A graphic with the state of Texas with the words get outside inside of the state with bluebonnets and cacti on either side

Get Outside: Pace Bend Park

By Kaitlyn Benacquisto
Assistant Web Content Manager

a screenshot of the map of TX showing the location of Pace Bend Park
Location of Pace Bend Park. Screenshot taken by Kaitlyn Benacquisto via Google Maps.

Pace Bend Park is located in Spicewood, Texas, and only a short drive away from San Marcos. This park could suit the needs of nearly anyone– there is fishing, boat ramps, hiking, swimming, and both improved and primitive campsites.

There are 20 improved campsites located on the east side of the park, which include water and electrical hook-ups, showers and restrooms. Reservations are recommended, and it is $20 per vehicle. If you are looking for something more spur of the moment, and don’t want to have to reserve ahead, primitive camping is for you. Pace Bend has over 400 primitive sites and it will be $15 per vehicle. The primitive sites have picnic tables, fire rings, and some have barbecue grills as well. It is all first-come, first-serve, so the earlier you get there, the better selection you’ll have.

Pace Bend’s primitive sites are nothing to joke about– you can get a secluded spot on the cliffs overlooking the lake, a spot amongst the trees close to the trails, or you can even camp on the beach. There are also waterless toilets within walking distance of wherever you choose to camp. If you are just looking to visit the park for the day, it is $10 per vehicle. Make sure you have cash on hand, because they do not accept debit or credit cards there.

directions and time from San Marcos to Pace Bend
Directions to Pace Bend from San Marcos. Screenshot taken by Kaitlyn Benacquisto via Google Maps. 

I went to Pace Bend for the first time with my brother. He had been camping there before with his friends during the week of spring break and said that it was very empty and he saw nearly no one. When we went, however, on a pleasant feeling weekend in February, it was practically full. We got there late in the day, so didn’t have the best choice of campsites to choose from, but we were still able to get a spot overlooking the lake at the Mudd Cove pull-off.

We hiked during the bit of daylight we had left. If you plan on going hiking, I recommend being very careful and conscious of the turns you make– the trails are poorly marked with lots of options and you can get lost very quickly if not careful.

a trail map showing trails, roads, bathrooms, campsites, and boundaries at the park
The trail map for Pace Bend Park. Image courtesy of Travis County Parks Pace Bend.

Once back at our campsite, we started a fire and tried to stay warm. You are not allowed to gather or cut firewood at the park, so you must bring your own in. There are several gas stations on Pace Bend Road in the few minutes before getting into the park where firewood is available for purchase.

I, of course, forgot the poles to our tent, so we slept in our hammocks at night. There are plenty of trees at practically every site to hang your hammocks from. It was a frost 45 degrees at night, so it was a bit cold, but we hunkered down in our sleeping bags and made it through the night.

Awaking to the sunrise in the crisp morning was a magical experience, and Pace Bend’s beauty shone through. This is a great park to visit, no matter what time of year. During the winter months, however, many of the pull-offs for primitive camping are close for the season, so if you’re going on a weekend, be weary that there will be less availability due to this.

Pace Bend is a short drive away from San Marcos, and an affordable break from reality. Whether you decide to go for the day or stay a night or two, it will be worth the trip!

Featured illustration by Gabrielle Hardy.

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