When you think of Texas — BBQ, boots and Tex-Mex come to mind. But the Lone Star State has endless trails, creeks and wilderness slipping from its seams.
And the best part? Those scenic trails and beautiful views are right in our own backyard! So, when you get tired of the concrete and congestion, a hike through the descending hills of the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve in Austin has the cure.
Get Ready: Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is nestled along the picturesque, winding Capital of Texas Highway, also known as Loop 360 in Austin. Yes, it’s literally right off a major highway in the Westlake Hills portion of the city. If you’re not careful, you can miss the turn-off to the trail and parking area, so keep your eyes peeled from the highway. Depending on traffic, it’s about a 20 25 minute drive from downtown.
Get Set: Parking is a bit limited which helps keep the trail from being overcrowded. I recommend going in the early morning to avoid a busy parking lot (and trail!) Wild Basin trails are accessible daily from sunrise to sunset and there is a gate at the entrance. As recommended to me by others: Wear sturdy shoes as there are some rocky patches and muddy paths after the rain. It’s important to note that bikes, pets and picnics are all prohibited at Wild Basin.
Tip: Print the trail map or take a photo of the map at the trailhead before you start your trek.
Go: I decided to follow the outside of the 2.5 mile loop, making one big winding circle around the edge of the 227-acre preserve. Starting at the Arroya Vista portion of the trail, you’ll find a fairly open path, paved with crushed granite. Follow the bridge towards the Triknee trail and you’ll no doubt stop to take in the view for miles over the hills of treetops. The descent continues down layers of limestone slopes and the terrain becomes much more heavily wooded. Once you hit the Possum trail, the path turns to boulders and rocks before coming across the flowing waters of Bee Creek.
There’s a rock path to get across but depending on the time of year, those rocks may be under water (hello water shoes).
This is the lowest point on the journey and it’s all back uphill from here. The Yaupon trail takes you through more trees and blooming flowers until you find a tucked away waterfall with a perfect perch for pictures. And the last climb along the Laurel trail connects you back to Arroya Vista and into more open land with time for one last glimpse at the sprawling green hills.
Effort: With 2.5 miles of trail to choose from, it’s really a pick your distance kind of trail. You can walk as short as .5 miles on the Easy Access Loop to take in the beautiful vistas or really take your time and explore the preserve. I consider this an easy to moderate hike but the elevation change can sneak up on you. The trail starts at 900 feet elevation and drops to 720 within about a mile. Keep that in mind, especially if you experienced hikers decide to run the trail.
Takeway: This is one of Austin’s most pristine nature reserves . It’s forest meets high desert, so get used to seeing cactus next to a sprawling deciduous tree. One of the best parts about Wild Basin is you often feel virtually alone. Unless it’s a warm spring or summer weekend, it can sometimes be just you and the trees and frankly, that’s how I like it.
Fun Fact: This little spot of hiking heaven was founded over 40 years ago by a group of seven women concerned about preserving nature in light of increased development in northwest Austin. You go girls.