Hike amid wildlife and history at nearby state park
When temperatures approach triple-digits, the heat renders many parks and recreation areas almost off-limits. That’s not the case with Pedernales Falls State Park, located near Johnson City. A visit early in the day, even in the middle of summer, affords a peaceful and not-too-sweltering hike among clusters of oak, juniper, and other hardwoods.
Follow the Wolf Mountain Trail, the park’s most challenging four-mile trek, for a winding adventure through the heart of the park’s 5,000-plus acres. As you near the Pedernales River and Bee, Mescal, and Tobacco creeks, centuries-old cypress trees provide light shade.
Catch a glimpse into the area’s past along the 4-Mile Loop Overlook trail. Though the trail is often accessible only by way of Trammell’s Crossing, a low-water section of the river, in summer and drought seasons you can reach the trailhead on dry ground. The pay-off, whether you wade the crossing or keep your feet dry, is a lightly wooded area that offers welcome shade and glimpses of native wildlife. You can also spot abandoned houses, dilapidated stone walls, and a settler’s cemetery. The moderately challenging hike stretches to the park’s easternmost boundary and includes a cliff-side view of the Pedernales.
Along the trails, you may see grey fox, white-tailed deer, eastern fox squirrels, or greater roadrunners. Among the trees, depending on the season, you might catch a glimpse of blue from a California scrub jay or a flash of yellow from a yellow-breasted chat or a variety of warblers, such as the American yellow warbler and the orange-crowned warbler. On the banks of the Pedernales River, which continues to carve a centuries-old channel through layers of limestone, you may see a spotted sandpiper or a southern leopard frog and catch sight of the bass and catfish in quieter pools.
In addition to hiking and nature watching, the park offers other activities such as horseback riding and mountain biking on some of the nineteen-plus miles of trails, in addition to picnicking, swimming, tubing, and camping. Leashed dogs are allowed in many park areas. Even though the park is open daily year round and allows overnight camping, it may be closed at times for wildlife maintenance and is subject to the effects of flash floods. So it’s prudent, if you plan to visit, to call ahead to confirm accessibility.
And not only prudent, but worth the effort—Pedernales Falls State Park is a not-to-be-missed Hill Country jewel.
Pedernales Falls State Park is located a little over an hour southeast of Georgetown at 2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636. For more information about day visits or overnight camping, call the park directly at 830-868-7304. You can also access park information online at www.tpwd.texas.gov.