Teetering on the cusp of summer and fall, the changing of the seasons demanded one last summer camping trip. This time, we set our sights on Meridian State Park.
Meridian State Park is a 505-acre park located in Meridian, about an hour northwest of Waco. The land was home to both Tonkawa and Tawakoni Native Americans prior to being acquired by the state and turned into a state park in 1935 (with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps). Visitors to the area could easily pass over Meridian State Park in lieu of the flashier, more popular parks in the area (like Dinosaur Valley State Park), but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you missed out on it!
Lily & I parked the teardrop camper in the Crosstimbers camping area for the weekend, located right near the park entrance. We had almost the whole area to ourselves. Our campsite was adjacent to the Little Springs Trailhead, which was nice for easy access to a quick afternoon hike.
Wildlife sightings while hiking at Meridian State Park
There is quite a bit to do in this park, despite its small size! There are some excellent spots for picnicking along the lake and some beautiful hiking trails with superb overlooks. We hiked all 5 miles of trails – they’re all relatively easy, with the Bosque Trail being the most challenging. Lily was absolutely tickled by the number of armadillos we saw on our evening hikes. We even saw a possum, too!
We watched the sunrise at the Shinnery Ridge Overlook and followed it with a hike on the Shinnery Ridge trail, which is easy and partially ADA accessible. There were spiders EVERYWHERE that had built their webs across the trail, some completely invisible until you were in them. We tried to make a game out of spider-dodging, but both ultimately ended up with web on our arms, in our hair, and on our faces. If you’re not a fan of spiders, you might want to wait to hike this trail until some early birds have already made their way through and knocked down some of the webs.
Check for algae blooms at the lake
We timed an evening hike around the lake on the Bosque Trail so we could catch the sunset at the Bee Ledge Overlook. You don’t have to hike all 2.2 miles of the trail to get there, though. You can drive to a parking area and easily access the overlook without the hike. It’s a perfect spot to watch the sun go down.
The 72-acre lake offers swimming, fishing, and boating opportunities (kayak rentals are available on site and fishing gear can be borrowed free of charge). Unfortunately, all swimming, fishing, and boating was temporarily off limits while we were visiting due to a toxic algae bloom. It was a shame we couldn’t use the lake because it sure looked inviting!
Swimming and horseback riding at Dinosaur Valley State Park
Since the lake was closed, we still needed to get our fill of end of summer swimming. We made a day trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose to feed our craving for some water recreation. It was about a 40-minute drive from Meridian State Park. Your permit for Meridian will get you into Dinosaur Valley at no cost, keep in mind that they do reach capacity some weekends and you may want to make a reservation still to ensure that you can get in. Make sure you get your picture with the huge dinosaurs from the World’s Fair!
Lily is obsessed with horses, as many seven-year-old girls are, so I splurged on a guided trail ride for us. Eagle Eye Ranch Carriage Company is a concessionaire that operates in the park and offers several different equestrian options for visitors. My horse was named Dingus. He was cranky (I would be too if I had someone sitting on me), but still got me safely through the ride. Thanks, Dingus.
After our trail ride, we headed to Blue Hole, which was some of the best swimming we’ve had in a long time. Getting there involves a walk down a short, steep trail, but it’s worth it! You’ll be rewarded with a great swimming hole in the Paluxy River with cold, deep blue water. The riverbank on the opposite side is graded and easy to sit and lounge in. There are even some dino tracks right in the rock ledges!
This whole part of Texas is beautiful and there is so much to explore! In addition to these two state parks, you can also find Cleburne State Park and Lake Whitney State Park within an hour radius. Make the most of your next long weekend by planning an outdoor adventure to Meridian State Park!
HOW TO: Meridian State Park & Dinosaur Valley State Park
TO DO BEFORE YOU GO:
We booked our campsite at Meridian about a month in advance, which includes park entrance fees. Visiting during the week will typically foster a quieter, more low key experience than a weekend when the park is busier. We booked a guided trail ride at Dinosaur Valley about two weeks in advance with Eagle Eye Ranch Carriage Company, which is the only company with permission to operate in Dinosaur Valley. No drop-ins are allowed and it is by reservation only to ensure they have enough horses.
Bicycles, hammock, swimsuits, hiking boots, when the lake isn't closed: kayaks and fishing poles (if you have them - if not, they can be rented at the park!). Bring closed toed shoes for the horseback ride!
We don't have a fancy vehicle with a TV that I can use to keep my seven year old daughter, Lily, entertained, so we play a lot of car games like "I Spy". We created a game where we pick something (a red truck or a goat or longhorn cattle, for example) and see who can spot one first. Lily has curated her own playlist on Spotify (full of Imagine Dragons and Kacey Musgraves) and we jam out to it and then once she falls asleep (which she always does), I turn on a podcast!
It was a pretty short drive so we didn't make any pit stops on the way, but once you arrive in Meridian, Morgan Street Burgers is a great spot for food! The locals love it! I don't like milkshakes but I am told that they have some of the best around!
Depending on what you want to do at the park, there are parking areas pretty close to the main attractions. I didn't notice much day use parking for vehicles with trailers, but there was a decent amount of space by the CCC Pavilion that could accommodate bigger vehicles and trailers! There is no parking fee, but there are entrance fees.
BONUS – ADVENTURE STAPLES:
Our camp chairs live in our car so we always have them if we need them! We use plastic totes to organize all of our kitchen supplies, camping gear (if we are tent camping), and food. Packing in totes helps keep similar items together so they're in one place when you need them and stacking them helps save space in the trunk!
This incredible article was written by Nina Cardenas. You can find more helpful Adventure tips and tricks on Nina's blog (https://www.ramblinroundtexas.com and through her instagram (@RamblinRoundTexas)