|Lake Travis (Photo by Pamela Parker)|
The Texas Hill Country is a land of rocks, which makes for numerous opportunites for climbers. Most of what you'll find in this area is limestone under 50 feet high, although a favorite destination, Enchanted Rock, is pink porphyritic granite and offers longer (2 1/2 pitches at most) climbs. Since each type of rock requires a different style of climbing, the Austin area gives enthusiasts a chance to try both.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Greenbelt runs for four miles in south Austin along Barton Creek and offers three popular places to climb. Gus Fruh, New Wall, and Seismic Wall are all within a couple of miles of one another, but it's easier to access each if you park at the Greenbelt entrance that's closest. Here you'll find golden-toned limestone bluffs with pockets and some (often major) overhangs offering short but challenging terrain. Gus Fruh, located off Barton Hills Road (you must park along the street), rates between 5.5 and 5.12 (intermediate to hard). Seismic Wall, near the Loop 360 access point, is rated between 5.6 to 5.11 (intermediate to hard). The New Wall, located off Spyglass Drive (street parking only), is the most challengingbetween 5.8 and 5.12.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Located about 90 miles northwest of Austin near Fredericksburg, E-Rock, as it's called, is one of Texas' premier climbing destinations. And it's very popular, so come early or come on a weekday if at all possible. These pink porphyritic granite (a type of granite containing feldspar crystals) domes, because of their rough-textured surface, provides some of the finest friction climbing in the country.
Popular spots include Buzzard's Roost (5.9 to 5.12), which offers excellent crack climbing. The Back Wall of the Main Dome features long slabs and technical climbing (5.7 to 5.11).
Milton Reimer's Fishing Ranch
This private retreat (the owners charge a small entry fee) off of Hamilton Pool Road west of Austin offers some of the most challenging climbing in the area (5.5 to 5.13), but even beginners can find something to enjoy here. Major overhangs and large caves grace these cliffs on the banks of the Pedernales River. Best of all, when you've completed your climb, the cool water isn't far away.
The limestone bedrock responsible for Austin's rock climbing opportunities also make this a fantastic area for exploring caves. Six of the state's seven show caves are within day-trip range. Cascade Caverns and Cave Without a Name (both at Boerne), Inner Space Cavern (Georgetown), Longhorn Cavern (Burnet), Natural Bridge Caverns (New Braunfels) and Wonder Cave (San Marcos) all give visitors a chance to peek at the enchanting underground atmosphere of the Hill Country.
Undeveloped caves, too, are even more interesting places to visit. West Cave, a botanical preserve near Bee Caves, is part of a nature trail in a lush canyon shaded by tall cypresses and oaks. It's located off of Hamilton Pool Road west of Austin, just after you pass the Pedernales River. A trail leads from a plateau overlooking the river into a canyon formed by a creek. A 36-foot waterfall drops from this high ground into a deep, green pool. The cave itself isn't very big. Part of the north end has been walled off by deposits from the waterfall. You will only need a small flashlight. A bit of a drive north of Austin, you can undertake another wild cave tour at Gorman Cave in Colorado Bend State Park. The park offers both walking and crawling tours on weekends (weather permitting).
Anglers on Lake Travis usually encounter largemouth bass, guadalupe bass, striped bass and catfish. Crappie, drum, sunfish and rainbow trout have also been found in the lake's gorgeous blue waters. The lake is as deep as 180 feet in some places, making Travis one of the deepest lakes in Texas. However, anglers will find most striped bass at 60 feet or less.
Considered the top fishing lake in the Highland Lakes chain, Lake Buchanan is located a bit north of Lake Travis. Striped bass is the top sportfish in the lake, with largemouth bass another top catch. During the spring, fish the upper end of the lake; during summer months try near the dam. As the water cools in the fall, the stripers head back up lake.
On summer weekends dozens of ski boats zoom around Lake Travis and Lake Austin, skiiers in tow. Lake Austin snakes through the hills west of town, and its moderate depth and meandering length make it especially popular with skiiers. Lake Travis is long, wide, and deep and welcomes skiiers as well. Rental craft are available from Skip's Boat Rentals (512) 266-1446 and Wet and Wild Watercraft Rentals (512) 482-8607.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication