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.

Tee Off at these Beautiful Golf Courses in Central Texas


What better way to spend the dwindling days of summer than with 18 holes on some of Central Texas’s scenic golf courses? The area around Plum Creek features a wide variety of courses to challenge and delight every player, whatever their skill level or taste. Whether it’s to talk business or just to relax and play, these nearby courses will allow you to enjoy the Texas Hill Country at its finest.

Central Texas Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Grey Rock Golf Club

Grey Rock Golf Club

Just South of Austin, The Grey Rock Golf Club offers world class amenities only 30 minutes away from Plum Creek. With a spacious clubhouse nestled in a grove of live oaks, it’s a picturesque venue, great for relaxing after a round on the course, or for holding an event. The club also boats extensive practice facilities, with a well maintained putting green and driving range. With a friendly staff and a great layout, this course promises a superb golfing experience surrounded by the gorgeous Central Texas scenery.

Central Texas Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Landa Park Golf Course

Landa Park Golf Course

Landa Park Golf Course in New Braunfels is located adjacent the serene Comal River. Known for being well manicured and maintained, this course also is often visited by local wildlife such as deer and wild turkeys. With a challenging layout and a beautiful setting, this course truly showcases the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country. A great choice for golf outside of the immediate Austin area, the river setting is what truly makes this course stand out.

Central Texas Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Plum Creek Golf Club

Plum Creek Golf Club

Right here in Plum Creek, the Plum Creek Golf Course offers a high-caliber golf experience just minutes away from home. This Texas-sized course on over 200 acres offers challenging play with unique character in the heart of the Plum Creek community. Seeded to stay green all year round, this course is one of the best in the area and also home to the Texas State Men’s and Women’s golf teams. Designed so that no two fairways touch, and with black tees at a challenging 7100+ yards, Plum Creek offers a distinctive golf experience that all players will enjoy.

Central Texas Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Clay-Kizer Golf Course

Clay-Kizer Golf Course

As Austin’s largest municipal golf complex, the Clay-Kizer facility offers players 36 holes on two courses in South Austin. These small courses are known for being reasonably priced and well maintained, and suitable for players of all levels. With tree-lined fairways surrounded by Williamson Creek, these courses offer a variety of play at one convenient location. Five sets of tees make the course the right challenge every player. An Austin staple since 1974, these muni courses are a great golf experience at an affordable price.

Central Texas Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Fazio Foothills at Barton Creek

Fazio Foothills at Barton Creek

One of the most highly rated courses in all of Texas, the Fazio Foothills at Barton Creek offers a stunning experience in the heart of Austin. Known as the hardest of the four Barton Creek courses, nearly every hole of The Foothills boasts fabulous, postcard-worthy views. Though the Fazio Canyons is the signature course at Barton Creek, The Foothills is a local favorite as well. This premiere course features waterfalls and caves and takes advantage of the best of Central Texas’s natural features. It’s a little pricier, but the resort facilities and unforgettable layout are worth it. Ranked first in Golfweek’s 50 Best Resort Courses in the US and also named the Best Resort Course in Texas by Golf Digest, this course is one of Central Texas’s must-plays.

Romance in Nature: Spending Valentine’s Day Outdoors in Central Texas


It’s that time of year again – Valentine’s Day is around the corner and as you’re researching fun, romantic things to do with that special someone, Plum Creek has compiled a list of ways to show your love for your honey and the beauty of nature in Central Texas.

Central Texas Valentines Day

Photo courtesy of the Adventure Journal

Botanical gardens are cheap and romantic date option, and Kyle is bounded by two beautiful botanical gardens to the north and the south. The Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin is a serene and peaceful date spot located in Central Austin in close proximity to other outdoor hot spots, like Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park. The 30-acre facility features a number of theme gardens, with romantic nooks and crannies for intimate moments, tinkling waterfalls, ponds and other hidden gems, Of course, the best time for the garden is the spring, once it starts getting warmer, but there is still beauty to be found. The Garden’s proximity to many other date spots is an added bonus – Zilker Park, Barton Springs, great restaurants and bars along South Lamar, and more.

Austin Valentines Day

Photo courtesy of Austin Texas.gov

San Antonio also has a couple of flower gardens, including the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and the Japanese Tea Gardens. Both are located near each other, in Central San Antonio. The Tea Gardens is a quiet and lush area that contains a large open-air pagoda, as well as koi ponds and a waterfall. It is such a beautiful and romantic space that it is a San Antonio favorite for weddings and engagement photography, so you know it’ll facilitate flying sparks. Plus, it’s near the sprawling Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo and the Pearl Brewery.

Central Texas Valentines Day

Photo courtesy of Expedia.com

Elsewhere in Central Texas, there are scenic Hill Country drives, wine country and Valentine’s Day specials out in Fredericksburg, countless cute and interesting restaurants, breweries, day spas and more. Pick your location of choice – goodness knows pretty much every town in Central Texas and the Hill Country has something beautiful or something going on – and do a little research. There are plenty of ways to love your honey and love the beauty of nature. And if it turns out to be cold on Valentine’s Day weekend, there’s no short supply of indoor date ideas either!

Kyle Parks & Rec’s Outdoor Family Workshop and Geocaching in Central Texas


The cooler weather of the fall is here, which means it’s time to get out of the house and enjoy the time of year that’s meant for Central Texas. Rake some leaves, relax on a front porch in the crisp, autumn mornings, host a neighborhood block party, or coordinate a spontaneous flag football game in your neighborhood. Or better yet spend some time discovering some of the outdoor hidden gems sprinkled across Central Texas, just minutes away from home!

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Kyle Daily Photo

To start you off, the City of Kyle Parks & Recreation Department is hosting an Outdoor Family Workshop & Campout at Lake Kyle this weekend to celebrate the return of fall. The workshop is designed to get families outside to appreciate nature – and to introduce them to some fun, outdoor activities in the process. The stay-the-night workshop takes place this Saturday and Sunday, with instructional sessions scheduled throughout the day on Saturday. Families can choose to participate in the sessions, or, if you’d prefer, you can use the allotted session time to explore the Lake Kyle facility on your own.

Some really fun instructional sessions are planned for the day though, including geocaching, kayaking, air rifle shooting, archery, fishing, basic outdoor survival, camping 101, rock climbing and slacklining! And where else can you shoot a bow and arrow or go rock climbing so conveniently in Kyle? More information about the workshop, including registration information (just $10 a tent!) can be found on the Kyle Parks and Recreation Department’s website.

One of the Workshop & Campout’s session topics – geocaching – is a great way to organically discover some new and interesting outdoor marvels in Central Texas.  Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game that takes participants to special outdoor areas to discover beautiful views, breath-taking trees and scenery, and many other hidden gems. There are over 2 million geocaches all over the world, and all you need to take the journey is a GPS device or a GPS-enabled cell phone to help you navigate to the secret spots. Central Texas is replete with geocache spots, and there are multiple websites available to help with the process, including Central Texas Geocachers and Austin Explorer. There are tons of geocaching smartphone apps out there too – some free, others not – to make your exploration as simple and convenient as possible.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of Central Texas Geocachers

It’s a fun way to explore old haunts, and to discover new ones – so, some weekend this fall, put on some comfortable shoes, grab some sunscreen and load the family up for a day of outdoor exploration. Who knows what you might find?

 

Water Spots in Central Texas + Ways to Keep Cool AND Have Fun This Summer


It’s getting hot, hot, hot. And even though the outside temperature is rising, your body temperature doesn’t have to, with these fun, water-based ways for you, your friends and the kids to keep cool in the out-of-doors.

Central Texas is one of the most water-replete areas of the state, and with all the rivers and lakes in and around the Hill Country, there are countless watering holes to explore. In Wimberley, Jacob’s Well is one of our favorites. One of the longest underwater caves in Texas and an artesian spring, Jacob’s Well has been a beloved swimming hole for generations, and is a source of water for recharging the Edwards Aquifer. The water stays at a constant 68 degrees throughout the year, so it’s a wonderful place to cool down in the summer, too. There isn’t too much room for wading or actual swimming, but there is a rock face on the side of the well that makes a great diving board. And the hole goes 30 feet deep, so there’s no chance of diving too far.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Visit Wimberley

Also in Wimberley is Blue Hole, a more traditional swimming hole with changing rooms and restrooms, stone walkways in and out of the pool, and ladders for the deeper areas. The hole is shaded by mature Cypress trees, and there is a nice, grassy area across from the water that is perfect for a family picnic or for drying off in the sun. There’s a $7 entry fee – but it’s well worth it. Both Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole are less than 20 minutes away from Kyle, making them a perfect afternoon excursion for cooling off with the family or friends.

Up north in Austin, there’s the Barton Creek Greenbelt, an urban oasis of trails for running or biking and great watering spots like Campbell’s Hole, Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls. They’re really popular places for Austinites to explore, and some of them are a bit of a hike, but they’re magical natural spaces, and are great for people watching. Here’s a PDF map of the Greenbelt with details about trails, water spots and access points, courtesy of the Austin Parks & Recreation Department.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo of Sculpture Falls courtesy of Flickr

For at-home water fun for the family, there’s a lot that can be done with sprinklers, ice and the outdoor hose. Games like water limbo, splash tag and musical sprinkler freeze are great games for a crew of kids, and there’s always a traditional water balloon or water gun fight. Here’s a pretty robust list of some great water-based outdoor games for summer parties or those afternoons where your house is the place to be.

You can also have your kids play outside with ice to keep cool in the summer. Freeze action figures in blocks of ice for an icy excavation game, or make an art craft out of ice by sprinkling salt in a block of ice to melt the cracks and tunnels. Then drip liquid watercolor paint into the tunnels and see the beautiful patterns that the salt created.

Plum Creek, TX

 

Then there’s always the traditional pool action. Plum Creek has two in the neighborhood – Fergus and McNaughton – each with their own distinct personalities, and the City of Kyle’s public pool is open throughout the summer. Plus they have fun programming going on this summer, too.

So whether you want to stay in the neighborhood, in the city, or do some exploring, there’s so much to do to keep cool this summer in Central Texas. For more watering holes in the area, check out some of our past posts here.