Guadalupe River State Park: The Complete Guide

Fall Foliage on the Guadalupe River at Guadalupe State Park, Texas
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Guadalupe River State Park

Address
3350 Park Rd 31, Spring Branch, TX 78070, USA
Phone +1 830-438-2656

Guadalupe River State Park is a true Hill Country treasure, and it’s easily one of the most scenic, enjoyable parks in Texas. Floating the Guadalupe—renting a tube and spending the day lazily floating down the river, preferably with a Lone Star tallboy in hand—is a Texan bucket list item. Though most visitors do come here to float and otherwise take advantage of the river, there are also 13 hiking trails that feature lovely views of the water, rolling green hills, and limestone cliffs. Here’s your guide to what to do, how to float, where to camp, and what else to know when you visit Guadalupe. 

Things to Do 

As the park’s name suggests, the mighty Guadalupe (that’s “the Guad'' if you’re local) is the main attraction. You can fish, canoe, and kayak here (the Upper Guad is a paddler’s dream), and the area near the parking lot is ideal for swimming and wading. But during the summertime, tubing is king. This is when the river is almost always crammed with beer-swilling, Texas flag-waving partiers blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd from giant waterproof speakers. It’s popular for a reason: The towering bald cypress trees and flowing green waters are a sight to behold.

Both Guadalupe River State Park and the neighboring Honey Creek State Natural Area are fabulous spots for birding. Designated an Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, the park and the natural area are home to the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, as well as 200-plus other species.

Hikers will find a number of trails to choose from according to their skill level and desired mileage/destination. At the end of the Cedar Sage Trail is the Discovery Center, a mini museum full of interactive exhibits that showcase the park’s natural features. It’s definitely worth a visit if you have kids. Bicycling enthusiasts, meanwhile, can coast along on many of the park trails and enjoy lovely views of the river, cliffs, and woods. For horseback riding, the Painted Bunting Trail is just under 3 miles long.

Someone in hiking shoes walking on tree roots at Guadalupe River State Park
jennifer m. ramos / Getty Images

Hikes & Trails

Some of the best hikes in the park include:

  • Bamberger Trail: This 1.7-mile, moderate to challenging trail takes you through Hill Country forest. Golden-cheeked Warblers can be heard in springtime, from mid-March to May.
  • Hofheinz Trail Loop: For a shorter hike, take to the Hofheinz Trail Loop, a 1.5-mile trail through Ashe juniper brake and mixed deciduous forest. It takes about 45 minutes to complete.
  • Bauer Trail: Located within the 670-acre Bauer Unit, this 1.4-mile, out-and-back trail passes the Philip Bauer House, built in 1878.
  • Cedar Sage and Barred Owl Loop Trail: This family-friendly, 0.7-mile loop trail takes visitors to both the Discovery Center and gorgeous overlooks of the Guadalupe River.

Talk with a park ranger about your options to see what would be best for you. 

Tubing

Tube season in Texas typically stretches from late March/April to September, with the busiest months being June, July, and August. If you want to avoid crowds, your best bet is to go in March, April, or September, depending on the weather. BYOT (Bring Your Own Tube), or contact a local outfitter and let them provide tube rentals, parking, and transportation to and from your car. 

Where to Stay

Camp at one of 85 water and electric campsites or nine walk-in tent sites. (You can check campsite availability and make reservations online at Texas State Parks' booking site.)

There are several cool boutique hotels and resorts in the area. San Antonio is less than an hour away, as is the popular Canyon Lakeview Resort. If you want to stay as close to the park as possible, home rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO have cabins and other lodging on or near the river. Alternatively, historic Boerne is 15 miles west of the park—The Kendall is a historic inn on the square with room options that include grand suites with cast-iron tubs, a renovated chapel, and a stone-walled carriage house.

How to Get There

Located just 40 miles north of San Antonio and 80 miles southwest of Austin, Guadalupe River State Park is in Comal and Kendall counties. To get there, travel west on State Highway 46, 8 miles west of the intersection of State Highway 46 and U.S. Highway 281. Or, travel east on State Highway 46, 13 miles east of Boerne. The park’s address is 3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch, TX 78070.

Guadalupe river
thomasmales / Getty Images

Tips for Visiting

  • Reservations for Guadalupe River State Park are highly recommended for both camping and day use, as the (very popular) park often reaches capacity. Reserve your passes online in advance to guarantee entrance. 
  • If you plan to visit multiple Texas state parks in one year, you may want to consider getting a Texas State Parks Pass, which is good for one year and includes unlimited free entry to 89 state parks for you and your guests.
  • Check out a state park map to orient yourself before you go. 
  • Visit the park's events page to find out more about activities like nature hikes, stargazing parties, bird-watching with a ranger, archery, and more.
  • Go heavy on the sun protection when you’re on the river. You should reapply sunscreen every couple of hours, if not more. Wear a sun shirt, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water (no, light beer doesn’t count). There’s nothing like a painful sunburn or sun poisoning to ruin an otherwise super-fun float trip. 
  • Pay strict attention to any posted “no swimming” signs and only swim in areas of the park where it’s permitted. 
  • Don’t bring Styrofoam or glass on the river or in the day-use area along the river banks.
  • During the summer, the Guadalupe is definitely a party scene, especially on weekends. If you’re floating the river and you want more of a chill experience, plan to do so during the week or before 10 a.m. on weekends. Or, float during quieter times of the year, like April, September, or even October.
  • Don’t bring anything on the river that you would be sad to lose (or get wet); use a dry bag for essentials.
  • Wear open-toed shoes with a back when you’re on the river. Chacos or Tevas—yes. Flip-flops—no. 
  • Be a good steward of the land and leave no trace
Article Sources
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  1. Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Birds of Guadalupe River State Park and Honey Creek State Natural Area." Retrieved on September 16, 2021.

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Guadalupe River State Park: The Complete Guide