I recently took a camping trip with several friends, including the Outbound Adventurers, to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas. Rain was a "maybe" in the forecast, but we decided to take the plunge with our three-night trip anyway.
Well, the "maybe" turned to a "definitely" before long.
While we would've preferred the weather to be perfect, of course, we found ways to make the most of our rainy adventure.
Here's how to make the most of a rainy camping trip.
Engage in outdoor activities when you can
If the rain lets up, don't miss the opportunity to get outside while you can!
Fortunately, our first full day at the state park was dry, so we took this opportunity to go hiking.
To reach the majority of the trails at Dinosaur Valley State Park, a river crossing is required. We didn't see the promised waterfall on the far side, but we did see a lot of wildlife, some pretty foliage and several nice look-outs.
Also of prime interest were dinosaur tracks created millions of years ago and now a main attraction for the park. For the full dig (hehe) on why the state park earned its name, I'll refer you to the paleontologist-half of Outbound Adventurer. The full scoop can be found here.
Later that first day, we went swimming at the Blue Hole, a 12 to 24-foot-deep section of the Paluxy River. A rock shelf, complete with more dino tracks, frames the area, so it's easy to sit on the edge and dangle your feet in — or even take a leap from the nearby rocks!
By keeping an eye on the weather, we took advantage of outdoor activities during breaks in the rain.
Especially in areas that experience flash flooding, pay close attention to the weather and to rangers' warnings.
The second night we were at the state park, the bottom dropped out. We stayed cozy in our tent, but the next morning found that the Paluxy River that cut the park in half — that we had hiked across the previous day — was completely flooded.
Fortunately, our reservation was for a primitive campsite on the front entrance's side of the park. This meant we were able to get to our car and leave the park without having to wait for the river to recede like some other campers.
If you're considering camping somewhere where flash flooding is a possibility, make sure you and your site won't be directly impacted.
Have fun indoors
Many parks have a ranger station with interpretive programming and exhibits. Head under cover to learn about where you are.
Don't forget your tent and any other shelters you may have brought are "indoors" too — use them as places to relax with friends and family.
The front office of Dinosaur Valley State Park was accompanied by an attached museum dedicated to the history (and prehistory) of the park, going all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs. We spent some time reading the exhibits and chatting with the rangers.
Back at the tent, we had a deck of cards handy to pass the time. We actually never ended up pulling them out, but we were glad we had them!
When the rain started to flow, we headed inside — whether a building or our own tent — to keep the fun rolling.
Explore nearby attractions
Maybe it's just not in the cards to see what you wanted to see... but that doesn't mean there aren't other areas of interest nearby!
Having already seen much of what there was to see on our side of the river, and unable to make it to the other side, we decided to spend our day poking around Glen Rose.
Even though it was soggy, there were shops to duck into to wait out the rain. Here, we were treated to adorable antique shops and a quintessential town square.
Many state and national parks are near small towns that rely on tourism to keep going. Feed the need by checking them out and supporting local businesses. Plus it's a great way to stay under cover if it's pouring.
If at all possible, bring what you'll need to stay dry with you. You can bet the parkas, rain coats and tarps sell out fast in park stores when it starts to pour, so it's best if you have your own!
We came with ponchos, plastic bags, tent rain fly, a tarp and rope — all of which got used in our efforts to stay dry. Plastic bags are a great tool for protecting gear and electronics, and tarps can be strung up with rope to make an impromptu roof.
Also, we made sure to bring supplies to make coffee and tea to keep us warm over the stove and long sleeve shirts to ward off the chill of the evening.
Even if you're not banking on rain, it's best to keep a few supplies in your car so you can snag them if you need to.
See nature's finest
Although you may be dreaming of sunny days and starry nights, sometimes clouds and storms make for the most dramatic landscapes. Enjoy the beauty of nature's more tempermental side.
On our final evening at Dinosaur Valley State Park, hiking and dinner had become a literal washout, so we remained hunkered down by our tent.
As the pouring turned to sprinkling, we ventured a short distance from our campsite to capture images of nature in all its wild, Texas beauty.
After our dinner, we were treated to the most spectacular view of the weekend: a double rainbow. The rain may have made for some miserable cooking, but after this sight, we all felt it was well worth it.
After it was fully dark and the rain returned, we retreated into our tent — only to be treated to another unexpected show, this time of neon green fireflies. They entertained us by hanging out between our tent and rain fly, waiting out the storm.
Sometimes it's worth a wet head and damp clothes to venture safely out into the rain to see if nature is showing off for you.
Even though the weather didn't fully cooperate, through preparation, creativity and a good attitude, we had a great time on our rainy camping trip. Flexibility goes a long way in making the most of circumstances out of your control, like weather, so just stay safe and have fun no matter what!
Do you have a rainy camping trip story to share?