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Hiking In and Around Austin: Grelle Recreation Area

by celeste.nunn | May 26th, 2010

After a long, cold, and painful winter, I have emerged from hibernation raring to go for summer 2010’s hiking excursions! Once I was done babying my sprained ankle way longer than was really necessary, I decided to (wo)man up, buy an ankle brace, and hit the trails. The first spot we decided to hit this summer was the Grelle Recreation Area, an LCRA park near Spicewood on the south shore of Lake Travis, containing campsites, swimming and fishing access, and hike and bike trails. Entrance fee is inexpensive for day hikers at $5 per vehicle.

Getting there? Not too terribly difficult, but perhaps a bit of a drive for those of you who live North and East. For us Southwest Austinites, however, it means about a 25 mile jaunt down the Highway 71 “leg” of the Y at Oak Hill, to the Spicewood area. Once in Spicewood, take a right onto Spur 191, then another right onto CR 404. Finally, you’ll take a left on CR 412 and travel about 1/2 mile to the park site. What is a bit tricky is finding the entrance to the hiking trails once you have entered the park grounds. Fortunately, a just-awakening camper helped us out…you have to follow the road to the right as it winds through campsites and then terminates in a small cove where the lake shore will be on your left and campsites to your right. The trailhead is visible from the parking lot.

When did we go? On a Saturday morning around 7:30 AM. We were trying to beat the heat but moderate temperatures prevailed! This trail, while shaded, does traverse small creeks leading downhill towards the lake, and I could see how it could be a sweatbox at high noon.

Pros: Relatively high lake levels made the view gorgeous! Not much gain in elevation but definitely a moderate hike due to the terrain and lots of ups-and-downs, so a decent workout for only 2 miles. Restrooms near the trailhead…every female hiker’s dream. Also, while it seems this is a popular spot for camping, fishing, and swimming, the hiking/horseback trails were pretty deserted, making for a more enjoyable experience. My hiking buddy noted the swimming cove near the trailhead as we were coming out, and we agreed to pack our suits next time.

Cons: This park seemed poorly maintained/attended to. We were disappointed to encounter the map box empty but for payment envelopes. Furthermore, trail markers were present, but the trail itself was not well-maintained and there were a number of side trails to confuse a first-time visitor. It was obvious that horseback riders had traveled trails that were marked “No Horses.” Campers’ unleashed dogs were an annoyance. Lack of trail maintenance lead to several zones of “Ankle-Break Alley” for this wary hiker. As with all Central Texas hikes near creeks and the lake, mosquitoes were a definite concern. Pack the bug spray!

Summary: On a sunnier day, with a map, this would have been more enjoyable. Although this hike was not a fave, the possibility of an apres-hiking dip in Lake Travis plus the great views and moderately strenuous workout make this a trail we’d visit again.


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