After finding damage to the swimming pool the pool was closed indefinitely. The parks system just didn’t have the funding to repair the structure. The TPWD Foundation along with the Apache Corporation have raised over $1 million and efforts continue. This pool is a unique park in our parks system and it will truly be a triumphant return for this oasis. Be sure and check out the Texas Monthly article on the fundraising efforts.
Stories, photos, maps of hikes I’ve taken
Pedernales Falls State Park
On a recent visit I found myself in the unfortunate predicament of having driven an hour to find the “park full” sign. While this would usually make me happy because it means the park is popular I really had my heart set on a hike today. After a quick discussion with park staff I found myself on a new trail. While you aren’t anywhere near the river or the falls this does mean you aren’t anywhere near the crowds. I left the park, yes that’s right, and took a left from the park entrance. About a half mile down there is a parking lot and a trailhead. The Madrone Trailhead. This 2.5 mile trail provides an escape from the crowds while providing great natural features and birdwatching you may not get in the rest of the park. At the end of this trail you can either walk back up the road to the parking or continue on to another trail.
I continued on to the Juniper Ridge Trail (black dotted line above) and took the left turn back towards parking. Really great trail with slightly more challenging paths than the madrone trail, but nothing too challenging for most. I’ve hiked this trail three times now and I’ve only seen one other person. To say this trail is underutilized is fair. You don’t see a lot of evidence of litterers either. But if you do please do the park staff a favor and pick up the trash and pack it out.
About two miles into this trail you are faced with more options. You can head back to parking or continue on to more trails. All of the rest of the park is accessible from these trails and I can’t wait to get out and keep exploring.
PSA: please remember to check in even though you are parking “outside” the park. The state parks are allocated funding, at least in part, based on the number of annual visitors. Not only are you stealing the daily access fee but you’re hurting the annual funding of the park. Additionally, you should let the park staff know you are hiking on this remote trail. That way if you get hurt or lost they will know where to start looking.
McKinney Falls State Park
Though this park is in my backyard (almost) I don’t visit it as much as I would like. Hoping to change that I visited last weekend and discovered the beauty of the picnic trail and the onion creek hike and bike trail. Don’t worry the trail is wide enough to accommodate our biking friends who seem, at least in my experience, to think the trails are made for them alone. Ok, off my soap box. McKinney Falls State Park is still recovering from the floods a few years ago. The headquarters is still closed for repairs. Much of the Park is still open though. If you know which fork in the trail to take you can find some truly amazing sights in the backyard of the live music capitol of the world.
If you’re in the park to do some fishing I encourage you to not fish in the swimming hole and then complain about people swimming in your fishing spot. I witnessed quite the argument during my recent visit and it is completely unnecessary. The best fishing is up stream from the swimming holes anyways. Not going to give away my secrets but put a little effort into moving upstream and you will be rewarded. Here’s the only clue I’ll give.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
I visited one of the more unique state parks recently. Dug out in part by the CCC about 100 years ago this park offers a very cool (always cool air in the cave) walk through geologic time and in this case more recent history with stories of a “bar” during prohibition and Texas Rangers rescuing a young girl from her kidnappers in a daring nighttime mission. If you haven’t stopped by for the tour I highly recommend. Also, there’s an observation tower in the back of the parking area that offers spectacular views of the hill country and makes for a great finish to your day if you happen to catch the hill country sunset after the last tour.
Did I mention a dog guarding the Queen’s throne? Here’s a sneak preview.
*i don’t post pictures of caves because it just doesn’t do it justice, the flash affects the bats and others on the tour, and I hope this lack of pictures encourages you to make your own visit.
Pedernales Falls State Park
This is one of my favorite parks. Not only is it close to my home base, but it offers so much as a park. Waterfalls, bird watching, wildlife, long challenging trails, and so much more. I’ve been to this park many times over the years and I’m still learning new trails and discovering new treasures every time I visit. Here’s some pics from my recent visit. It’s amazing how much two years of good rains has changed the river. Bouldering is still fun but it is a little more challenging to get to some features.
PSA: remember to stay on the park side of the river. The other side is private property and you can be arrested if caught trespassing. Also, there is no swimming above the falls. It is very difficult to see the rock formations just under the water and with just a little precipitation the water above the falls becomes violent in mere seconds.
CCC sites to See
Texas Parks and Wildlife has published a great PDF of the 9 CCC sites to see in 2016.
You do have to enter an email address, but you can easily unsubscribe from their distribution list at a later time. The PDF is worth it.
9 CCC sites to see – Texas parks and wildlife magazine
I have visited several of the parks on the list and agree that the drive is more than worth it to see the amazing buildings built by the CCC at these parks.
Spoiler: The Indian Lodge at Davis Mountains State Park is on the list and can only be truly appreciated in person. Plus you can swing by Balmorhea State Park on the way in or out (why not both?).
Lake Somerville seeing bird migrations
For the bird enthusiasts out there now would be a great time to check out Lake Somerville.
picture below is from flag pond
Zaragoza Birthplace State Historic Site
In front of Presidio La Bahia is the Zaragoza Birthplace SHS.
Ever wonder why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo? This day honors General Ignacio Zaragoza, who defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Visit his reconstructed birthplace adjacent to the Presidio to learn about this Texas-Mexican hero, born here in 1829. Descendants of the original town of La Bahía, the settlement that grew up around the Presidio, still live in the area today. Don’t miss the adjacent Zaragoza statue, donated by the citizens of Puebla, Mexico.
Access to this side building is limited. I recommend calling ahead to check for availability. The Presidio and birthplace of Zaragoza are not part of the State Park. There are additional fees to access both. Please plan accordingly.
Goliad State Park
Next to Mission Espiritu Santo is Goliad State Park. Although small, this park packs a punch when it comes to Texas History. Along with the neighboring mission that I posted about previously there are several other historic sites nearby. Additionally the park has plenty to offer in the form of outdoor activities.
Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, swimming is available across from the park, at a junior Olympic swimming pool, operated by the city of Goliad (Swimming Safety Tips), nature study, and historical study. The park offers a floating dock and river access for kayaks and canoes, and is a take-out point for the Goliad Paddling Trail.
Mission Espiritu Santo State Historic Site
Back in September of 2013 I visited a great Mission in Goliad (and apparently forgot to hit publish on the posting). If you haven’t been to Goliad State Park yet I recommend adding it to your list. This site combined with its neighboring historical sites make for a great day trip for anybody.
The mission has been beautifully restored to it’s 18th century condition.
For reference, here is a picture of the 2004 condition.
An interpretative guide is provided on the Texas Parks and Wildlife site.