San Angelo State Park – our first introduction to the wide open skies of the West! After we left Austin, we continued West through the Texas hill country (beautiful) but after that, things really flattened out, providing 360 degree views unlike anything we had ever seen before.
The campground at San Angelo was very spaced out. To date, it’s been the most spacious place we have stayed. Our spot for Trudy was huge, and so was every other campsite there! Also, the campground was spaced out in a few different loops that were far enough away from each other that you had to drive your bike or walk. Even from our campsite (which was in the middle loop) we were 2 miles away from the entrance.
This campground had water and electric hookups (no sewer, but a dump station) and was $20 a night. Since we had our Texas State Parks pass, we didn’t have to pay daily admission. We really liked the covered picnic table at our campsite and the fact that it was so large. We could have probably parked 3 Trudy/Toad combos on our gravel pad!
Things to do at San Angelo State Park
It was very windy during our stay at the park. I think this is the norm in West Texas – it gets annoying after awhile. I know I’ve mentioned before how loud it is inside Trudy when the wind is blowing. Then, when you go to leave Trudy, the door blows open. And once you’re outside, you can hardly have a conversation due to the wind! It wasn’t that windy every day, but it was windy most days – I don’t think I could live somewhere where the wind howls constantly like that, but I’m sure you get used to it. The wind didn’t impact our sightseeing, and we did a lot in our week at the park!
Ok, I’ll mention the lake, but there really isn’t a lot to say. Inside San Angelo State Park is a lake (it’s actually a reservoir controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers), and if you look on Google maps, the lake looks huge! We were well aware of this ahead of time due to other online reviews, but the lake is very, very dry. They have a sign in the welcome center and it said it’s only 10% full. The lake is still big, but not nearly as big as you’d think. We did see people kayaking on it, and it is very full of birds. From my understanding, the lake is always this low, and sometimes lower. So if you’re looking for a great water experience, you aren’t going to find it here.
Texas State Longhorn Herd + Bison
The TX state animal is the longhorn, and San Angelo State Park is home of the one and only official state of TX longhorn herd. We tried to see the longhorns multiple days, but only lucked out on our last evening there. The park is so spread out, so we went on many long bike rides to try to find them. The park employees can give you some ideas on where to look, but they have many hundreds of acres to roam, so you may have a hard time finding them! We also went out in search of Bison. I saw Bison a few days while we were there (although they were always pretty far away, but still cool to see) but Tim never saw them.
Wildlife Viewing Area
There is a wildlife viewing area within the park. What is a wildlife viewing area, you ask? We weren’t sure either, but it ended up being one of the highlights of our stay! The wildlife viewing area is a small tin building with a fence around it. The fence only runs alongside the building, so it’s really only one side of a fence (if you picture most fences being a 4-sided square, this was just one side). One side of the tin building is wall-to-wall windows that you can open. There are benches inside, along with some signage about local animals and some bird seed. So it’s kind of a secluded area where you can sit back, relax, and see some wildlife!
During out first visit to the viewing area, we saw javelinas! We had never seen or heard of these before, but now we’ve seen them lots of places! Pronounced “ha-va-lee-na” they are also known as a “skunk pig”. They are dead on the road a lot the same way deer are back in PA. I present to you…the javelina!
Not every state park has a playground, let alone a nice one. We really enjoyed the playground at San Angelo and went there every day!
There are tons of trails around the park. Remember how I said the park was very large? Well, to add to things, you have to drive about 9 miles up the road to get to the other half of the park, where there are even more trails, including one where you get to see dinosaur tracks! Thanks to some guy on a bike who told us about this or else we would have missed it. He said they do not publicize it because they are worried about people ruining the tracks. It was kind of a long walk to get there, but I’m so glad we got to see the dinosaur tracks! The only downside is that there is no sign or anything explaining what kind of dinosaur they are from, and you have to hunt a little bit to find them. For anyone visiting: go to Bell’s trailhead, take the Dinosaur trail, and once you get to the wash, walk behind the metal fence and you’ll start to see them.
Downtown San Angelo
One day while Tim was working, Calla and I explored downtown San Angelo on foot. Let me just say that I was really impressed by this small town. There is a cute main street with some really neat shops. The Concho river runs right through town and there is a nice paved path that runs alongside it. We went to a really nice playground, where they had a whole area specifically for toddlers. I noticed that San Angelo seemed very clean, not a speck of litter anywhere. One thing that was lacking were the sidewalks – there were almost none, and this makes it very hard to explore with a stroller. It is my understanding that the city recently got funding for sidewalks and crosswalks, so once those are in, the downtown area will be even easier to explore.
San Angelo is the wool capital of the USA, and all over town, they have sheep statues decorated all sorts of ways. Calla and I had fun looking for them.
San Angelo itself is pretty bustling, mostly from the oil drilling industry all around. Tim and I have never seen so many heavy duty pickup trucks as we did in San Angelo! We felt like the minority in our SUV! Every stoplight, all you saw was trucks. Mostly dualies. We still sometimes mention the crazy amount of trucks in San Angelo! I’m guessing this goes hand in hand with the oil drilling.
Our main takeaways from San Angelo State Park are the 360 degree sky views, the whipping wind, and the flat, scrubby landscape that was somewhere between plains and desert. Between the numerous wildlife sightings (I think I forgot to say we saw a couple armadillo, and a fox, too!) and the enjoyable day downtown, our week in San Angelo was the perfect mix of nature and city.
Date Visited – Late January 2018, 7 days