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.
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.
For those that haven’t heard you can now reserve your spot at our state’s parks using the online reservation system. This is great for those parks that are difficult to get to and then you do get all the way there and see the dreaded “park full” sign. Not any more. You can now reserve a day pass to popular parks like Enchanted Rock and not worry about there being space when you get there. Plan ahead though as parks are filling up faster than ever.
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.
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.
On a recent trip out West I had the opportunity to visit a special park in Northern California. Muir Woods National Monument is a “Tree Lover’s Monument” as John Muir said in the early 1900s when he bought the land. He would later donate it to the newly established National Parks System.
It is normally $7 to enter the park, but I was there on a free weekend.
Wear/bring shoes that are appropriate for slippery, muddy, wet, and potentially long uphill trails (more on that later).
We left San Francisco and arrived at Muir Woods about 25 minutes later. We arrived early and it was a good thing we did.
The limited parking lots fill up quickly. You are probably going to have to park some distance away and hike up to the park.
It’s worth it.
Pictures don’t really do the park justice and I’m not nearly a good enough writer to come close to describing the sites and sounds.
It was a little difficult to take pictures. My GS4 did not like the odd lighting of the park.
And here’s one with people for a reference to the size of some of these trees.
Now, for the helpful hints part of the post. The ocean view trail is long, narrow, muddy, rocky, steep, and a great challenge. Enter at your own risk. Don’t blame me if/when you make it to the top and realize it’s too foggy to actually see the ocean. 🙂
Here’s a video to serve as a preview to our trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park on 1/11/14. It was a fun day minus the cedar pollen (more on that later).
Park #34 on our quest to visit all the Texas State Parks and Historic Sites was Garner State Park.
It was very cold and started to rain when we arrived to the park. Even with the conditions we enjoyed the unique features of this park. The Frio (pictured above and below) is frequented by many during the summer for tubing activities. You wouldn’t want to do that in November. Besides being really cold, there’s also very little water.
Check the visitor’s center in the center of the park for path tags, wildlife viewing suggestions, and other park souvenirs. The main office at the entrance is for entrance fees ONLY and don’t forget to take a number on the way in.
There is plenty for the whole family in this park. There is a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, a miniature golf course (seasonal and weather-permitting), camping, hiking, swimming and tubing (seasonal), and much more. You can see why this is one of the more popular parks.
Our 34th park was Lost Maples State Natural Area. We headed out early from Austin to beat the crowd…and then found that we were the only ones crazy enough to brave the weather.
It was 32 degrees and muddy, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
There were many maples that still held their leaves, but many of the trees were bared during the recent storms. This was definitely one of the most colorful parks that we have visited so far.
There were also some interesting formations at the park like Monkey Rock.
Can you see it? How about now?
The view from the top of the East Trail was definitely worth the climb.
About that climb…1.5 miles straight up a rock staircase. It was challenging, but it paid off.
Check out the foliage report at TPWD for the latest on the maples at Lost Maples.
Also a great video on the TPWD Youtube channel.