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Hiking In And Around Austin: Pedernales Falls State Park

by celeste.nunn | July 29th, 2010

Ahhh…a lovely summer day at a local state park, hiking a bucolic walking/equestrian trail near the crystal clear Pedernales River. Cheap entertainment, too, at only $5 per person daily admittance fee (campers pay $20/night for sites containing electric and water hookups at this popular ranger-staffed park.) Sounds great, doesn’t it? We thought so, and thus, set off for Pedernales Falls State Park, just east of Johnson City in Blanco County. So begins another hiking adventure…

Getting there? As with our last hike, getting there was a bit of a haul. We like water on our mid-summer hikes, which usually entails a bit of a drive out west. This particular park is actually located in Blanco County, which is a bit of a drive but also very scenic and easy to find. From Austin, you’ll travel west on Highway 290; after nearly 30 miles turn right on RM 3232. Continue north until 3232 dead ends in a “T.” The entrance to Pedernales Falls State Park is to the right off of FM 2766. The ranger station for paying park entrance fees and collecting a map of the park is a bit less than 3 miles north of the park entrance. The trail to Pedernales Falls itself is a short (>1 mile) trail, and there are also two longer trails: an approximately 4 mile unnamed loop, which is reached by crossing the Pedernales River at Trammel Crossing, or the 7+ mile Wolf Mountain Trail. We opted for the 4 mile loop, and so made our way down the hill past the ranger station, then bore to the right, parking near campsites 33-34, where the trailhead began. River access is clearly marked and the trail was quite simple to find.

When did we go? On a Saturday morning around 8:00 AM. It was slightly overcast and quite muggy when we set out; the sun came out later in the day and it was starting to swelter when we arrived back at the car about an hour and 45 minutes later.

Pros: Well-populated but still remote feeling park and trails; proximity to Pedernales River & Falls; trails can be used for hiking, biking, and equestrian purposes. Crossing the river was a “pro” to me on a hot summer day, but if wet shoes aren’t your thing, be advised that the crossing is unavoidable if you want to do the 4 mile loop–and you have to cross right at the beginning of your hike as well as the end. Smart hikers (or at least those with more time to spare than we) will bring bathing suits and a picnic and enjoy lunch on the riverbank, followed by a cooling dip prior to heading home.

Cons: One word…horseflies. Hundreds! Both seasoned hikers, my hiking buddy and I douse ourselves with bug spray before every hike. Me, Off! with DEET, and she, an herbal spray from Whole Foods that smells much better. However, neither spray worked to deter the horseflies from landing on us at every opportune moment (pretty much any time we were standing still.) I have to say that her natural bug spray actually did better than mine; the flies landed on her but did not bite, whereas I was covered in painful bites at the end of the hike. It was so bad that my hiking partner actually gave her bug spray to a family with children that we passed on our descent; they didn’t have any spray and she feared that the kids would get eaten up! My warning to you: avoid humid summer days or pack your herbal bug spray…hers had citronella and a few other pungent herbs, which I’m guessing must taste really bad to horseflies! Another quick note that may be a “con” to some: the 4 mile loop is pretty strenuous if you take the right leg of the loop as opposed to the left. More uphill climbing and very few truly level spots. This was great for my Saturday hard exercise; but if you’re looking for a relatively easy, scenic hike, you might try the short hike to park’s namesake falls, or if your knees can’t do inclines, perhaps try the longer but more level Wolf Mountain Trail, both within the parkgrounds.

Summary: We won’t be doing this one mid-summer again due to the horseflies. However, this is definitely a park that has lots to offer and we plan to make another excursion out here soon to explore the falls and the Wolf Mountain Trail.




This entry was posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 3:27 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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