Camp and Play at Austin’s Emma Long Park

Emma Long Park is a local gem that’s nestled in the hills of West Austin. There is plenty of shade from large trees, water to swim in, and it is conveniently located, as it’s a short drive from anywhere in Austin.

A scenic drive on Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highway), a very short drive on 2222, up a hilly road (City Park Road), and it feels like you are hours away from the city when, in fact, you are mere minutes from civilization. With a beach and shallow water to wade in, camping sites both close to the water and primitive, picnic areas, hiking trails and plenty of nature viewing, it’s no wonder Emma Long has been a long-standing favorite in our family. For those families who ride motorcycles together, there’s even a motorcycle trail.

Beautiful fall colors on the shore opposite the beach; taken in November and still warm enough to swim!

The sandy beach with shallow water to wade in is ideal for families with small children. There is also a nice pier that can be used to jump into the water.

I’ve visited Emma Long Park in all seasons, and I’ve rarely seen more than a handful of people there at the same time.

There are picnic tables spread out throughout the park with BBQ pits available. Except for the instances when we’ve camped there, we’ve always just brought a cooler with sandwiches, or have picked up a bucket of chicken with all the fixins’. Note: Bring a tablecloth. The tables can be a bit dirty so it’s a good idea to have a cover.

Searching for sticks to throw to the dogs

The park also serves well as a doggy day out for our other family members… the dogs! Our two furry kids absolutely love this park. They start to pant loudly as we near the water as they love to jump in, chase the waves made by passing boats, and swim out to catch sticks thrown by our two-legged kids. Everyone is happy and well worn out by the end of the day.

A favorite with our dogs… camping close to the water so they have constant access to swimming and stick chasing.

One downside to this park is that there are many burs that can get stuck in between dog paws. There have been times that we’ve had to pick them out before getting them into the car to head home. For the adults and kids, bring swim shoes if you plan on walking anywhere outside of the beach so your feet are protected.

Most importantly, there is plenty of shore-front area available to the left and right of the beach; I have never felt like our swimming dogs and giggling, shouting children were disturbing other beach-goers.

Emma Long is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. An entrance fee is charged per car: $5 Monday through Friday; $10 Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If interested in setting up camp, the sites are only available on a first come, first served basis. Since the park is so close to all points in the Austin-area, it’s feasible to send one member of the family out early enough to snag a spot and then the rest of the family can drive out later in the day to meet Mom/Dad/Aunt/Uncle/Campsite Hero if they were successful in securing a spot.  A tent or camper must be set up to hold that spot, so it’s a good excuse to send the experienced set-up person beforehand.


There are BBQ and fire pits available (be sure to check to see if there are burn bans), bathrooms, water and electricity are also available depending on which site you are able to get. The fees for camping are below:

  • Primitive Camping Site (no utilities) – $10.00 per night
  • Primitive Camping Site (with water) – $20.00 per night
  • Premium Camping Site (Utility Camping Non-Waterfront with water and electric) – $20.00 per night
  • Premium Camping Site (Utility Camping Waterfront with water and electric) – $25.00 per night

Looking for a free hike? Check out Turkey Creek Trail, located right outside the entrance to Emma Long. Please note: Turkey Creek is an approved as an off leash park, so if you or your kiddos are fearful of dogs, this might be not be an ideal location for your family.

For more information on Emma Long Park, visit the City of Austin website.

Emma Long Park
1706 City Park Road
Austin, Texas


Catherine Prystup is mama to three kiddos ranging in age from 2 to 15. Looking for more wisdom on how to spend your days? Head on over to LiveMom.com, a resource website for Austin-area moms (and dads, too!) where you will find more of her awesome wisdom.

About the Author

Heidi Gollub
Heidi Gollub is the founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning website Free Fun in Austin.com. When not running around on adventures with her five children–ages three to 15–she volunteers for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and shares content with the local news.  Recently, Heidi was a speaker at Mom 2.0 and the Texas Conference for Women.