around the south side.
Most of the hiking trails are wide and well-shaded. The vegetation is lush and consists of marshland, vines, Spanish moss and dwarf Palmettos. The park has a very tropical appearance even though it is close to San Antonio, Texas. The Trail Map may mention Hill Country, but Palmetto State Park is not like those you will find to the north and west.
Wildlife inside the park ranges from the winged, to the four-legged and slithering kinds. Many birds can be spotted atop the trees, including the red-shouldered hawk. You may see land-walkers such as deer, armadillos, raccoons, rabbits, or squirrels. My dog loves to see those! Watch out for cottonmouth snakes and water snakes. The tall grass provides them with excellent cover. We spotted a long black snake in the grass, which quickly slithered away as we hiked the Mesquite Flats Trail.
Other Parks Nearby
Lockhart State Park is a short drive to the north, between Gonzales and Austin. Stephen F. Austin State Park is about two hours to the east, which is the original spot settled by the Father of Texas. Government Canyon is about one hour to the west in San Antonio, Texas. Several other amazing Hill Country parks can be found north of the Alamo city. In fact, Texas Hill Country is one of the best places to hike in the entire state.