We all want to appreciate the beauty of Texas, but sometimes we’re not in the mood for an all-day, 20 mile, strenuous hiking route. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in our state with shorter trails that still award you the same experience you would get otherwise. Here are 10 of the best.
1. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Summit Trail, 1.2 miles (Fredericksburg)
Getting to the top of the pink blob we all know and love doesn't take as long as you might think - just about 20 minutes. But don't be fooled by the time, the hike is incredibly demanding - however, the view that awaits you when you reach the summit is more than a worthwhile reward. You might even hear the groans and see the flames that the Tonkawa Indians claimed to have experienced many years ago.
2. Lost Maples State Natural Area East Trail, 3.08 miles (Vanderpool)
This trail will give you the most "bang for your buck" so to speak, because it has the highest concentration of maple trees in the entire park. Make sure you come during fall so you can be blown away by the vibrant colors of the foliage.
3. Palmetto State Park San Marcos River Trail, 1.25 miles (Luling)
This quick hike runs parallel to the beautiful San Marcos River and is lined with hundreds of majestic Palmetto trees. There are also over 250 species of birds who make their home here, so be sure to bring some binoculars!
4. Big Thicket National Preserve Kirby Nature Trail, 2.5 miles (Lumberton)
The beauty of East Texas is so underappreciated. Towering hills and mountains aren't Mother Nature's only redeeming qualities. The Big Thicket is one of the most ecologically diverse places in the entire state, so you'll be awed by hundreds of different interesting plants. Just don't forget the bug spray and you'll be good to go!
5. Barton Creek Greenbelt, 3 miles (Austin)
Personally, this is one of my favorite hikes in Texas. The constant sound of rushing water is an incentive to keep going (it's only about three miles to the first water area!), and once this scene unfolds before your eyes, those three miles will be totally worth it. You can keep going if you want a longer hike, but most people choose to stop here and hang out in the rapids for a bit before turning around and heading back.
6. Guadalupe Mountains Smith Spring Trail, 2.5 miles (Salt Flat)
This trail is a true gem. Most people envision mountainous hikes as grueling treks up to the summit that take all day. Smith Spring, however, isn't the case. It's a 2.5 mile loop that allows you to experience the same majestic beauty of the mountains that a longer trail would, as well as catch a glimpse of the wildlife that comes from all over the park to enjoy the fresh water.
7. Santa Elena Canyon, 1.7 miles (Big Bend National Park)
It's awfully hard to sum up Santa Elena in a few sentences, but I'll just say this - if it isn't already on your bucket list, it should be. Seeing the thousand-foot rock walls towering high above your head framing the pristine Rio Grande River flowing between them is a life-changing experience, and only 1.7 miles? You can't beat it.
8. Gorman Falls, 1.2 miles (Bend)
My sister actually just took this hike a few days ago, and I have to say, I'm extremely jealous. It only takes about 20 minutes to reach the most gorgeous waterfall in Texas. You'll feel like you've stepped right out of our world and into the story of Tarzan. It's absolutely magical.
9. Caprock Canyons Los Lingos Trail, 5 miles (Quitaque)
This hike is a bit longer than the rest, coming in at just under five miles, but it's five miles you definitely won't regret. We're so honored to have a mini Grand Canyon right here in Texas, and a little sweat is a fair price to pay to experience it in all its glory.
9. Boerne City Park Cibolo Wilderness Trail, 3.5 miles (Boerne)
This trail is a hidden gem of sorts, tucked away in the far recesses of the city park. You can take a leisurely stroll, stopping every so often to find serenity under the tall cypress trees lining Cibolo Creek.
10. Reimers Ranch Park, 3-4 miles (Dripping Springs)
Reimers Ranch is most well-known among the hillcountry's rock climbing community, but it has plenty of beautiful trails to hike as well. All of them combined make up a mere 3-4 miles, so you can easily see everything in a few hours. The crystalline Pedernales River runs right through the park, and there's even a rope swing if you're in the mood to get a little wet and wild.