A visitors guide and community guide for
the Texas Hill Country
|State Parks In The Texas Hill Country|
By Sam Bocetta
Texas is well known for its vast and sprawling rural areas that are filled with great variety of ecosystems and opportunities for outdoor adventures.
The Texas Hill Country is a prime example. The hill country is noted not only for its hilly landscape in contrast to the more flat terrain that dominates the rest of the state, but also the great number of oases, rivers, and diversity of wildlife.
There are also a number of different state parks in the hill country as well that you will have the opportunity to visit, and in any of them you'll be able to do anything from camping to hiking to fishing to kayaking to exploring and more. Just bring the proper equipment and an enthusiasm for outdoor adventure, and the hill country will be a match made in heaven for you.
With that said, here are the best state parks in the Texas Hill Country, presented in alphabetical order:
Colorado Bend State Park
The Colorado Bend State Park is a more than 5000-acre park in the Hill Country that has been open to the public since the late 1980s. It features many water springs, sinkholes, and caves, which makes it one of the most unique parks in the Hill Country as many other parks do not feature those kinds of geographical features.
Enchanted Rock Natural Area
The Enchanted Rock Natural Area is not actually a state park, but rather a popular tourist area that is absolutely still worth discussing.
If you like rocks and geology, then you're going to love the Enchanted Rock Natural Area, and by rocks we don't mean the pebbles you can find on the ground wherever we go. Rather, we're referring to enormous boulders such as the pink granite pluton batholith that is located just outside of Fredericksburg.
The numerous boulders and granite rock domes in the Enchanted Rock Area look a lot less like the natural phenomenons they are and more like manmade sculptures, which only adds to their appeal.
In addition to the massive boulders, there are also hundreds of miles of hiking trails and rock climbing opportunities as well.
Garner State Park
Garner State Park is located one hundred miles outside of San Antonio, and has been a park since 1941.
The spring-fed Frio River is the centerpiece of the park, presenting visitors with the opportunity for swimming, fishing, paddle boating, kayaking, and canoeing, among a number of other outdoor activities.
Then there's the eleven miles of scenic hiking trails, where you can view scenic locations such as Crystal Cave and the highest hill in the park, Old Baldy.
Guadalupe River State Park
Another excellent park to visit in Texas will be Guadalupe River State Park. With over four miles of river front and five miles of hiking trails, the park is a superb place to visit for hiking, backpacking, birdwatching, camping, swimming, fishing, and kayaking. There is also an extensive variety of wildlife at the park as well, including raccoons, skunks, and white tailed deer.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
The Hamilton Pool Preserve is located twenty three miles outside of Austin. It's a natural pool that came to be when an underground river collapsed as a result of erosion, and just as the Frio River serves as the main focal point of attraction at Garner State Park, the pool is definitely the main attraction at Hamilton.
In fact, the pool attracts so many visitors each year that it requires reservations during the summertime in order to see. When you do visit the pool, you'll be treated to the unique green color of the water in addition to a large natural waterfall, limestone rocks, and large boulders that are great for climbing or even just for relaxing.
Hill Country State Natural Area
One of the most geographically beautiful areas in the Hill Country is the Hill Country State Natural Area, a nature preserve located ten miles north of the Balcones Fault Zone. The reason for the beauty of the area is due to the limestone and mesas, which are truly unique. In addition, the hilltops are dominated by limestone as well.
Lockhart State Park
Lockhart State Park is another great family destination in the east Texas Hill Country. The park consists of many creeks and rivers that can be used for fishing, as well as scenic picninking areas, camping locations, and even a golf course that attracts thousands of people a year alone.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
A National Natural Landmark in Texas, the Longhorn Cavern State Park is exactly what the name suggests: a series of deep and dark caverns and caves that lead visitors deep underground. The caverns were specifically formed by an underground river that cut into the Earth thousands of years ago, and historically, it was used by outlaws and Confederate soldiers.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is so named for the 36th President of the United States, with the park protecting his ranch, home, and birth and resting place. Located fifty miles to the west of Austin, the historical site is notable because President Johnson actually spent a significant amount of his time in office in the park.
McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park features some of the best hiking trails in the Hill Country, in addition to a number of impressive waterfalls as the name of the park suggests.
The site is also notable for the large number of prehistoric fossils, including several nearly complete skeletons of ancient creatures such as dinosaurs, that attract thousands of visitors every year as well.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Last but not least, is Pedernales Falls State Park, which is located in Johnson City just thirty miles outside of Austin.
The main attraction of Pedernales Falls State Park is the huge slabs of limestone over which some of the most crystal clear water you will ever see runs.
Another popular attraction point of the park is the mountain biking trails, and in particular, you'll be hard pressed to ignore the Wolf Mountain Trail, which is six miles along and winds through a number of different small sized canyons.
If you get hot while biking, you can stop by the Arrowhead Pool to cool off. Or, if you're up for a more challenging trail, you can check out the Juniper Ridge Trail, which measures ten miles long and features far more natural obstacles than the Wolf Mountain Trail.
Sam Bocetta is a defense contractor the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and freelance journalist.
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