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Last chance to sign up for hike leader training at Balcones refuge

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

A group of hikers at the tail end of the 7-mile Igau Tract hike on Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. This portion of the refuge is typically only accessible to staff and wildland firefighters, but Friends of Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge volunteer hike leaders are able to guide visitors to restricted areas. Courtesy photo

May 31 is the last day to submit an application for the Friends of Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge guided hike leader program. If you miss the application window, the nonprofit group has more ways to get involved.

The Friends of Balcones is a volunteer organization dedicated to enhancing and supporting Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, which is located at the convergence of eastern Burnet County, northwest Travis County, and western Williamson County. The guided hike leader program takes selected applicants through a two-month training course to prepare them to lead hikes throughout the refuge.

Guided hike program co-director Elizabeth Gardner said it is about creating opportunities for visitors to experience the refuge and get people involved.

“The more people that know about the refuge and understand the value it brings to our community, the better,” she told 

The training will take place on eight dates from July 29 through Sept. 30 and focus on the refuge’s natural and human history as well as hiking safety.

Hike leaders are able to take visitors to portions of the refuge typically restricted to the public. These more secluded trails are normally only used by refuge staff and wildland firefighters.

In-person classes take place on July 29, Aug. 12, Sept. 2, and Sept. 30. Virtual classes are on Aug. 9, Aug. 30, Sept. 13, and Sept. 20.

To sign up, fill out an application here. No experience is necessary.

“We’re seeking people who are excited to learn and help grow our program,” reads a social media post on the Friends of Balcones Facebook page. “A love for the outdoors is a plus.”

To learn more about the Friends of Balcones and how to get involved, visit the group’s website or contact 512-707-9447 or