Located about 10 miles southeast of downtown Austin , McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy., 512/243-1643, www.tpwd.state.tx.us , $4 daily ages 13 and older) offers a natural respite just down the road from Capital City. The 744-acre park is a great place to get away for camping, hiking, biking, swimming (in Onion Creek), picnicking, and fishing. Facilities include screened shelters with bunk beds (no mattresses) and dozens of campsites with water and electricity.
Another can’t-believe-the-city-is-nearby camping area is Pace Bend Park (2501 N. Pace Bend Rd., 512/264-1482, www.co.travis.tx.us , primitive camping $15 per vehicle, improved camping $20 per vehicle). At 30 minutes, it’s a bit further away, but well worth the scenic Hill Country  drive. This is one of the most popular camping areas in the region, so show up early (and carpool) to take advantage of this beautiful lakeside park. Whether you’re in an RV or pup tent, be sure to bring a radio—out here you can catch the rootsy, twangy sounds of Texas Rebel Radio (107.9 KFAN), providing the best campfire music you’ve ever heard. Ever.