Imagine kicking off your New Year’s Day surrounded by nature with Texas Hill Country skies and stunning treetop views. Start your year off on the right foot by taking a “First Day Hike” at a Texas State Park in the San Antonio area.
“First Day Hikes” are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors. On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized in all 50 states. Children and adults all across America will be participating in First Day Hikes, getting their hearts pumping and enjoying the beauty of a state park.
Last year, nearly 55,000 people rang in the new year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country, according to the American Hiking Society.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is encouraging self-guided hikes for this year, however, guided hikes will be an option as well. Many parks will have tables set up with hike information and maps. After your hike, stop back by the table so TPWD can record your hike and you can collect a memento of your visit.
Pedernales Falls State Park
On Saturday, January 1, take your first hike of the year at Pedernales Falls State Park, about an hour and 30 minutes north of San Antonio at 2585 Park Road 6026 in Johnson City.
There is a guided 9 a.m. two-mile hike that will be moderately difficult. It follows the Pedernales Falls trails to the edge of the park and back atop the ridge. The trail is rocky and has one steep section. TPWD wants hikers to meet at the Falls Parking to join.
If you miss it, hike the noon half-a-mile Twin Falls Nature trail that follows a steep rocky terrain down to a creek-fed waterfall. Meet TPWD at the Twin Falls Trailhead to join. At 3 p.m., finish your first day off right around the campfire at campsite 68.
For self-guided hikes, TPWD recommends hiking the following below:
Hackenburg Loop: Easy difficulty and 1.5 miles. This trail takes you down to the river where you can see the largest trees in the park and the damage that floods have wrought.
Wolf Mt.: Moderate difficulty and eight miles. Completing the entire trail adds up to eight miles, but you can always shorten that. This wide trail is great for mountain biking and takes you across several small creeks. It has some gentle slopes and is mostly gravel.
Mile Loop Trail: Challenging and 5.5 miles. This trail is for adventure seekers. Take a steep trail down to the river, take the river crossing to the other side (you will get wet here) and then a steep uphill hike will get you up to the main portion of the trail. Hiking to the overlook and back is only around 4 miles total.
Normal entrance fees are required to enter the park, no additional fees or registration are required to attend these programs. It is $6 for anyone 13 years old and older. It’s free for children under 12.
Fun fact about the park: The 5,212-acre park sits along the banks of the scenic Pedernales River in Blanco County east of Johnson City. Formerly the Circle Bar Ranch, the area is typical Edwards Plateau terrain.
Lockhart State Park
TPWD recommends the following self-guided hikes to start your year off right at Lockhart State Park, about one hour northeast of San Antonio at 2012 State Park Road in Lockhart:
Easy trial: Stroll down the Clear Fork Trail (.4 miles) or the Creekview Trail (.3 miles) for beautiful views of the creek and relatively flat terrain.
Medium: Hike an enjoyable loop by combining the Hilltop, Fence Line (or Persimmon), and Creekview Trails. This .8-mile up-and-down jaunt includes views of Clear Fork Creek and a huge variety of plant life.
Hard: Explore a combination of the Rattlesnake Run (.5 miles), Chisholm (.7 miles), Caddy (.4 miles), and CCC (0.2). Trails for elevation changes and secluded views. Bonus points if you add in the Comanche Loop (.1 miles).
Interesting fact: During the Great Depression, local leaders sought to take advantage of the New Deal work programs. They successfully brought Civilian Conservation Corps Company 3803 to build a park at Lockhart. Local residents had long used the chosen site for recreation.
Hill Country State Natural Area
TPWD is hosting a guided hike at Hill Country State Natural Area, which is about one hour northwest of San Antonio at 10600 Bandera Creek.
The hike will be about five miles on the Wilderness and Spring Branch trail that meanders along valleys and impressive peaks. The trails do include elevation changes and rocky, uneven walking surfaces.
The program is free with park admission ($6 for visitors 13 years and up; free for visitors 12 years and younger; free to State Park Pass holders). Day-use reservations are highly recommended to ensure your entrance to the park.
In San Antonio, TPWD will have a guided 2.25-mile hike at Government Canyon State Natural Area located at 12861 Galm Road. The hike along the Savannah Loop Trail has a small amount of elevation change and relatively gentle terrain.
Reservations are required for the hike. Meet in Parking Lot C at the back of the parking lot where the Frontcountry Trailhead Kiosk is located. The Natural Area front gates open at 7 a.m. Plan to be at the Frontcountry Trailhead Kiosk in Parking Lot C and ready to go no later than 8:45 a.m.
There’s also a 9 a.m. hike guided hike along the Joe Johnston Route and Overlook Trail. It will allow hikers to experience the dinosaur tracks from above and at ground level. The hike is about 6.25 miles and will have some elevation change and rocky trails.
Fun fact: Around 110 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, water brought dinosaurs to the park. Two kinds of ancient giants left their tracks on what was a beach, along the Gulf of Mexico’s early reaches.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Join a guided hike at 9:30 a.m. at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg, about one hour and 30 minutes north of San Antonio. Along the way, you’ll learn about the geology, history, and biology of the park.
It’s a 1.5-mile hike up the summit with an elevation of 425 feet. Entrance fees are $8 for anyone 13 years old or older.
Fun fact: One billion years ago, this granite was part of a large pool of magma, or hot liquid rock, perhaps seven miles below the earth’s surface. It pushed up into the rock above in places, then cooled and hardened very slowly, turning into granite. Over time, the surface rock and soil wore away.