Great Texas Wildlife Trails

San Marcos Loop

San Marcos Loop map

San Marcos Loop mapRed Corral RanchJacob's Well Preserve at Dancing Waters Inn and Lookout MountainBlanco State ParkGarden-VilleSchule Canyon Greenspace and TrailProspect ParkSan Marcos River WalkAquarena Center, Southwest Texas John J. Stokes, Sr. Park at Thompson's IslandsCR 266 Between the San Marcos River and Staples Rd.San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology CenterCR 234 at Southridge Estates

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More information:

  • Wimberley COC
    512-847-2201 www.visitwimberley.com; www.wimberley.org
  • San Marcos Tourist Information
    512-393-5930 888-200-5620, www.toursanmarcos.com

057.gif HOTE 057 Blanco State Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

From the intersection of US 290 and US 281 near Johnson City, take US 281 south for 8.2 miles to PR 23 in Blanco. Park headquarters is on the right.

Blanco State Park is a 105-acre park consisting of trails, campsites, and picnic areas along the Blanco River. Densely vegetated boxelder, elderberry, willows, and hackberries attract nesting Ash-throated Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak. Great Horned and Eastern Screech-Owls serenade nightly from the larger trees near the campgrounds. Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and Eastern Phoebe patrol the riverbanks. Rabbits inhabit the dense vegetation along the river’s edge.

Phone: 830-833-4333. Blanco State Park page

Another nearby fee-based picnic area with wildlife viewing along the cypress-studded river is Weidner Campground. From US 281, take FM 311 East 2.1 miles and turn left after the bridge at the sign for Bigfoot Canoes. Continue to the house at the end of the road.

058.gif HOTE 058 Red Corral Ranch

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer, Fall

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

Return to US 281 and go north 0.2 mile to FM 165. Go east 8.0 miles to FM 2325. Turn right and go 3.0 miles to CR 113. Turn right and follow 0.5 mile to gate on left.

This 1100-acre ranch offers diverse habitats and abundant wildlife. Golden-cheeked Warblers occur here, and the ranch is restoring habitat for Black-capped Vireos. Walking paths along Wanslow Creek provide excellent opportunities to view typical breeding Hill Country birds, and the grassy vegetation provides good habitat for wintering sparrows. A beautiful lodge and cabins are available by reservation.

Phone: 866-833-4801. www.redcorralranch.com

059.gif HOTE 059 Jacob’s Well Preserve at Dancing Waters Inn and Lookout Mountain

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

Jacob’s Well is one of the most significant natural treasures of the Hill Country. This large spring is fed by groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer. Waters flowing from the well form Cypress Creek, a primary source of water for the Wimberley Valley. The well is reached by a trail that passes through woodland of juniper, oak, persimmon, Agarita, buckeye, and other limestone slope vegetation which hosts Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Bewick’s Wren, Carolina Chickadee, and Tufted Titmouse. Watch along the banks of Cypress Creek for Green Heron, Green Kingfisher, and other riparian species. Dancing Waters Inn, located at Jacob’s Well, offers attractive overnight lodging.

Visitors or overnight guests at Dancing Waters may wish to continue to Lookout Mountain for lunch or dinner. Located at 1,300 feet on the region’s second highest overlook, the house provides a 300-degree, 70-mile view of seven Hill Country counties. Visitors may arrange for a guided hike of the area, watch birds, identify wildflowers, or walk the nature trails. Hummingbirds, Painted Buntings and Lesser Goldfinches are regulars around the viewing deck, and Golden-cheeked Warblers may be seen during spring.

Call for Directions: 512-847-9391, 512-847-5010.
www.dancingwatersinn.com, www.lookoutwimberley.com

060.gif HOTE 060 Garden-ville

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

From the intersection of FM 2325 and FM 12 in Wimberley, go south on FM 12 for 4.6 miles to the FM 32/FM 12 intersection. Turn left to stay on FM 12 and go 7.8 miles to entrance on the left.

This site is a good place to learn about gardening to attract birds or butterflies. Vegetation on the property, includes juniper, prickly pear, and large stands of lemon beebalm that provide nectar for butterflies, including Pipevine Swallowtail, Queen, and Gulf Fritillary.

Phone: 512-754-0060.

061.gif HOTE 061 Schulle Canyon Greenspace and Trail

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 12, turn left, and follow 1.4 miles to Holland St. Turn left, go 0.2 mile, and turn left on Alamo Street. Veer left at the Y in the road and park at the road’s end along the canyon edge. The Alamo Street entrance is wheelchair-accessible. To reach the Joshua Street entrance, continue on Holland St. past Alamo another 0.1 mile and turn left on Joshua. Go 0.1 mile and park at the canyon edge.

The 16-acre site is densely wooded with oak, juniper, elm, and hackberry, with an understory of persimmon, grapevine, greenbriar, Turk’s cap, and yellow buckeye. Butterflies are numerous in summer, especially Texan Crescents, Hackberry and Tawny Emperors, Common Mestra and Texas Powdered Skipper. Birds such as Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren and Tufted Titmouse are often seen.

Phone: 512-393-8400.

062.gif HOTE 062 Prospect Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 12/Moore St., turn left, and go 0.8 mile to Hopkins. Turn right on Hopkins and go 0.7 mile to Bishop St. Turn right on Bishop, go 0.2 mile, turn left on Prospect, and park at the end of the road.

Prospect Park is a newly acquired site with a trail that is being constructed by local volunteers. It provides access to woodlands, open slopes, and dense stands of oak, juniper, elm, and hackberry, especially at the canyon bottom. The canyon bottom has several small caves which contribute to recharge of the aquifer below. Look for Inca Dove, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireo, and Painted Bunting.

Phone: 512-393-8400.

063.gif HOTE 063 San Marcos River Walk

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to Hopkins, turn left and go 1.3 miles to CM Allen Pkwy. Turn right and then left into the parking area.

The gateway to the trail system is the Greenhouse Interpretive Center located on Riverside Drive adjacent to the Tourist Information Center. The Center features a variety of theme gardens that attract wildlife, including succulents, bird, bee, and butterfly gardens, wildflower gardens, medicinal plants, grasses, and vines. These gardens lead to a 2.5 mile riverside trail system that takes you through the heart of San Marcos. Resident birds such as Green and Great Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and Red-shouldered Hawk occur here, as do all three Kingfishers (Ringed more rarely). Wintering waterfowl, large numbers of migrating songbirds, and a variety of woodpeckers can also be seen. Dragonflies and butterflies are common, and include specialties such as Neotropical Bluet and Dragonhunter. Interpretive panels along the trail discuss the Edward’s Aquifer, endangered species, birds and other wildlife inhabiting the park. Some sections are wheelchair-accessible, and there are benches, water fountains and restroom facilities.

Phone: 512-393-8400.

064.gif HOTE 064 Aquarena Center, Texas State University

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

Return to CM Allen Pkwy, heading north. Cross Hopkins and continue 1.0 mile. Turn left at the Aquarena entrance opposite Bobcat Stadium.

Aquarena Center is the home of San Marcos Springs, one of the state’s largest freshwater discharges. Over 1,000 springs bubble up from the bottom of Spring Lake, discharging 150 million gallons of crystalline water per day, and forming the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Several endangered species occur here including Texas Blind Salamander, San Marcos Salamander, and Fountain Darter. These species, as well as other aquatic species of the Edward’s Aquifer may be observed in the Center’s aquarium facility. Spring Lake is best appreciated via a glass-bottom boat ride (fee), where birds, turtles and other animals can be observed. The lake may also be viewed from its banks, shaded by tall cypress trees, and from an elevated viewing deck and boardwalk. These areas provide excellent views of cormorants, Least and Pied-bill Grebes, wintering waterfowl and wading birds. Dragonflies such as Slaty and Widow Skimmers, and Halloween and Four-spotted Pennants are common. During migration, songbirds often concentrate in the tall shrubs along the boardwalk. Over 110 species of birds have been recorded, many on the wooded slopes rising from the lake’s shore. Several trails wind through these woodlands. Watch for nesters such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Carolina Wren, Summer Tanager, and Carolina Chickadee. These trails also access several historic sites, including cabins and a gristmill. Visitors can enjoy butterfly gardens and areas for observing hummingbirds. Videos at several places provide information about the natural and cultural history of the site. In the future this site will be become the Texas Rivers Center at San Marcos Springs, an educational facility featuring the natural history of Texas rivers. The site became the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment in 2012.

Phone: 512-245-7539.

065.gif HOTE 065 John J. Stokes, Sr. Park at Thompson’s Islands

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

Turn right, exiting Aquarena Center and return to Hopkins. Turn right and go 0.2 mile to Guadalupe St. Turn left and go 1.0 mile under I-35. Go north on the access road on the east side of the Interstate. After 0.7 mile, turn right/east on River Road and drive 0.4 mile to Cape Road/CR 299. Turn right and park after the first of two river crossings, about 0.1 mile.

This site is a combination of dense riparian thickets, mowed lawns, tall weedy edges, and scattered sycamores, willows, and pecans near the San Marcos River. During winter Vesper, Song, and Savannah Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees forage in the tangles of grapevines and ragweed at the wooded edge. Look for Orange-crowned Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo in the canopy. Watch also for kingfishers, woodpeckers, Osprey, and American Kestrel. During summer the river edge and weedy fields are alive with dragonflies.

Phone: 512-393-8400.

066.gif HOTE 066 CR 266 Between the San Marcos River and Staples Rd.

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

Continue south on Cape Rd/CR 299 for 0.5 mile. Turn left on TX 123, and then immediately left at the light onto FM 621. Go 0.5 mile and note the state fish hatchery on your left. Continue 1.7 miles to CR 266/Old Bastrop Highway. Turn left and go 0.5 mile to a large farm pond on the right. Park well off the road.

En route to this site look for Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Dowitchers, Upland Sandpiper, and other shorebirds in the wet fields. Scan the fields and hedgerows for Lincoln’s, White-crowned, White-throated, and Harris’s Sparrows. In summer, watch for Loggerhead Shrike, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Crested Caracara, Painted Bunting, and Dickcissel. In winter look for Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier. Gulls, puddle ducks, shorebirds, and large wading birds make this a good winter venue. In early spring look for Yellow-headed Blackbird. Where the road crosses the San Marcos River, look for Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, and Painted Bunting.

067.gif HOTE 067 San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to I-35 and go south 2.9 miles on the western frontage road to McCarty Lane/Exit 201. Exit right/west and go 0.1 mile to a left turn at the entrance. Go to the office to check in.

The hatchery grounds provide birders, dragonfliers, and butterfliers with a variety of habitats that include extensive Blackland Prairie, a pond, wetlands, mowed turf, parcels of brush, and tall trees near a creek. There is a habitat restoration program underway, and open areas are already filled with nesting Dickcissels, tall grasses and wildflowers. About 70 species of birds have been recorded on the site, which is best during winter, when puddle ducks are on the pond and raptors hunt the open fields. The wetlands, brushy edges and prairies have LeConte’s, Savannah, Swamp, Vesper, Song, and Lincoln’s sparrows in winter. Also look for Great Blue and Green herons, Great and Snowy egrets, Belted Kingfisher, Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed gulls, migratory shorebirds, and wintering waterfowl.

Phone: 512-353-0011.

068.gif HOTE 068 CR 234 at Southridge Estates

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

Return to the frontage road and go south 1.1 miles to Centerpoint Road. Turn left and go southeast 1.5 miles. Turn right on CR 266/Old Bastrop Hwy, then immediately left on CR 234. Go 1.8 miles and turn left into Southridge Estates. Enter on Pauls Road, turn left on Crest Circle Drive, and back to Pauls Road to exit.

Field and hedgerow birds are similar to those mentioned for CR 266. As you drive along CR 234, pass mesquite habitat that is productive for wintering and migrating birds such as Ash-throated Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, as well as a variety of sparrows, towhees, and buntings. During migration, watch for flocks of Sandhill Cranes on the roadsides. At Southridge Estates, Crest Circle Drive circles a lake that must be birded from the roadside. In winter, watch for ducks such as Mallard, Gadwall, various teal, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, and Ring-neck Duck. During migration, Wilson’s Phalaropes and other shorebirds use the lake. At times, there are large numbers of wintering Common Snipe and occasionally flocks of White Pelicans. When you exit, turn left on CR 234 and check the three additional roadside ponds within the next 0.5 mile.


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