Best Hikes of 2018 So Far

My last blog and this blog have both been rehash blogs for a good reason. I had plans to visit several west Texas state parks this summer but I have sustained an injury that is aggravated when sitting for a long time. My travel has been limited to just about nowhere. Hopefully, I will be back at 100% by August. I have gotten in a bunch of hikes this year so I will list the best.

10. Quanah Hill-This is a cool little park located in Weatherford, TX. Nice trails with lots of elevation change and clean.DSC00261.JPG

9. Eagle Mountain Park-Located on the northwest side of Fort Worth. This park is just a nice nature park to hike.DSC00033.JPG

8. Eisenhower State Park-A surprisingly good trail system at a park located in Denison, TX. The beaches and cliffs were great.DSC00283.JPG

7. Mount Nebo SP-Located in Dardanelle, AR, this was a surprisingly neat park. The summit trail around the top is a must.20180511_181132.jpg

6. Chickasaw National Recreational Area-Located in Sulphur, OK, this park is all about waterfalls. I love me some waterfalls.DSC00384.JPG

5. Bastrop SP-Located in Bastrop, TX, this was a park I have wanted to go to for a longtime. Although it was foggy he park did not disappoint.DSC00668.JPG

4. Petit Jean SP-Located in Morrilton, AR, this was another must see park for me that lived up to all the hype.20180513_075502.jpg

3. Enchanted Rock SP-I returned to this park for the third time. I got to finish the park and it was as good as the first two trips.DSC00568.JPG

2. Caprock Canyon SP-My second visit to this park located in Quitaque, TX. Even fog could not ruin the colors of this beautiful canyon.20180421_090844.jpg

1. Mount Magazine SP-This state park has the highest point in Arkansas as its peak. Located in Paris, AR, it has some great cliff views.20180512_092318.jpg

This was a hard list to create and I think I left off a good hikes at Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin and Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano. I have at least five never been before hikes planned in the fall so this list might change by the end of the year.

Emma Long Metro Park

On the outskirts of northwest Austin, Emma Long Metro Park is a nice getaway from the city. I got there early and there was only one other person at the park. I liked the fact it was peaceful and secluded but still near the city. The main trail is 2.8 miles long but there are offshoot trails. I added about two extra miles of fun trails. The interesting thing about the main trail is that is does not run along side of the creek but crosses it several times. The trail is marked well but I still got lost twice. I blame it on the creek crossings. The trail has some elevation gains and a overlook but the creek was my favorite part. The water in most parts was crystal clear. I also like nearing waterfalls no matter how big or small. The park has several different terrains that kept the hike interesting. I was always hiking further on the offshoot trails to see what else was in the park. There was an interesting flat open area with some rock stacking. This is also a very dog friendly park. On my way out, there were more dogs than people on the trail. 20180523_083348.jpg20180523_084457.jpg20180523_094515.jpgDSC01067.JPGDSC01094.JPGDSC01099.JPG

This was a fun hike. It is another part of Austin that is very nice and scenic. This was also hike 32 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next was a flat and fastish 10K.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

This, unbeknownst to me, is a very popular spot in Austin. The trail is a 15 mile out and back depending on where you start. It could also be a 15 mile loop. I did an out and back section between the Mopac Hwy Trailhead and the Hill of Life Trailhead. The hike was a total of 6.6 miles of overlooks, hills, waterfalls, rock climbing and people lots of people. I got there in the middle of the day and middle of the week hoping people would still be at work. Apparently, people do not work in Austin. I had never seen so many cars at a trailhead before. I walked about a third of a mile before even getting to the trail. The trail itself was very nice. Well groomed with little to no trash. The biggest issue was trying to get pictures without random people in the background. There were two main waterfalls in the section I hiked but they were filled with people so I did not get pictures. I chose the section because of the waterfalls and they were very nice but way too many people. The other section leading to Zilker Park had more of the rock climbing cliffs. I did see some people rock climbing on this section. The highlight of the hike was the climb up the Hill of Life. It was a leg busting experience. It was a long steadily climbing hill that was not too steep but long. 20180522_154659.jpg20180522_154704.jpg20180522_161103.jpg20180522_164827.jpg20180522_173629.jpgDSC01054.JPG

I really like this trail. I will try to get back here and do the Zilker Park section and this section again when there are less people. This was hike 31 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next a park with not many people but a lot of dogs.

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park has been a park I have wanted to visit for at least two years. The other Arkansas state parks I have visited have been convenience parks. I say that in hindsight because those other parks would have been destination parks if I knew more about them. Petit Jean is located north west of Little Rock but closer to Little Rock than both Mount Magazine and Nebo but farther than Pinnacle Mountain. The drive to Petit Jean was another scenic drive with beautiful views. I would be crazy not to mention how green everything is at this time of year. Petit Jean did not disappoint when it came to all the hype I gave it before I arrived. The waterfall was flowing and the view behind Mather Lodge was spectacular. The hike on Cedar Falls Trail was strenuous to say the least. The hike was worth it, though. The hike was different than the other mountain parks. The hike had a more woodland forest feel. The park was in bear country and it really looked like a place where plenty of bears would be found. Ironically, I also hike a trail called Bear Cave. I was continually going all around the trail trying to get good pictures and ended up getting an extra half mile of hiking. I was also lucky enough to get there very early and I was one of two people on the trail.

Cedar Falls Trail took me down into a valley and at the end of the trail was Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls is a 95 foot straight down waterfall. This is the highest waterfall I have seen on my travels. It had not rained in a long time but the waterfall was still flowing pretty good. I then decided after making a very steep uphill climb out of the valley to do one more short trail. Bear Cave Trail was close and short so I decided to give it a hike. It had some very nice rock formations and views at the end of the trail. It was a great morning of hiking.20180513_073922.jpg20180513_081331.jpg20180513_075758.jpg20180513_084431.jpg20180513_090230.jpgDSC00990.JPG

I will definitely be returning to Arkansas to see the other parts of the parks I missed and to go to some new parks I need to see. This was hike 30 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next hikes are back in Texas. Austin here I come.

Buescher State Park

Buescher State Park is located in Smithville, TX which is about forty minutes east of Austin. The park is a smallish park and besides camping, I do not know the park’s main attraction. The park has no distinct look. It could be in east Texas and not stand out. It could be in north Texas and fit in with the other parks. It even could be a central Texas park and not be out of place. I think that is why this park is kind of special. The trails did not hold up too well because of the rain. They still had spots of thick mud and standing water but other parts were bone dry. The park also is still displaying the damage of its own floods and fires. The park is restoring well just like Bastrop SP. Due to the size I got to hike the entire park during my time in the park. The fog had burned off and the sun was shining. The temperature rose very quick but it was still a nice day. The trails were easy with not too much elevation change. There were some good views and plenty of scenery. DSC00735.JPGDSC00739.JPGDSC00743.JPGDSC00752.JPGDSC00748.JPGDSC00742.JPG

I was surprised that I did not see any wildlife at the park. There were birds but that was it. A nice park for a quick day hike. This was hike 25 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next up a park I had never heard of went to a park I could not miss out on.

Bastrop State Park

I have finally made it to Bastrop State Park. I have been to seven Austin area state parks but never had a chance to go to Bastrop State Park. The timing has not made it possible to visit this park. I found a trail race near the park and I was not going to miss my chance to hike Bastrop State Park. The park is located in Bastrop, Texas about thirty minutes east of Austin. The park in recent years has been devastated by floods and fires. The majority of the park was burned down and then a couple of years later flooded and left about half of the park under water. I am visiting the park three years after the last major natural disaster and the park is rebuilding itself. I was told it would take about 80 years for full restoration.

I arrived early in the morning and it was cool and very foggy. I did not think I would get good pictures in this type of fog but I was told to go through with the hike. The person described the park in this fog as “majestic” and “enchanting.” He was spot on. The park was beautiful in the fog. The views were incredible and even though you can still tell that the park had be through natural disasters it still was spectacular. The different tree colors, the red dirt, the elevation changes and the regrowth of smaller plants made this park a must see. The park for me lived up to all of me expectations and more. This park also had some interesting CCC features.20180331_090444.jpgDSC00668.JPGDSC00681.JPGDSC00703.JPGDSC00715.JPGDSC00729.JPG

This was hike 24 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series. It will definitely go down as one the best and most memorable hike. Of course, I got lost in the fog. It was a good built in excuse. I would have gotten lost on a bright and sunny day. I added an extra mile and a half to the hike and it was well worth it.

The next park was a quick ten minute drive down the road.

Lockhart State Park

In the land of BBQ there is a state park. I knew very little about this park and the park seemed to be a park for golf. I do not golf. It also supposedly has some good fishing spots. I do not fish but want to learn and start fishing. I do hike and this park has some surprisingly nice hiking trails. I even had a tough time on Rattlesnake Run trail to finish off my hike of the park. Lockhart State Park is located in Lockhart, TX which is about thirty minutes south of Austin. I decided to do a combination of seven trails because none of them are particularly long. I luckily brought enough water due to the heat. The temperature rose very quick in the middle of the day. Another good thing was that the trails were shaded for the most part. I enjoyed my time at this park. I stayed longer than I thought was going to stay so I had to pass up on another park I was going to try to visit. This was a trend of that weekend. I was continually hiking longer in one place and missing out on the next place. This was also the weekend of getting lost and I did get lost at Lockhart State Park and ended up on the golf course. I was pleasantly surprised to find two waterfalls in the park and one was flowing to the point where the crossing point was flooded. DSC00666.JPGDSC00658.JPG DSC00653.JPGDSC00651.JPG20180330_144610.jpg20180330_151304.jpg

This was hike 23 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series and one of the biggest surprises of these hikes. I found many things on this hike that I did not expect. The trails had good elevation change. There are some CCC buildings and waterfalls. It was a good hiking experience.

Next up is a park I have been trying to get to in over a year.