McKinney Falls State Park

Tucked away in the southeast corner of Austin, TX, there is a state park that has a bit of hill country mixed with a bit of east Texas. Mckinney Falls has both the unique hill country rock formations and the long relatively flat winding trails of east Texas. As the name suggest is also has some great waterfalls. McKinney Falls State Park has a little something for everybody. If you want to see waterfalls but do not want to hike far, this is the park. If you want to be adventurous and jump off rocks into water, this is the park. If you want to hike relatively flat trails for miles and miles, this is the park. I say relatively flat because you will not be hiking up the side of hills at a very steep incline. You will have some elevation change that will gradually wear on your legs depending how far you hike. The best and worst thing about getting to the falls is that they are very close to the trailhead. The lower falls are so close you can hear them from the parking lot and it is about fifty yards from the trailhead if that far. Plus the lower falls are north of the upper falls. Geographically backwards.

My son and I came here on our way back from the Natural Bridge Caverns in which we ran a 5K that started in the belly of the caverns. I never heard of the park until I saw it on TV about hidden swim spots. The hike was to the Lower Falls and then on to the Homestead Trail.20170205_122610.jpg20170205_132139.jpg20170205_122820.jpg

 

We then did the Picnic Trail and the Rock Shelter Trail. The Rock Shelter Trail had some steep inclines and we ventured a little off trail get to some other sights and had a good adventure on these two short trails.20170205_134121.jpg20170205_134505.jpg20170205_134510.jpg20170205_134555.jpg

We finished this trip with another short hike on the Onion Creek Trail to the Upper Falls. This was quite a surprise. The hike was on dark limestone that looked other worldly. We got by the falls and the water was clear and you could hear the falls in the background. The falls were awesome. We had rain the night before and some of the creek crossings were treacherous but it helped the falls. Both sets of falls are not very high but both are steep and among rock structures that people like to jump off. I really enjoyed the Upper Falls and the surrounding area.20170205_140713.jpg20170205_140539.jpg20170205_140910.jpg20170205_141025.jpg20170205_141154.jpg20170205_141712.jpg20170205_142306.jpg20170205_142626.jpg20170205_142649.jpg

I need to get back to McKinney Falls State Park to finish up some hiking and get better pictures of the scenery.

I think the next couple of blog post brings me back to the Dallas metroplex before heading down to the southern hill country to more places I have never heard but wish I knew about when I was living in San Antonio.

Pedernales Falls State Park Part 2

I was happy to be back at Pedernales Falls State Park. I like a good hike to see waterfalls. The first set was magnificent and I could not wait to see Twin Falls. I was expecting to see a mini version of Gorman Falls by the description and pictures but I wanted to see it in person. The problem with this park is that the trail maps are not accurate. There are many diverging trails not on the trail map and if you follow a trail it might be the one on the map. I had this problem the first trip and again this trip. One of the rangers gave me good directions to the trailhead but once I started to hike the map was useless. The strange thing was that I found Trammell’s Crossing which on the map should be in the sight line of Twin Falls. The good thing about this park is that even if you get lost the park is so picturesque that it does not matter.

I started down the Twin Falls Nature Trail which was less than a half mile long. I quickly realized that this trail was steep in places and had plenty of obstacles, especially if you are tall. I got to Trammell’s Crossing which was under water. I went after a good rain a few days before because I knew I was to see waterfalls for two days. I knew it was Trammell’s Crossing because the water was very clear and you could see the path under the water.20170406_122535.jpg20170406_123016.jpg20170406_123239.jpg20170406_124134.jpg

I looked around for awhile at what I thought was still the trail but it was not I am guessing. I go back the other direction and find that the Pedernales River is flowing good and the sights drew me away from my original destination. I was easily distracted by flowing water. I saw some other unmarked trails and a beach.20170406_124604.jpg20170406_124725.jpg20170406_125346.jpg20170406_125802.jpg20170406_131314.jpg

I did not get to Twin Falls but I had a great hike up and down the Pedernales River. I did have to find a the trail I came down on and that was a problem. I was on some jeep trail and I was guessing where I needed to go back up. I eventually made back up to the trailhead and saw a sign that might have helped out prior to my hike.20170406_133341.jpg

I did not discover the falls but I discover some other amazing views of the Pedernales River. I now need a third visit so I can see Twin Falls.

I think the next blog I will get out of the Austin area and actually go into Austin.

Inks Lake State Park Part 2

I am back at Inks Lake SP and I have a good game plan this time. I was focused on where I was going and what I wanted to see. I now have experience at this park. I missed the Devil’s Waterhole on my first trip. I made this hike my priority this time. The hike had many surprises and more attractions that were not noted on the trail map. The rock formations and overlooks were very nice. The clear water and waterfalls were a nice scenic surprise. I also had another great stay at the cabins in the state park. 20170405_181737.jpg20170405_181437.jpg20170405_182646.jpg20170405_182427.jpg20170405_183321.jpg20170405_183152.jpg20170405_184923.jpg20170405_183831.jpg20170405_185505.jpg

I really like this park and will visit again. The location is perfect for visiting the state parks and other destinations in the Texas hill country. I will continue with the part 2 theme in my next blog.

Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is the home of Gorman Falls. The park is located in Bend, TX which is about an hour and forty five minutes northwest of Austin. I have been to five different parks with waterfalls and then I heard about Gorman Falls. A seventy foot multilevel waterfall that will take your breath away. The last large waterfall I tried to go see was dry. Pedernales Falls were very impressive but not as high or as steep as a Gorman type waterfall. I had to go to this waterfall so I planned a two day four park return trip to the Texas hill country. Gorman Falls is not the only grandiose feature of this park. This place has everything from waterfalls, scenic overlooks, caves with bats, vistas, canyons, rock bowls and many other natural features. I could easily spend two days at this park and still not get to every point of interest. I still cannot believe I missed this park in my first visit to the region. The good thing is that I am definitely planning on making a third and fourth visit to the area.

I kept my first trip to Colorado Bend SP fairly simple. I went down to the Colorado River to see the sights from below first.20170405_124148.jpg20170405_124721.jpg

I hiked the Tie Slide Trail and the Gorman Falls Trail. The trails are both fairly challenging trails but both are worth every step. I started with the Tie Slide Trail and the views down into the Colorado River valley were spectacular. There were a few days of rain before the trip so the river had a good flow and the plants were blooming. The detour trail off of this trail leads you to the River Overlook. It was amazing. Here is a not so great video. 20170405_134550.jpg20170405_134311.jpg20170405_134726.jpg20170405_134757.jpg

I could see the top of Gorman Falls from the overlook and I was energized to go down and see the waterfalls. The hike was more technical and very steep in places especially as I got closer to the falls. I could hear the falls and see the tops as I was hiking down into the canyon. The canyon walls were overflowing with water. I cannot explain how the springs were just flowing out of rocks. It was an visually unique natural phenomenon. My pictures did not do it justice and neither did another video.    20170405_142810.jpg20170405_142815.jpg20170405_142859.jpg

I eventually made it to the bottom of Gorman Falls and it was everything I could image and then some. I know there are more spectacular falls in the country but in Texas finding something like this is rare. The falls are so expansive and they seem to be everywhere and the more I looked the more I saw that I did not see minutes prior. I loved the roar of the falls and not many people were there so it was also quite peaceful. My favorite Gorman Falls video. 20170405_143131.jpg20170405_143225.jpg20170405_143220.jpg20170405_143213.jpg20170405_143431.jpg20170405_143358.jpg20170405_144133.jpg

The hike back to the trailhead was a tiring trek mostly all uphill. I was still seeing things I missed on the way down. It is a different view going the opposite direction. I do not always like out and backs but this one was not too bad. I finally saw some people hiking down and when I got to the parking lot it was full.

The next time I visit Colorado Bend SP, I want to hike Spicewood Springs Trail and Spicewood Canyon Trail. I eventually want to go to the bat caves and Tinaja.

Next up is my second trip to Inks Lake SP and I was more prepared.

Tyler State Park

I had heard good things about Tyler State Park before my first visit. I did not think much about the park before the visit but some friends said it is a great park and a must see in east Texas. It is located in Tyler, TX which about and hour and forty minutes due east of Dallas. East Texas is known for huge pine trees and Tyler State Park did not disappoint. The trees are about 100 feet tall but they look much taller from where I was standing. Walking through this park is just mesmerizing, one of the pictures I took is actually my start up screen on my computer. This is also a CCC park so there also rock structures mixed in with all the natural beauty. This is my favorite east Texas park of the five I have been to so far. The gem of the park in my opinion is the Whispering Pines Trail. It is only two thirds of a mile long but it has everything the park is about in this short distance. The trail has spectacular tree views, water features and a good change of elevation. The park also surrounds a lake and the attached pond. My first trip here I hiked the aforementioned Whispering Pine Trail and the Lakeshore Trail. Neither trail had significant elevation change but I knew that parts of the park must have some trails with challenging elevation changes since the paved roads in the park had dramatic elevation changes. I will get to those later. You can see the CCC workmanship on the Whispering Pine Trail early as you will pass either the children’s wading pool or the rock waterfall depending on which way you start the loop.20170222_105439.jpg20170222_102818.jpg20170222_103440.jpg20170222_104429.jpg20170222_105636.jpg20170222_105032.jpg20170222_104314.jpg20170222_103257.jpg

Hiking on the Whispering Pines Trail I also crossed over creeks on small bridges that were fed by the natural spring called Beauchamp Springs. Beauchamp Springs also feeds the rock waterfall. I had my hiking partner, Dade, with me that day also. 20170222_105420.jpg20170222_103702.jpg

The Lakeshore Trail was another relatively flat trail with more picturesque views of the trees and the lake. A beaver dam separates the lake from the pond, appropriately named Beaver Pond.20170222_111427.jpg20170222_111543.jpg20170222_113553.jpg20170222_111533.jpg

The trails were clearly marked and there were plenty of tree and plant description signs so you know what you are looking at. The park map and trail map are clear and precise so it is hard to get lost. You will know the difference between the loblolly pine and shortleaf pine just by reading the plaques by each tree.

I had a wonderful time here and for a long time wanted to come back and see the other parts of the park. I was lucky enough to find two trail runs that the park was hosting. I did the Pineywoods Ultra 10K yesterday. At this run I found out that this park has trails with elevation changes that are lung busting. The hills were not too steep but they went on, for what seems like miles. I did get a few pictures after the run but nothing like the first trip. The drive out here was great with the low lying fog hovering over the grasslands and lakes. It was very surreal looking at the fields at times that I have only seen on TV. I get another chance in January to visit the park as I have another trial run. I should get to do some hiking before the run next time.

I think I will stay in east Texas for the next four state parks.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a well known state park in Johnson City, TX which is about forty five minutes to an hour west of Austin. This was a “bucket list” hike for me for the 52 Hike Challenge. I wanted to go to this place ever since I heard about it. This was the destination of the trip I was most excited about. I had very high expectations of this park and it did not disappoint. The only negative was not really a negative but the trails leading to the falls were not marked at all but there were so many ways to get to the falls it was not a problem. It took me about a half of mile to realize that I could get to the falls at any one of the unmarked paths to the falls. Once again the wind was extremely gusty but since the hike was in a valley it did not affect the hike. Another windy video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WjnGUXxyeg The falls were flowing pretty good even though there was not much rain the prior week. The bottom level had a sandy beach and long narrow falls.20170122_13092720170122_13110720170122_131154

The water was very clear. I was surprised by the clarity of the water. It looked downright drinkable. The clear water exposed the different levels and layers of rocks below the surface.

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I trekked up the next two levels of the falls and found a rock beach and steeper falls and the water was rushing down at a good pace. This part of the falls was awesome, it was so exciting getting up close and personal to the water. The sounds of the roaring waterfalls and the wind was an epic soundtrack to the views.20170122_133637.jpg20170122_133635.jpg20170122_13343320170122_133604

Seeing these falls made this trip well worth the travel.20170122_133632.jpg20170122_133720

This was an awesome two day trip to the hill country. I made plans to return and have already returned for another two day that also included another state park. I was just so impressed of what the Texas State Parks have to offer. I was absolutely speechless after this trip. My next trip was up to the northern part of the hill country at a park I have wanted to see but got rained out the first time around.