The first time my family and I went camping, we spent a week in a small dome tent with a toddler, an infant and the entire contents of our 3-bedroom house.
That little tent got smaller by the hour.
On the final morning of our trip, I emerged like a baby chicken who just pecked her way out of a sparrow’s egg, clawing tooth and nail.
Instead of giving up camping altogether, we upgraded our tent, aged up our kids and downsized our packing list.
Now we’re determined to camp our way through the piney woods.
Here’s our bucket list of great places to camp in East Texas’s piney woods.
- Map of the Best Places to Camp in East Texas’s Piney Woods
- Lake O’ the Pines – Most peaceful
- Daingerfield – Best hiking, great for kids
- Bob Sandlin – Best curb appeal
- Jellystone Park Tyler – Great for families
- Caddo Lake State Park – Mossiest
- Big Thicket National Preserve – Most budget friendly, coolest plants
- Paradise at Lake Texoma – Most Instagram-able
Map of the Best Places to Camp in East Texas’s Piney Woods
Lake O’ the Pines – Most peaceful
We loved camping here because it’s so remote and peaceful. We stayed at Brushy Creek Park, one of several well-maintained parks with campsites on the lake.
Lake O’ the Pines has several parks where you can camp. I’ve only stayed at this one, but from what I’ve seen and heard, they’re all very nice and peaceful. You really can’t go wrong.
We opted for a tent pad near the bathrooms because – kids. It was quiet (when the kids were sleeping) and beautiful. We saw a ton of wildlife and had the swimming area all to ourselves when we went. We fished right near the campsite and had one of our best camping experiences yet.
Lake O’ the Pines Bonus: secluded areas
Someday my husband and I plan to test out some of the primitive sites at the Brushy Creek Park that are even more remote and quiet, hidden in the woods.
- Address: 2669 FM 726, Jefferson, TX 75657
- Website: Lake O’ the Pines
Daingerfield – Best hiking, great for kids
My husband loves hiking. I don’t. Daingerfield State Park was his No. 1 pick. I enjoyed it too, but I like Lake O’ the Pines better because of the lake view right from the campsite.
The hiking trails at Daingerfield are beautiful. They go over hills and bridges and along the lake. They’re easy enough for beginners and kids and you’ll see a wide variety of wildlife along the way.
Daingerfield bonus: great for serious kids
The highlight of our trip to Daingerfield was our six-year-old working to earn her junior park ranger badge. She borrowed a backpack full of adventuring tools and filled out an activity book.
She studied butterflies, learned how to be safe and kind to the environment, searched for wildlife, invented her own constellation, and generally had a great time.
When we left, we stopped at the ranger station, and she was sworn in as an official junior ranger. You have thought she won a Nobel peace prize in that moment; she was so proud.
- Address: 455 Park Road 17, Daingerfield, TX 75638
- Website: Daingerfield
Bob Sandlin – Best curb appeal
We hope to take our junior ranger to Bob Sandlin State Park next.
I have no idea who Bob Sandlin is, but his park is lovely as you pass by on the highways.
We’re hoping to go this fall when the weather is bearable for office-people acclimated to constant air conditioning.
Bob Sandlin Bonus: Pittsburg, Texas
But if the weather turns bad, we’ll just load up the tent and spend our time in Pittsburg, Texas.
Y’all, it might just be the cutest little town in Texas, which of course means the cutest in North America because we will not be outdone in anything. (See also: Why is Texas the best state? 17 obvious reasons.)
I’ve only passed through, and I’m dying to peek into each of those little shops on the square. One of them only sells scrubs for medical professionals (which I am not), but it’s just so cute I might just have to buy some to lounge around the house in.
- Address: 341 State Park Road 2117, Pittsburg, TX 75686
- Website: Bob Sandlin
Jellystone Park Tyler – Great for families
One of these days I’m going to get my brother and his RV-full of children to meet us in Tyler at Jellystone Park.
My kids gawk at the pirate-theme waterpark every time we travel that way.
There are so many different activities there, our chances of getting out with few to no injuries seem decently high even being vastly outnumbered by kids under ten years old.
- Address: 5583 FM Rd 16, Tyler, TX 75706
- Website: Jellystone Park in Tyler
Caddo Lake State Park – Mossiest
I saw pictures of Caddo Lake State Park and now I have to go. I’ll wait while you go look at pictures…
Can you imagine the wild stories you could tell with all that moss hanging around? It’s just dripping with eerie magic or something. No wonder so many people in East Texas believe in Big Foot. If he’s anywhere, he’s in that moss.
When I write the Great American Novel, that moss will be in the acknowledgments.
- Address: 245 Park Rd 2, Karnack, TX 75661
- Website: Caddo Lake State Park
Big Thicket National Preserve – Most budget friendly, coolest plants
When I get really good at camping and find my love of hiking or just really owe my husband big, I’m going to take us to Big Thicket National Preserve.
I’ve got two words for you: carnivorous plants. What?!
Those flowers eat mosquitos, and I need to give them a high five.
Big Thicket Bonus: gym membership included
It only has backwoods camping, so you have to hike or paddle to your campsite. So don’t worry about packing up your workout gear.
Your reward for your labor is a fee-free opportunity to experience a totally different view of God’s green earth.
Where else can you watch a flower eat a bug in person?
- Address: 6102 FM 420, Kountze, TX 77625
- Website: Big Thicket National Preserve
Paradise at Lake Texoma – Most Instagram-able
I’m a country-girl, but I’m not a snob about it. Glamping in a tiny cabin sounds like a perfect getaway to me.
Paradise Cove at Lake Texoma has some cute little modern spots that accommodate families comfortably with running water, real mattresses and lots of homey amenities. Based on the website, there’s not a corner of this place that won’t make your Instagram followers drool. #NoFilter
Cheaper Lake Texoma options
Since we Millennials are not recession-proof yet, they also have primitive camping spots available that are a little more budget friendly.
- Address: 503 Paradise Park Rd, Pottsboro, TX 75076
- Website: Paradise at Lake Texoma