San Antonio & Austin Area Hikes

By Tom Taylor
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texas hill country
Field of bluebonnets in Texas Hill Country (Photo courtesy Texas Tourism)

One of the major attractions to outdoor enthusiasts in the San Antonio/Austin area is the abundance of water. The crowds hit the rivers in throngs as soon as the water is bearable, to wade, splash, and tube the days away. The Guadalupe River will be overcrowded on most of its shores until well into September, and smaller, lesser-known places like Hamilton Pool will be filled to capacity as well.

While some hikers might see this as a drawback, the solitary hiker who knows where to go will enjoy some beautiful trails—and some peace and quiet. Fortunately, the Hill Country of central Texas has plenty of these areas, all within an hour's drive, that aren't hard to find. Three come to mind immediately.

The first is Friedrich Wildlife Preserve. While there's no water running through it, there's an abundance of shade to shield the summer sun, and a great hike to be had. One of the major attractions of this hike is the elevation. With a gain of 400 feet, and a couple of opportunities to climb it, Friedrich is a workout. It's also one of the prettiest hikes to be found in the area, and one of the least busy. Located just north of San Antonio on Interstate 10, it's also one of the closest.

There is a section of the Guadalupe River that the tubers don't get to, and it has a nice, short trail that will put you in a few spots that will allow you to hang your feet in the river and cool off. Located just downriver of the Canyon Lake Dam, this trail is opposite an area known to fishermen as one of the best chances to catch a big striped bass without a boat, since they get washed out through the dam whenever they have to let water out. Keep looking across the river from the trail and you might also find yourself wishing you'd brought your fishing rig. Plan ahead.

Finally, located right on the Colorado River is the Hornsby Bend water treatment facility. While primarily a water treatment plant, this is also a haven for hikers, and especially birders. With a wide main trail, it's an easy hike, and it offers numerous spots for prime viewing of the numerous species of birds attracted to the area. Blinds are available for birders, including a couple of brush blinds that look right over the river, where you can see a variety of wildlife, and probably not a single person floating by in an inner-tube.

Published: 25 May 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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