101 FUN THINGS: Nature, beauty attract campers to Highland Lakes state parks
CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
JOHNSON CITY — Visitors from across the state will travel to Highland Lakes state parks for their next big camping adventures.
“In today’s hectic lifestyle, camping allows a peaceful respite. It gets people back to nature, which a lot of people don’t get now with an urban lifestyle,” said John Alvis, assistant park superintendent for Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City. “It allows you to slow your pace down and enjoy the natural surroundings.”
From the Johnson City destination to Inks Lake State Park on Park Road 4 just outside of Burnet, a number of nature and recreation facilities attract thousands of people in spring and summer.
This season, two parks will unveil new amenities as well as offer their usual features that include hiking trails, bird watching, lake access and primitive and utility-based camping sites.
Pedernales Falls, located 10 miles east of Johnson City off Park Road 6026, “exemplifies the Texas Hill Country,” Alvis said.
“We have an unusual geological feature, which attracts a lot of attention. It’s the falls,” he said. “There’s a lot of exposed, tilted limestone rock with features people like to hike across.
“There’s a swimming area, seven miles of river through the park, with hiking and fishing and two bird blinds.”
The park is opening a star-gazing theater that will allow for night sky presentations.
“It’s like a modern-day stonehenge,” said Alvis of the open-air feature.
The park also added 15 more miles of trails in the south end to bring the total distance of walking and equestrian trails to about 30 miles.
For campers, Pedernales Falls State Park offers 70 water/electric sites with 30-amp capabilities for tent camping and recreational vehicles; 20 primitive sites; and a new primitive equestrian camping area with restrooms.
Should campers venture northwest of Johnson City, Inks Lake State Park — best known for its signature pink rock outcroppings known as valley spring gneiss — is considered a nature and wildlife haven with various primitive, tent and RV camping areas.
“The wildflowers here are extraordinary. Couple that with the lake and the creek that flows into the lake,” Park Ranger Sean Jones said.
Depending on their level of outdoor adventure, hikers can begin at various entrances along eight miles of trails.
“It does change within a mile or two. You can have a fairly broad change in habitat,” Jones said. “Hikers can be at the lake in a wetland environment then, 15 minutes later, be on top of a rocky bluff overlooking the lake.”
The park offers water and electric sites with 50-amp capabilities and air-conditioned and heated mini-cabins with bunk beds, table and chairs.
Other features include modern restrooms and shower amenities, a park store and canoeing and kayaking rentals.
“We’ve got lots of great bird-watching opportunities,” he said. “Spring and summer, we start to get the monarch butterflies, which is really cool.”
The park is unveiling a bird blind this summer as well.
“It’s just beautiful — hiking, photography,” he said. “It just draws a lot of people during spring.”
Go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks for more about interpretive programs, events, reservations, maps and amenities.