McKinney Falls State Park Video

I found another great video on one of the parks I’ve visited a few times now. Watch the video and check out my posts on McKinney Falls State Park.

TPWD Colorado Bend Video

I found this great video of Colorado Bend State Park from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department YouTube channel and wanted to add it to the blog for that park. Enjoy!


Blanco State Park

Park #15 was Blanco State Park. Somehow I forgot to post about it, but this post will be just like the park itself. Short and sweet.

Blanco State Park is just off Highway 281 South of Johnson City, TX. You can see almost the entire park from the entrance road. There were several people fishing along the banks of the river. There were also many families enjoying the swimming area kept separate from the fishing area by the orange buoys seen in the image below. This would a good park to visit for a picnic lunch on a day outing. There are also some overnight cabins.

blanco state park

Government Canyon State Natural Area

April 27th we visited Government Canyon State Natural Area.

This relatively recent addition to the parks system is a combination of so many parks in Texas it’s almost too good to be true. There’s a prairie of wildflowers, canyon trails, lookouts to view the Texas Hill Country, Dinosaur tracks (yes, really), and much more.

This is another park that you may encounter an unfriendly creature or two.

Mind the warnings and you’ll be fine. Oh and as the park ranger said, “Don’t pet or feed fluffy.”
The visitor from up north somewhere did not find that joke funny. I hope he remembered what she said though.

About two miles down the Joe Johnston route you’ll find a trail off to the left that leads to some old ranch buildings. It is rather snakey back in there so go at your own risk.

If you make it back to the path…just kidding
When you make it back to the path continue on down the trail, but keep an eye out for a relatively unused trail off to the other side of the trail.
This path takes you down to a creek bed with some nice picture opportunities.

It was difficult to capture in the picture, but a lot of the vegetation is growing with the flow of the creek. Obviously this creek bed fills up with any rain so be careful and mindful of the weather on the day of your visit.

Keep going past Twin Oaks trail and Caroline’s loop and you’ll make it to the bottom of the bluff.

Here you’ll find many picture opportunities including dinosaur tracks.

I would go see these earlier rather than later as they are completely unprotected and will probably not stay this pristine for too long. Remember, this park was private land for many years and only so many people have had the pleasure of visiting the park. Around the tracks you’ll also see some blackberries, butterflies, trees/fern growing out of rocks…

and…a bee hive! (sorry, no pictures. It would’ve been blurry anyways as we were running at that point.)

Continue on the trail up the hill and before you get to the Zizelmann Homestead you’ll see quite an amazing site.
Right in the middle of the park is a naturally occurring Spanish Moss growth that just takes your breath away.
You go from this:

to this:

(read the sign at the trees for more info)

Continue up the trail and you’ll see the Zizelmann House.

There’s not much to see as they’ve protected the house like it was some fossilized dinosaur…oh never mind.

If you follow the fence around the house and brave the steep trail down, past the spider webs, over the snakes, and…
Wait. Let me me stop you here. Don’t risk it. It’s really not worth it. There are some springs at the bottom of the hill. You can’t see the spring though. You just see a nasty, still pool of water with bees (yes…again) and very little else. The spring is a sensitive area and you can’t/shouldn’t explore it too much. Again, take my word for it. It’s not worth a twisted/broken ankle.

This is the best picture I could get of it.

If you really want to see a nice spring flowing in a state park check out Pedernales Fall State Park and the Wolf Mountain Trail there.

Continue on up the trail and you’ll get to the top of the bluff. At the bottom of this is the dinosaur tracks. Take my word for it. Don’t look over the edge. Because of the angle, you have to actually lean out over the cliff to see the tracks. Just trust me, again, and know that they’re there.

Continue on Overlook trail until you get back to Joe Johnston Trail. Then you can head on back to the headquarters and parking. There’s no water along the trail and you can get lost if you’re not careful. We had a signal for most of the hike, but we were told of a story by the ranger that explained how important water can be. They recently had to send out a search party for a man who got away from his group and was lost for over 4 hours. There’s over 12,000 acres at this park and it’s easy to get turned around if you venture off the trail.

Another important reminder of this park is that sections of the park are only open for parts of the year.
The Protected Habitat area is only open from September to February. I’ll definitely be back here in September as there were pictures of caves, caverns, sinkholes, creeks, and more back at the headquarters. Maybe I’ll see you there.

McKinney Falls State Park (2nd try)

My friends and I decided to give McKinney Falls another chance. Maybe February just isn’t the best time to visit the park. After some much-needed rain and a different choice in trail I gained a new appreciation for the park. The wildflowers were blooming and it was nice and green.

We parked by the Smith Visitor Center and took the trail along the river, past the visitor center, and on to the rock shelter.

This massive tree was along the trail.

As you walk under the rock shelter used by the Native Americans so long ago take notice of the nests of spiders along the roof of the cave.

If you’re brave enough and the conditions are good take the path from the cave down to the river.

It is rather steep and slick so be careful. It was worth it for us though.

I’m glad we gave this park another chance. Hopefully some of the pending increase in funding from the legislature will make it to the other sections of the park.

Black Spur Emporium and Coffee Shop

As is tradition on our trips we found yet another hole in the wall coffee shop. This gem was on our way to LBJ State Park.

Black Spur was a combo of funky decorations and good service. Just don’t mention the “S word” while there. (starbucks)

Black Spur is found on Main St in Johnson City about a block West of the city park. I’ve had the iced tea there 3 times now. It’s been good each time. My friends have had the espresso and coffee and can vouch for that as well.

LBJ State Park

Nestled out in the beautiful Texas Hill Country are two parks that illustrate what life was like for our 36th President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). I’m going to write about LBJ State Park in this post. I’ll follow up tomorrow with the National Park and the Texas White House.

The state park is west of Austin out on Highway 290 about 13 miles west of Johnson City. If you’re coming in from the East I recommend turning onto Park Road 1 and coming into the State Park from the North Entrance. It is a nice drive through the surrounding farms and sort of gets you in the mood for the park you are about to visit.

LBJ State Park is home to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm.

picture of sign at road

This farm is a working farm operated by two volunteers. They dress, act, talk, and work the farm as if it was 1915. 1915 was a good year for the farm, but I’ll let them tell you that story.

If you have an hour or two hang out at the main house and listen to the stories. One of my favorite was when the couple explained what they do with the milk. Did I mention that the lady still milks the cow every morning? She also gets eggs from the chicken coop. Back to the milk. They have a good demonstration in the kitchen about how they don’t waste the milk. It’s used for various dairy products for the farm and they do it all by hand. Ask about the milk. You’ll thank me.

The couple uses the vegetables from the garden and the meat from the farm to feed the volunteers/park employees at lunch each day. So expect some traffic around lunch time, but it is nice to see what they are able to do with a 1915 kitchen. It really makes you think.

The pictures don’t do this park justice, but that seems to be the case with every park I visit.

Colorado Bend State Park

waterfall: gorman falls
Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park

We headed out from Austin at 7:30 am to try and knock out more parks on our list of 93. On the agenda for the day was Colorado Bend State Park and Abilene State Park. We had Lake Brownwood as a “if we have time” destination for the way back to Austin.

Word of caution: Don’t use Apple Maps to get to Colorado Bend State Park. You’ll encounter a nice sign that warns you “don’t enter or else.”

We found the park using Google Maps about 9:30 am and headed down the road past Gorman Falls to find the park headquarters. The road into the park is unpaved but covered in rocky gravel. Any car can make it down the road fine, but you will need a car wash afterwards. About 6 miles down the road you’ll find a dreamy oasis with plentiful camping, a beautiful river, and the park headquarters. The restroom is 100 yds past the headquarters so if you are in need keep driving to the right and park closer to the restrooms.

Campground below bluffs next to Colorado River
Campground below bluffs next to Colorado River

The group unanimously decided that this was the most beautiful camping spots we’ve encountered on our state parks quest so far; nice camp area with spacious fire pits and tent spots, the slow moving Colorado River flowing close by, a bluff reflecting the morning sun hanging over the river, and a restroom close by.

park store
park store


We headed to the park store to pick up a souvenir and get our permit. There’s a really cool tree outside that appears to be very old.

The staff inside was helpful though seemed like they may have needed more sleep or an extra cup of coffee. After getting our permit we headed back up the 6 mile unpaved, dusty road to head to our trail head to Gorman Falls.

The trail to Gorman Falls is about a mile from the parking area, but the closer you get to the falls the harder you’ll have to work to get there. “That escalated quickly” was a commonly held opinion among the members of our group.

rocky path
rocky path

I advise you to be careful, wear proper footgear and don’t pack too much for the last section of the hike. You’ll have to make some leaps of faith to get to the best view in the park. It is worth it and it is safe if you take it slow and think about your route down the steep, rocky path. The picture below is the beginning of the steep section of the path. It only gets more difficult from there. Hold onto the steel cables on the sides of the path. I don’t have any pictures of the more precarious section because I was a little distracted trying not to break my ankle.

The light at the end of the tunnel does shine brightly. When you make it down the rocky path you are rewarded with one of the most spectacular sights. “It looks like something out of a movie.”

I highly recommend the hike down to Gorman Falls. There is a self-pay station at the trail head for Gorman Falls. You don’t need to drive the 6 miles down the unpaved road to the park store if your only destination is Gorman Falls. Colorado Bend State Park is definitely a diamond among jewels in the state park system. It is one of my favorite so far and will defnitely be a camping and hiking destination for me in the years to come. Five stars all the way. (yes, even with the road)