Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Balcones Loop

Balcones Loop map

Balcones Loop mapShin Oak Observation Deck, Balcones Canyonlands NWRDoeskin Ranch Trailhead, Balcones Canyonlands NWRTurkey BendWarbler Vista, Balcones Canyonlands NWRBob Wentz Park at Windy PointCreekland Park and Brushy Creek Regional TrailGood Water Trail at Lake GeorgetownGranger Lake

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More information:

  • Lago Vista COC
    888-328-5246, www.lagovista.org
  • Round Rock COC
    800-747-3479, www.roundrockchamber.org
  • Marble Falls COC
    800-759-8178, www.marblefalls.org
  • Austin CVB
    512-478-0098; 512-474-5171 800-926-2282, www.austintexas.org
  • Capital City African American COC
    512-459-1181
  • Cedar Park COC
    512-260-7800, www.cedarparkchamber.org

024.gif HOTE 024 Shin Oak Observation Deck, Balcones Canyonlands NWR

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer, Daily – sunrise to sunset

Site open for day use only.

From TX 29 and US 281 intersection in Burnet, go east on TX 29 for 11.1 miles to Bertram. Turn south/right on FM 1174 for 7.2 miles. Turn left/east onto FM 1869 for 1.3 miles to the observation deck on the left.

This site provides a good view of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, with an immediate view of a large stand of shin oaks from which you can see and hear Black-capped Vireos during the nesting season. Also look for other nesting species such as Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Field and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. Observe only from the boardwalk and observation deck. The deck is closed for several weeks in April to minimize disturbance to Black-capped Vireos during critical nest building. It is also closed for 4 weekends in November and December for management deer hunts. Please contact the refuge for specific dates of closure.

Phone: 512-339-9432.

025.gif HOTE 025 Doeskin Ranch Trailhead, Balcones Canyonlands NWR

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons, Daily – sunrise to sunset

Site open for day use only.

From the Shin Oak Observation Deck, turn left on FM 1869 and continue 1.3 miles. Turn left on FM 1174, heading south 2.4 miles to the entrance and parking lot on the left.

Three trails originate here, and pass through the various ecosystems and habitats found on the refuge. The Pond and Prairie Trail is a short 0.4-mile hike to a small pond bordered by grassland prairies. Look for nesting Painted Bunting, Eastern Phoebe, and White-eyed Vireo. In migration, this can be a popular stopover for warblers, vireos, and flycatchers. Sections of this trail are wheelchair accessible. The Creek Trail is 0.6 miles long and takes you by ranch structures and along a scenic creek. Summer Tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Blue Grosbeaks can be seen. The Rimrock Trail is a more difficult, 2.2-mile trail that ascends into the juniper woodlands atop the highest elevations of the refuge. The Shin Oak Trail is an extension of this trail, offering panoramic views of the Hill Country from the top of the plateau. These trails offer visitors good chances to see and hear nesting Golden-cheeked Warbler. In October, the refuge attracts swarms of Monarch Butterflies during migration. Fall migration of raptors can also be spectacular along the Rimrock Trail.

Phone: 512-339-9432.

026.gif HOTE 026 Turkey Bend

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Turn left/south onto FM 1174 and follow 4.6 miles to its dead end at FM 1431. Turn left on FM 1431, heading east 4.7 miles to Shaw Road. Turn right on Shaw Road and follow 1.9 miles to the dead end into Turkey Bend.

This 400-acre park consists of oak-juniper woodlands, mesquite savannas, and riparian brush. A 2-mile hiking trail offers a chance to see Painted Bunting, Bewick’s Wren, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker as well as Common Gray Fox, Ringtail, and White-tailed Deer. Look for waterfowl, shorebirds, herons, and dragonflies along the shoreline and in the coves. Also, look for Texas Spotted Whiptail along the roadside and Texas Spiny Lizard camouflaged against tree trunks. Boating, camping, and picnicking facilities are available.

027.gif HOTE 027 Warbler Vista, Balcones Canyonlands NWR

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer, Daily – sunrise to sunset

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 1431 and turn right, heading east for 8.0 miles. Entrance is on the left.

The 0.7-mile refuge road leads to the Cactus Rock Trail parking lot. This 0.6-mile trail leads into old-growth woodland where Golden-cheeked Warblers nest in the spring. Other nesting birds include Black-and-White Warbler, Painted Bunting, Field and Rufous-crowned Sparrows. The 1.2-mile Vista Knoll Trail has views of Lake Travis and the surrounding hills.

Phone: 512-339-9432.

028.gif HOTE 028 Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

Return to FM 1431. Travel east on FM 1431 for 12.7 miles. Turn right onto US 183 South for 4.1 miles to Loop 620. Turn right on Loop 620 for 7.1 miles to Comanche Trail, designated by signage for Windy Point. Turn right onto Comanche Trail, following 2.9 miles to the park entrance on the left.

Located along the south shore of Lake Travis, the park offers shoreline and lakeside views and a hiking trail through grasslands and gently sloping oak-juniper woodlands. During spring migration, warblers, vireos, tanagers, and flycatchers can be seen along the trail. In summer, Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, White-eyed Vireo, Black-and-White Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Western Kingbird are common. Red-winged Blackbirds and various herons frequent the shoreline. In winter, look for Bufflehead, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, and Mallard. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers occur along the rocky shorelines.

029.gif HOTE 029 Creekland Park and Brushy Creek Regional Trail

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return on Loop 620 to US 183. Continue on Loop 620 for 7.5 miles and turn left into the Creekside Plaza shopping center. Drive through the two main buildings to the parking lot for Creekside Park.

This park along Brushy Creek includes a trail through riparian woodlands. Bordered by limestone edge and rock outcrops, Brushy Creek widens, then drops into a tumbling waterfall.

The creek is alive with dragonflies in spring and summer. Widow Skimmer and Swift Setwing are most common, but also look for Eastern Pondhawk, Red and Black Saddlebags, and American Rubyspots. Eastern Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Grosbeak, Black-and-White Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting, and Summer Tanager occur here in summer, as do Barred and Eastern Screech-Owl.

030.gif HOTE 030 Good Water Trail at Lake Georgetown

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

To Tejas Camp trailhead on the western edge of the trail: Return to US 183 North for 17.7 miles to FM 3405. Take FM 3405, heading east 1.7 miles to CR 258. Turn right on CR 258 and go 1.5 miles past the river crossing to the park entrance on the left.

To reach Cedar Breaks Park trailhead at the south end of the dam: Return to FM 3405 and continue east for 5.8 miles. Turn right on FM 2338 and go 3.2 miles to Cedar Breaks Road. Turn right on Cedar Breaks Road and follow 2.1 miles to the park entrance.

The 16.6-mile Good Water Trail was named after the Tonkawa Indians who made their homes near the North Fork of the San Gabriel River. Milepost 0 is in Cedar Breaks Park, as the trail proceeds westerly along the river to milepost 11 at Tejas Camp. Here, the trail curves around the river at West End Crossing and proceeds to the east along the opposite shore of the river.

The trail passes through Golden-cheeked Warbler nesting habitat at Cedar Breaks Park and then meanders back towards the river. The riparian habitat here is lush and densely vegetated with elm, oak, hackberry and other hardwoods. Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, White-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, and Wood Duck are regular nesters along these riparian woodlands. In the winter, the outlying grassland areas provide habitat for up to 16 species of sparrows.

031.gif HOTE 031 Granger Lake

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Return to FM 2338 East, turn right and go 3.2 miles to I-35. Turn south on the frontage road and go 1.4 miles to TX 29. Turn left on TX 29 East. After 15.9 miles, turn right on

TX 95 South and go 0.8 mile to FM 1331. Turn left on FM 1331 and go 4.9 miles to the entrance of Taylor Park and the Comanche Bluff Trail.

In winter this is an excellent birding site. Granger Lake is surrounded by four parks: Taylor Park, Wilson H. Fox Park, Friendship Park, and Willis Creek Park. Each park varies on admittance for day use areas; some are free and some require a fee. By traveling on FM 1331, crossing the dam onto FM 971 and back to TX 95, you may access each of these park entrances.

Fall and spring can produce numerous migrants, and in the winter expect a large number of shorebirds and waterfowl. Look for Hooded Merganser, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Eared, Horned, and Pied-billed Grebes, American White Pelican, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants, Anhinga, Tricolored Heron, and a variety of gulls and terns. The outlying areas of most of these parks are surrounded by grassland prairies that are home to a large number and diversity of sparrows.

The lake is surrounded by agricultural land. Off of TX 95 near Granger Lake, take CR 347 to CR 345 and CR 346. In the winter, the only habitat along these county roads is barren agricultural fields. Mountain Plover has become a regular winter resident in these fields. All four North American species of longspurs have been found here as well. Also look for wintering raptors; Rough-legged Hawk has been found here regularly.

Phone: 512-859-2343


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