Cool weather hiking

Horseshoe Bay Nature Park
The Horseshoe Bay Nature Park offers a peaceful walk among native flora and fauna. Photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Llano County lies within the most beautiful swathe of country that Texas has to offer, and the best way to see it is on the trail. Hill Country hiking is at its best in the cooler months of the year, so late fall through early spring is ripe with opportunity for adventure. As the temperature drops, hikes become more comfortable, the trails are less crowded, and you can see the seasons on full display.

Whether you’re visiting a world-renowned gem like Enchanted Rock or taking a hidden trail through Horseshoe Bay, hiking in and around Llano County is going to be more fun without the brutal summer sun beating down on you. Late spring and early summer might have beautiful wildflowers, but once temperatures start to climb, a long-distance hike could be out of the question — for comfort and safety’s sake!

Heat-related illnesses can and have ruined many hikes, so taking that out of the equation is reason enough to hold out for less blistering temperatures. Taking a trip to the top of Enchanted Rock in the fall or winter might still burn your legs, but you will be able to enjoy the summit without sweating through your shirt. 

While trails can be packed in the spring and summer, traffic tends to cool down along with the thermometer. One of the toughest parts about living in and visiting a beautiful destination is that everybody wants to be there, which can lead to crowded hikes and frustrating parking fiascos. 

A less-populated hike often means getting to see more wildlife. Inks Lake State Park is usually packed through the spring and summer, but during a visit in the depths of fall or winter, you can have your pick of parking, trails, campsites, and swimming holes, if you feel like taking a polar plunge.

A cool weather hike will take you through whispering groves of oaks turning shades of gold, red, and yellow with burgundy and purple grass going to seed. The deer shift from red to gray and the bucks shed their velvet, while ducks and geese migrate overhead. 

Even in winter, when the leaves are gone and many of the songbirds have hightailed it south, you can catch the red flicker of a cardinal as you head down a Texas Hill Country trail. These winter scenes are worth seeing, and they’ll give you an appreciation for the explosion of color that returns in the spring.

Whether you’re tip-toeing onto Texas trails for the first time or you’re a seasoned trailblazer, put on a coat, make sure you have plenty of hot coffee, and take a cool weather hike.