10 Favorite Texas Hikes

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Cattail Falls

Many thanks to Lance Snead for sharing this gorgeous image from Cattail Falls in Big Bend National Park!

What makes a great hike? Sometimes it’s the scenery or the history, but most often, for me, it’s the memories made along the way.  Which means that what really counts is that you take that travel trailer out, set up camp in your favorite landscape, then go outside and play!

This morning, I started writing this post to highlight a few of my favorite Texas State Park hikes. But then I started remembering good times in Big Bend National Park, the “favorites” list kept getting longer.  So I’ll share my top five here, and post the next five later this week. I’ll be interested in hearing your suggestions for new favorites, too!

Here are the first five on my list of 10 personal favorite hiking spots and ideas about where to set up your camper:

Seminole Canyon State Park – Located in Comstock, Texas, just west of Del Rio, Seminole Canyon was home to prehistoric Indians. The park offers guided, 2-mile hikes (moderately strenuous) to the bottom of the canyon and then up to the Fate Bell Shelter, one of the oldest cave dwellings in America. The first time I visited and saw the rock art paintings, the place captured my imagination, and made me wonder what it would take to not only survive, but thrive, living in the Chihuahuan Desert. I started meeting with archeologists and first wrote an article for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, and later, a book called Life in a Rock Shelter. This hike remains my favorite after all these years.  

Camping: Facilities include 23 campsites with water and electric hookups.

Colorado Bend State Park – Near Bend, Texas, Colorado Bend is situated on the Colorado River. There’s plenty to do there, from fishing and paddling, to wild cave tours, but one of my favorite activities is the hike to Gorman Falls. It’s a 1.5-mile round trip hike on the guided tour, or, a rugged, 3-mile hike along the Gorman Falls trail. At 60-feet high, the falls are startling, with rushing water and ferns you’d expect to find in a lush tropical environment rather than Central Texas.

Camping: Facilities include 9 “boon docking” campsites. There are no hookups or dump facilities.

Cattail Falls – My sister and I discovered this hidden gem of a hike courtesy of our friends at Far Flung Adventures, and I’m sharing it with you on the condition that you promise you’ll treat the area with the utmost respect. The ecosystem along this trail is so fragile you won’t find the trail on the park maps.

The trailhead is off Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive near Sam Nail Ranch (you’ll turn onto an unmarked dirt road and travel about a half mile to the trailhead. Once you’re there, you’ll see a sign by an oak.) It’s a four-mile round trip hike, and on a morning hike, you may see a diversity of wildlife along the trail. The real attraction is at the end of the trail, however, when you’ll find a cascading waterfall and crystal clear pool. (You’re basically on the back side of the popular “window” formation in the basin.) Please do not go into the pool! Just sit beside it, relax, and enjoy a quiet break.

Sunset at Big Bend Resort

I’ve enjoyed a few warm sunsets at Big Bend Resort.

Camping: You can stay at the Basin Campground if your trailer will fit. Because of the winding roads and small campsites, park officials advise those towing trailer rigs of 20 feet or more to think twice before attempting to camp at the Basin. Alternatively, you may want to check out Big Bend Resort & Adventures.

Santa Elena Canyon – It’s the sound of a canyon wren I remember most from this hike. The trailhead starts at the end of Ross Maxwell scenic drive and is only 1.7 miles long. It can get interesting, though, as you cross Terlingua Creek. Be sure it’s safe before you cross. If the current is swift, you’ll want to save this hike for another day. If it’s safe to cross, you’ll follow the trail into the canyon, along the Rio Grande, and through huge bounders.  Pack a lunch, because you’ll want to hang out awhile along the river.

Camping: Try making Big Bend Resort & Adventures your home base. They have 131 sites and full hookups.

 

Enchanted Rock

Sometimes, it’s about sharing the hike with someone fun! It was chilly, but my friend Sharon and I had a blast at Enchanted Rock!

Enchanted Rock – Enchanted Rock is a 425-foot high pink granite dome with a trail that goes straight up the side of the dome. At the top, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Hill Country, and you can explore a small cave. This trail is a great half-day adventure, and is an easy trip from Austin or Fredericksburg.

Camping: You wont find any trailer sites at Enchanted Rock, but there are numerous choices in nearby Fredericksburg.  The Fredericksburg website should help you get started.

Where should I go hiking next? What are your recommendations?

 

Be sure to share photos of YOUR favorite hikes for a chance to win a free, one-year Texas State Parks Pass!

~G. Elaine Acker

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