Monday, January 20, 2020

Nine Stunning Hikes in the Texas Hill Country

Nine Stunning Hikes in the Texas Hill Country

The Balcones Escarpment—a cracked and weathered rock wall extending in an arc from Del Rio to Waco. This is central Texas, a land of hills, limestone bluffs, and sharply sloped canyons. Its initial appearance gives the impression of a seared land, but upon further inspection, one finds underground springs flowing across the region, forming beautiful rivers and refreshing streams.

This incredible land offers a vast array of beauty to explore, from nearly treeless plains to secluded canyons and stair-like trails leading to breathtaking views from Texas hilltops. Here is a list with brief descriptions of nine hiking trails in the Texas Hill Country you will want to check out.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (21 miles east of Marble Falls)

This four-mile, round-trip hike traverses grassland before rising in a progression of rugged zigzags. You will climb 260 feet above the creek bottom. When you reach the creek crossing on this trail, be sure to stop and take in the beauty of the waterfall. If you visit this area in autumn, you will want to watch for migrating monarch butterflies.

Deer on rocky ridge

Lost Maples State Natural Area (47 miles southwest of Kerrville)

Here is an area famous for its extravagant exhibit of colors in autumn, but these scenic trails lure hikers year-round. This 4.6-mile round-trip hike is relatively challenging with its rugged hills and deep canyons. It runs along the border of the Sabinal River and peaceful streams.

If you start on the East-West trailhead, you will pass through groups of Uvalde Western Sugar Maple trees. At the fork, go left and cross Can Creek (in the fall, you may want to take the East Trail to see some of the park’s best autumn colors, as red oaks and Uvalde Western Sugar Maples turn to warm reds, yellows, and oranges). After Primitive Campsite D, you’ll begin a steep 220-foot climb to a savanna, where you can bask in 360-degree views of the wavy wooded landscape before descending into Mystic Canyon.

man with raised arms outside of tent

Colorado Bend State Park (27 miles west of Lampasas)

A 4.4-mile round-trip hike allows you to experience the scenic views of the famous falls. If you start north on the Tie Slide Trail, this rugged path crosses through open grasslands, rocky surfaces, and a variety of hardwoods and juniper trees. It offers views of the Colorado River valley. The short path to the Tie Slide overlook will awe you with a panoramic view of the river.

If you continue south on the Tie Slide Trail, you will run into the Gorman Falls Trail where, if you head east, the sound of rushing water will intensify as you make a mildly steep descent over smooth limestone. Upon rounding the corner, your eyes will feast on the view of a 70-foot waterfall tumbling from a limestone cliff over moss-covered mineral formations.

Guadalupe River State Park (13 miles west of Spring Branch)

A family-friendly hiking trail that is 3.9 miles round-trip, this offers a fantastic view of the park’s rolling terrain, and you can end with a leisurely walk along the Guadalupe River. Feel free to dangle your feet in its cool, spring-fed waters. You may also choose to stop at the Discovery Center to learn about the park’s natural features.

hiking couple examining map together

Milton Reimers Ranch Park (30 miles west of Austin)

This 2.2-mile round-trip hike takes you into a canyon more than 70 feet deep. Along the way, you will experience beautiful native plants and trees, scenic views, cliffs, and the Pedernales River. But, be careful! The canyon trail is very slippery. You will also travel through stands of bald cypress and sycamore trees. Be sure to listen for the chirp of canyon wrens as you pass vines of mustang grapes, beautyberries, and Turk’s caps.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (13 miles north of Fredericksburg)

Rock domes, cedar elm mesquite, live oak trees, massive boulders, and a crumbling granite hill will be the highlights on this four-mile round-trip hike. If you’re an Old West fan, the names of some of the sights along this trail will appeal to you: Turkey Peak, Freshman Mountain, Buzzard’s Roost, and Echo Canyon. You may even choose to camp overnight to stare at the vast expanse of stars. The greatest sight on this trail is the Enchanted Rock—a huge dome of sparkling pink granite rising 425 feet above the surrounding countryside.

backpacking with dog beneath stars

Hill Country State Natural Area (12 miles southwest of Bandera)

Only 2.3 miles round-trip, but a nearly 400-foot climb makes this trail a favorite among equestrians. The park even provides a list of horseback guides for your convenience.

Pedernales Falls State Park (44 miles west of Austin)

This longer hike, 7.8 miles round-trip, is another popular equestrian trail. This trail offers scenic views, a variety of trees, including Texas Persimmon and a duck pond, where you will want to watch for deer and other wildlife. Don’t miss Pedernales Falls!

hiking couple holding hands through tallgrass

Garner State Park (30 miles north of Uvalde)

This mere 3.4-mile round-trip hike offers scenic views and includes Painted Rock and the Frio River. You won’t want to miss the original 1930s stonework entrance gate that was hand-laid by workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). You’ll also find a historic dance pavilion. Be sure to bring a flashlight to explore the park’s cave.

Whether you’re a native Texan, a transplant to Texas, or a Texas visitor, you won’t want to miss some of the fantastic sights along these trails. No matter if you’re an avid hiker, an occasional hiker, a beginning hiker, or an equestrian enthusiast, the Texas Hill Country has something to offer you. There’s a hike for the family, as well as sights for photographers or people who love animals, nature, plants, stars, or the great outdoors. The Texas Hill Country has something to offer everyone. When you’re planning your next vacation, if you’ve never been to Texas consider spending time exploring the great outdoors in one of these natural parks.