Hiking in Balcones Canyonlands [Marble Falls, TX, USA]

In the heart of hill country Texas, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is an amazing escape within one hour of Austin! My sister and I packed our lunch and hit the trails to experience the park and environment.

Websitehttps://www.fws.gov/refuge/balcones_canyonlands/

Address: 24518 Farm to Market Road 1431, Marble Falls, TX 78654

Admission: Free!

Doeskin Ranch Trails

Just like most National Wildlife Refuge, the park is somewhat scattered across different access points and locations. Doeskin Ranch is the largest section of hiking trails on the park so we decided to tackle it first.

Creek Trail (0.6 miles)

Right at the beginning of the hike, this short trip loops back to the main trail and is the perfect way to start the day.

Plains
The beginning of the trail walks you past an old cabin and open fields.
Landscape
The weather was perfect for hiking… High of 65!
Falls
Thankfully my sister has a great eye for pictures and a nice camera to match. You’ll notice better quality photos in this post than my usual 🙂

Rimrock Trail (2.2 miles)

After hiking down to the creek to see the many small waterfalls you are led to Rimrock trail… from the bottom you can see the elevation climb up to the top of the trail and you know you’re in for a treat.

Water Crossing
I would call all the trails easy for the average person but there may be some complications at the water crossings. Check every rock before you step on it!
Fall Colors
Going at the end of November was perfect. Good weather and fall colors.
Berries
Ellen’s awesome picture of “blue”berries….
Top of the hill
When you climb up to the point connecting to Shinoak trail you are rewarded with this view.

We hiked the eastern side of Rimrock trail up to Shinoak Trail to Indiangrass Trail. Basically we followed the park’s trails in a counter-clockwise fashion.

Indiangrass Trail (1.5 miles)

The northernmost trail in the park weaves through the Texas plains and has stellar views of nearby hills and canyons. We stopped to eat lunch about halfway through this trail.

Dramatic
Practicing my dramatic lookaway.
Hill
We called this hill “boob mountain.”
Africa
Some of the views made it feel like we were in the African Sahara!

Continue Back on Rimrock Trail

Indiangrass Trail leads back to Rimrock Trail for another mile of hiking back towards the parking lot.

Trees and rocks
Towards the highest point of elevation the trail weaved through rocks and trees.
Birdy
Birdy.
Beautiful Fall Colors
Red is my favorite color, so when I saw the leaves on this tree we had take a picture,
Into Darkness
Leading into the darkness.
Bark
The most interesting bark pattern on a tree/brush/shrubbery I’ve ever seen.
Lovely spot.
This lovely bench overlooks the view all the way down to the parking lot.
Trails.
Balcones Canyonlands has great variety in trails and ecosystems.

Pond & Prairie Trail (0.4 miles)

Next to the parking lot is another short loop trail that leads down to a small pond.

Pond
The pond buzzed and chirped with wildlife.
Butterfly
Another clutch picture by Ellen.

Warbler Vista Trails

We loaded back up in the car and drove on to the next access point of the park, Warbler Vista. We parked in the eastern parking lot and crossed the road to Cactus Rocks Trail’s trailhead.

Cactus Rocks Trail (1.25 miles)

Cactus Rocks Tr
A pretty uneventful trail considered what was next….

Vista Knoll Trail (0.5 miles)

Perhaps the most scenic views in the entire park, Vista Knoll leads to a hilltop overlooking the Colorado River and Lake Travis.

Eagle Scout
An eagle scout (highest rank in the Boy Scouts) made several benches and tables throughout the trail to help enjoy the view.
Back towards Sunset Deck
Looking back towards the trail and Sunset Deck.

After returning down the other side of Cactus Rocks Trail to the parking lot, we drove up to the Sunset Deck parking lot.

Ridgeline Trail (0.7 miles)

Ridgeline Trail
Our least favorite trail in the park. It just didn’t have any “star-power.” Skip this if you’re on a time-crunch schedule.

Sunset Deck

Overlook from Sunset Deck
Overlook from Sunset Deck.
Long exposure
A long exposure shot as the sun set.

It is a fantastic view… but in the wrong direction. The sun sets in the west, and this overlook points south.

Clouds completely covered the skies by sunset time. So sadly, no beautiful sunset pictures could be taken. I’m sure I’ll be back out someday and take some great ones!

Review and Recommendations

I can’t help but think that more of our taxpayer funding should shift towards the preservation and parks in the beautiful country we live in.

Thank you to my fellow Americans for helping provide a beautiful place to visit. You should plan a full day trip if you live in Texas!

I do have a couple recommendations however… We ended up getting lost in the Doeskin Ranch trails because the maps are hard to distinguish and, as in most parks, the signage was not really adequate. Stick to either the left side (clockwise) or right side (counter-clockwise) and the trails are easy to follow.

All in all, we walked about 9 miles that day, and should have walked 8.

I wouldn’t hike this in the Texas summer either. While we tromped through plenty of forest-y and wooded areas, you would get baked in the summer heat if you visited June, July, or August.

If you only have two hours, visit the Warbler Vista for the fantastic views.

If you have four hours, Doeskin Ranch for the peaceful nature scenes and rolling hill hiking.

If you have six hours….. do both!

Thank you for reading and let me know what other parks near Austin I should visit and blog!

Lastly, check out Ellen’s Instagram too. It’s great to have an amazing sister who also loves hiking and photography.

Typical View
Typical view as a “travel blogger.”

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