Break out the Tents! Exploring the Great Outdoors in Central Texas


Break out the Tents! Exploring the Great Outdoors in Central Texas

As fall finally approaches and those scorching Texas temperatures finally cool off, it’s the perfect time to make plans to visit one of the many state parks right here in Central Texas. Whether you like to camp or spend the day exploring, these hidden gems offer the chance to appreciate the natural beauty of Central Texas without traveling far from home. Grab your hiking boots and get ready to roast some marshmallows.

Lower-McKinney-Falls

Photo courtesy of McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls is the closest State Park to Austin and has all the natural beauty you could wish for but still close to home. Campsites are large and have a picnic table and fire pit. Located at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks, the park is a great place for swimming and hiking, and the falls are especially scenic after a good rain. You can also pay a visit to “Old Baldy,” a 500+ year-old, 103 food tall cypress tree, one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas. At only 25 minutes away from Plum Creek, this park offers a natural escape without a long-distance road trip beforehand.

texas parks

Photo courtesy of Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park offers a magnificent bike trail through the Lost Pines of East Central Texas, in addition to swimming, hiking, and golf. The park has rebounded after the devastating 2011 wildfire, and nearly all of the trails, campsites, and facilities have reopened to the public. Cabins and facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s are still standing and available for group rental, or for those wishing to experience a bit of history while enjoying the outdoors. You can also rent a canoe or a barbeque pit at the park and spend the day enjoying the natural wonder of the Lost Pines at Bastrop or neighboring Buescher State Park. The park also features scenic drives, if you’d prefer to experience the great outdoors from the comfort of your own vehicle.

PedernalesFalls1TXDOT

Photo courtesy of Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a favorite for family hikes, featuring an easy 7-mile trail that winds along small canyons created by the Mescal and Tobacco creeks. Located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country west of Austin, Pedernales Falls is a great place for camping, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, and more. The campground is spacious and well-kept, and offers campers a peaceful escape in a uniquely beautiful setting. The Pedernales River also offers some great swimming, tubing, and wading for cooling off after a day exploring the natural wonders. A quarter mile nature trail also leads to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, perfect for capturing those postcard moments or just enjoying the breathtaking view. For equestrians, the park can also be explored on horseback on the rugged, 10 mile trail that winds up and down the hillsides.

Lockhart-2902

Photo courtesy of Lockhart State Park

Lockhart State Park

Southeast of Kyle, Lockhart State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities for the whole family, including picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking, and more.  With nice hiking trails and several dams and fishing holes, this park is a great place to make a day trip or to camp for the night. The park also features a nine-hole golf course, the only staff-kept course in the Texas State Parks System, and a park swimming pool. RV travelers are welcome as well as traditional campers, and there is a CCC built recreation hall that can be rented for group events. And if you get tired of roasted marshmallows, the famous BBQ joints in Lockhart are only minutes away.

Want more to explore? Check out the Texas State Parks map on their website and plan your own adventure.

Fitness in Central Texas


Every January, the number of 24 Hour Fitness, Lifetime Fitness and Gold’s Gym commercials skyrocket, as people make their fitness New Year’s resolutions. If you made a commitment to become healthier in 2013, or you just want to get out there and be more active, we’ve made a list of of places in Central Texas to help you to achieve these goals while enjoying the out-of-doors, and supporting local business.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife

One of the great things about living in Central Texas is the number of places for being active outside, including several nearby state parks and natural areas. One, west of Kyle, is Enchanted Rock, the enormous pink granite dome 15 miles north of Fredericksburg that is steeped in Native American mysticism and lore. The rock formation itself is surrounded by the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area which features miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, as well as spaces for picnicking and technical rock climbing. The Summit Trail is one of the most popular hiking paths, which leads to the top of the dome and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The three-quarter mile trail is relatively short, but the 800 foot climb up the structure can be strenuous – so come prepared.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Outdoor Basecamp

Also located west of Kyle is the Pedernales Fall State Park. Most of Pedernales’ activities are water related – and therefore more suited to warmer weather – but the park is also a favorite for family hikes – with a duck pond, a quarter-mile nature trail to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, and a wheelchair-friendly wildlife-viewing station. The park also features a beautiful 7-mile trail that wraps around the Tobacco and Wolf Mountains, and the small canyons created by the Mescal and Tobacco creeks, so you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Hill Country while getting your workout on.

East ways, the Bastrop State Park also provides opportunities for backpacking, camping, canoeing, and viewing wildlife, as well as hiking and biking. In fact, a 12-mile scenic bike route between Bastrop and Buescher State Parks takes you along Park Road 1C, through the mesmerizing Lost Pines of East Central Texas. This winding and hilly trail is actually a part of the MS-150, too, the famed annual bike race from Houston to Austin.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of AustinBike.com

Other great locations for bicycling around Central Texas abound. AustinBike.com is a great resource for those interested in mountain biking, as the group travels around the area, testing out and reviewing mountain bike hot spots. Two such spots include the Madrone Trail in Canyon Lake and Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville. The Madrone Trail takes bikers on an 8.4 mile loop along the scenic areas around Canyon Lake’s, well, lake! It’s ranked a “medium” as far as difficulty goes, and there is a wide variety of trails available, making for a fast ride with lots of twists and turns. Rocky Hill Ranch offers a variety of trail options in Smithville, too. The main loop is about 16 miles long and takes you through trails to ledges, short climbs, twists, turns and bunny hops over logs and more. To top it off, the trail ends at The Rocky Hill Café, which offers burgers, fries and ice cold beer to reward you after the ride. Can’t ask for much more than that, eh?

If street riding is more your thing, there are a number of bike riding resources available from those up in Austin. Bike lanes are everywhere up there, and BicycleAustin.com even offers a route from Austin through San Marcos all the way to San Antonio.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Plum Fit, located in Plum Creek

If this cooler, winter weather has deterred you from outdoor activities, indoor fitness opportunities are everywhere, too. Plum Fit is a 24-hour, key-card controlled fitness facility located in Plum Creek that provides local residents with a wide variety of fitness opportunities, including cardio and weight machines available at any hour of the day. And the City of Kyle is offering fitness programs for Kyle residents this year, contracted through Live Well personal training. These programs include indoor and outdoor bootcamps, walking and running training, as well as Pilates and Yoga classes.

So, as you’re embarking on your 2013 health and fitness agenda, keep in mind the wonderful indoor and outdoor opportunities available in Central Texas. There’s so much more out there than the big, corporate gyms, so explore the area and support local business!

When the Great Outdoors are Calling Your Name


When the great outdoors starts calling your name, you know you have to pack up the car and head to wide open spaces. The Texas Hill Country is rife with opportunities to hike, bike, fish, float and camp. Before the high heat is upon us, be sure to catch a weekend or two at a nearby camping spot. Not sure where to go? We’ve picked the tops spots for Plum Creekers to pitch a tent, sing a round of Kumbaya and get away from it all.

Bastrop State Park

Plum Creek, New Homes for Sale in Kyle, TX

The devastating wildfires that swept through Bastrop in September of 2011 caused severe damage to over 95% of Bastrop State Park. After a period of recovery, the park is once again open to the public and Central Texans are stoked. Camp grounds are filled with nature lovers and newbies exploring the park’s 5,926 acres of pine trees, trails, lakes and historic sites. Night hikes, frog and toad watches, fishing lessons and more keep visitors busy and entertained. Even a solar eclipse viewing party was hosted this past weekend (mark your calendars for 2024). Just 50 miles northeast of Kyle, Bastrop State Park is far enough to feel like a change of scenery yet close enough to reach within an hour.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Plum Creek, New Homes for Sale in Kyle, TX

Johnson City’s majestic Pedernales River, flowing 40 miles northwest of Kyle, sets the tone for Pedernales Falls State Park. All kinds of outdoor activities are open to visitors, including camping, fishing, swimming, canoeing, bird watching, and picnicking. Experienced horseback riders can explore the 10-mile equestrian trail, but at the moment, the park is strictly B.Y.O.H., or ‘bring your own horse’. Hiking is a well-loved pastime at Pedernales Falls State Park. The 7-mile Wolf Mountain trail leads hikers through some of the most special parts of the park with spectacular vistas. Make sure you pack your camera for this park – it’s almost a felony not to.

Guadalupe River State Park

Plum Creek, New Homes for Sale in Kyle, TX

Hardcore nature lovers and novices can also discover new adventures at Guadalupe River State Park, located just 60 southwest of Kyle, in Spring Branch, Texas. Horse enthusiasts will love the 5.3-mile equestrian trail. The Children’s Discovery Center invites little tykes to explore nature in a hands-on and kid-friendly way. Microscopes, demonstrations and wildlife exhibits allow the inner explorer to emerge – a free backpack filled with tools for exploring can even be checked out for the day! Campers of all ages are also invited to partake in guided tours highlighting the park’s history, wildlife and animal species. Primitive campsites and sites equipped with your modern luxuries can be reserved before heading out.

This weather won’t last much longer so before it gets too hot, dust off your tent, lace up your hiking boots and grab the sunscreen for a few days of frolicking in the pristine Texas Hill Country.