Experience Texas’ rugged beauty.
By Nick Barancyk
Bluebonnet blooms and quiet afternoons: Spring is back, which means it’s time to head outside and appreciate the balmy weather. For some extra motivation, here are our recommendations for a few of Texas’ stunning state parks to visit just in time to see those springtime flowers.
A mountainous dome of pink granite, Enchanted Rock is Texas’ own Uluru. The views from the 425-foot summit are sweeping and highlight the cedar forest and rocky outcrops scattered throughout the park. More than 11 miles of trails zigzag through canyons and over boulders, adding an element of excitement to a typical hike. Located 18 miles north of Fredericksburg, Texas, Enchanted Rock is a must-visit for a Hill Country weekend. But be sure to arrive early. The popular park is known to reach capacity each day soon after opening at 8 a.m.
Best for: Climbing and Bouldering
Enchanted Rock makes for some great technical climbs. Its smooth and sloping face provides more than 40 routes for climbers, both intermediate and advanced. The routes themselves are an equal blend of bouldering and traditional climbs, with a few top-roping and sport climbs thrown in the mix.
McKinney Falls State Park
Just 13 miles from the state capitol, McKinney Falls State Park is right in Austin’s backyard. Nearly 9 miles of trails crisscross the park, weaving through creeks, meadows and cliff faces. Taking a dip in the upper falls or bass fishing in Onion Creek are just a few hot-weather remedies the park has to offer. Although the scenery isn’t the most stunning Texas’ state parks have to offer, McKinney Falls State Park’s close proximity to Austin and the distinct personalities of each trail make it a quick fix for nature buffs.
Best for: Mountain Biking
Level but varied terrain at McKinney Falls State Park brings this park to the top of our list for mountain biking. The Homestead, Flint Rock Loop and Williamson Creek Overlook trails each loop back on themselves but can also be combined to form a brisk 5.7-mile circuit. The combined loops make a great training ground for some of the more rigorous routes in Texas’ repertoire.
Inks Lake State Park
With lakeside campgrounds, cliff-diving and 9 miles of trails, Inks Lake State Park has it all. The mix of craggy bluffs and cedar trees give this state park a unique quality, while the meandering forest trails bestow a sense of serenity. Where this park really shines though is in its sunsets. They transmute the water from cerulean into a great amber gem. The sunbeams highlight cracks in the boulders and dapple the forest floor through tree leaves. It’s the perfect end to a long day on the lake.
Best for: Watersports
If you’re looking for a fresh spot to paddleboard, Inks Lake is the place for you. As the name of the park implies, the water is the focal point of this nature site. Try your hand cliff-jumping at Devil’s Waterhole or discover the waterfalls. Rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboats for a variety of ways to experience this watery preserve.