There is joy in actually being in touch with the earth. Nature views out of car windows and even from a bicycle do not involve the “feel” of your surroundings. Your feet become your connection. The Texas Hill Country is blessed with so many dramatic and soul quenching vistas that are accessible by hiking.
I love to go to Lost Maples State Natural Area near Vanderpool. The drive to get there takes you through some of the prettiest roads in the Hill Country. Lost Maples is pretty any time of the year, but is especially beautiful in the fall when the namesake “lost maples” turn a fiery red. The timing varies due to weather conditions, and the website for Texas State Parks and Wildlife (tpwd.state.tx.us) does a nice job of keeping visitors up to date on the color conditions. If your schedule allows, try to visit on a weekday during Autumn because the park is very busy on the weekends. The parking lot will be closed once it is full. There are trails for any level hiker from inexperienced to gung ho. There are also handicap accessible facilities. Lost Maples offers a one-half mile nature trail and eleven miles of hiking trails. Campsites are available by reservation through the park system.
The Sabinal River flows through the park and the one thing hikers must be careful to do is take care of the maples by not walking off of the trails. The maple trees have a shallow root system and can be damaged and lost due to compaction of soil on top of the roots.
Another place that is so unique and such a great part of the Hill Country experience is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. People have been coming to this huge pink granite exfoliation dome (425 feet above ground) for thousands of years. The Indians revered the area as sacred and inhabited by spirits. A hike to the top of the dome in the summer is not for the faint of heart. Take water with you!! When you do reach the top, the view is awe inspiring. If you are fortunate enough to be there on a cloudless night, the stars are just incredible. There are camping facilities – Route maps and rock climbing permits are available at the Park headquarters. Enchanted Rock is located north of Fredericksburg on Ranch Road 965. If you love to hike, do not miss Enchanted Rock!
A third place I like to go for hiking is the Hill Country Natural Area located 10 miles from Bandera on Bandera Creek Road. There are trails for many levels of hiking. There are very few facilities here – a small office and limited space for bringing your horse, but there a lots of trails for most ability levels. The area is over 5,000 acres and has 40 miles of multi-use – people and horses – trails. The views for the upper trails are fabulous and it is possible to sit on a rock and look in all directions and not see anything expect birds, clouds, and hills. It is a very serene spot. Take care to have water with you here because the trails are long – hike in the morning or later evening if possible. The rule in the park is that you must yield to horses on the trails. It is a good idea to watch where you are stepping, too!
This is the tip of the iceberg on hiking spots in the Hill Country, so if your pace is walking speed – enjoy!!