I hike a lot of miles in Texas, and folks want to know: Where do you go? If you’re new to hiking in Texas, it can be a daunting question. For starters, everything is spread over a huge land mass. This is annoying when all you want is a 10-mile jaunt in the woods without having to drive an hour to get there. Second, Texas isn’t known for having a lot of water, trees, or elevation.
Maybe this is where the blog post should end because now this sounds dismal. It is, and it isn’t.
While you’re not going to get the elevation that you would in Colorado (our highest peak is 8,750 feet, which, you know, is the starting elevation of a lot of trails in other higher places) and the summer heat will drive you indoors by 10 a.m., you will have the chance to get some ground under your feet, burn calories and work on a tan.
Now this sounds worse.
OK. What I’m trying to say is this: If you find yourself living in Texas, as I have, and your main source of exercise is hiking with your dogs, as is mine, you do have options. I’ll share the ones I’ve found in Central Texas. Most of them are state parks because that’s one of the few places where people actually obey the dog leash laws.
Texas Hiking: 7 Texas Hikes
This is No. 1 on my list because I like it the most. It’s a hike in/out trail that borders the San Gabriel River, which means that my dog has access to water. Important. The terrain is varied, the views are great and I’ve never reached the end. A plus. I usually park right in front of the bathrooms where the trail picks up. Because there isn’t a lot of traffic past the river, parts of the trail don’t look like a trail. Carry on. It’s worth it.
The Tejas Trail is a segment of the San Gabriel River Trail. I’ve hiked the Cedar Breaks Park portion (the Goodwater Loop) and though it’s not my ultimate favorite, it does deliver a great view of Lake Georgetown and takes you to Crockett Gardens and falls. You should see this at least once.
The 5.5 Mile-Loop Trail is a favorite of mine. You get uphill inclines to the scenic overlook and a trip through the river. Yes, water. Hello water. When you’re finished hiking, find the Swimming Area Trail and enjoy an afternoon sitting in the river. You won’t regret it. Of course you should also visit the Falls for which the park is named. Don’t expect Pacific Northwest-style falls. Think: a lot of water spilling horizontally over flat rocks.
Go here as soon as possible. You’ll want to hike the Gorman Falls Trail and the River Trail. One word: Water. Another word: Gorgeous. The climb down (and then up) to/from Gorman Falls is a bit strenuous. This park has so many trails (miles and miles), it’s in the middle of nowhere (a ranch, actually), and it’s my favorite. Sometimes, at the corner store right before you enter the park, there’s live music.
These are the most strenuous miles I’ve hiked in Texas. Finally! The whole park has about 14 miles of trail and I hiked them all in one day. Maybe that’s not the best idea, but we survived. There’s a creek beside you nearly the whole time, which is a god-send. You (and your dog) will need it. I’m told the best time to go is in the fall when the maples are changing color.
These trails are old faithfuls. The kind you know will always be there and the kind that you’re so familiar with that you don’t need to consult a GPS every five minutes. You can get a decent four-mile hike in. There’s a creek too. And a golf course. (Just in case.) Also: Bluebonnets in the spring.
This is a great oasis in the center of San Marcos. From one end to the other, you can hike a good 10 miles or so. Contrary to the picture on the website, NO ONE OBEYS THE LEASH LAWS, so dogs run loose. For that reason, I don’t hike here with my dog anymore. We were accosted one to many times. The water sources aren’t that great. So why is this on my list? Because it’s Texas and we take what we can get when it comes to hiking. And if you leave your dog at home (or, you know, keep it on a leash and bring water), it’s a good place to log some miles.
*Disclaimer: 1) This is not an exhaustive list of all the great hikes in Texas. It’s a list of the ones I’ve done multiple times and the ones that are my favorites. 2) This is not a trail map, so before you go out there, research the trails yourself. I’ve given you the links.