Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I have this running list of outings that I like to revisit every year or two. They tend to be most-of-the-day kind of outings which require starting early on a weekend, packing lunch and driving for more than half an hour. Last year, we struck out on one of these such outings, to Hamilton Pool. By the time we completed the aforementioned steps, we arrived at the gates of Hamilton Pool at around 9:45am. We were greeted by a park ranger on the road, who was signaling that the parking lot was already full.
He proceeded to remind us through my rolled-down window that Westcave Preserve and Reimers Ranch are right nearby. We decided to visit Westcave that day, which worked out very well because guided tours start on Saturdays at 10am.
Having worked with the Travis County Parks staff in a former life, I had heard about Reimers Ranch and how excited the County was to acquire the property, so I vowed to return again. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I knew soccer season was starting for my son (and I) and our weekends would suddenly get more hectic. It was time to finally visit Reimers Ranch, a 2,427-acre property located 30 miles southwest of Austin in Dripping Springs. It took us about 45 minutes to get there from our house in north central Austin. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make it in time for the 10am guided tours, which are free with your entrance fee ($10 per car -- cash or check only, no credit cards). When I inquired with the ranger, he assured me that these two hour hikes, which take place October through April, are great for families. He added that it's a good idea to arrive a little before 10am to make sure you don't miss the ranger leading the tour. The hikes take you into the backcountry area of the park where cars are not allowed. Tours are limited to the first 30 participants and are about two to three miles in duration. As you might expect, wearing suitable shoes and bringing water are advised.
Birding tours are offered October through April on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at 8am. Like the other tours, the price is included in your entrance fee. These hikes are also two hours in duration.
After handing us a map of the park, we were off to the first parking lot (aka the Reimers Canyon Activity Center), which he suggested was a great place to start. There were restrooms, a pavilion, water fountains, picnic tables and some interpretive signage. We set off on the trail next to the restrooms, hoping to see a rattlesnake, water moccasin or lizard as a Google+ reviewer had observed.
The trail was very easy going for my husband, our almost-8-year-old and I. The path quickly veered off to an area where the rock climbers were scaling the limestone walls beneath us. Apparently, Reimers Ranch is known as one of the best rock climbing areas in the state, with two large dedicated climbing areas.
We continued along the primitive trail to a series of scenic overlooks. It was a pretty view, although the landscape showed no signs of spring's arrival. We eventually ended up on the ADA Compliant trail which headed back to the parking lot, although we chose to keep going on the primitive Terrace Trail.
After about 45 minutes of hiking, my crew was happy to have lunch at the River View Parking area. We sat at a picnic table under a tree, with a pavilion nearby and restrooms. Sun wasn't an issue on a February day, but I imagined the rays would be pretty unforgiving on a warm day. My family was ready to head home at that point, but I was curious about the trail that seemed to lead down to the water, so after a promise of ice cream on the way home, we were back in business.
We then took the trail down to the "Beach". When we got down to the water, we came upon another group of families who had set up camp for the day, relaxing with food and drinks while kids played in the water. We took off our shoes and socks and sunk our feet into the cold sand. After some prodding, my kid convinced me to put my feet in the icy water, but I didn't last long. After a good hour of "sand castle" building, looking for small shells and skipping rocks, we made the trip back up to the parking lot. We crossed the street and headed back on the multi-use trail, which we had all to ourselves. It wasn't long before we were driving back to Austin.
On the way home, we stopped at the Hill Country Galleria for some frozen yogurt so I could live up to my end of the bargain. It was a little of a shock to the system to enter this shopping behemoth after spending the whole day in nature, I admit. But, resigned to return home without seeing anything exciting like a rattlesnake (although we did spot plenty of hawks), we had to drown our sorrows somehow.
Back in the car, my son said, "Who liked that hike?" and without giving us time to respond, he answered, "I did!" I'm not sure how much of that was the frozen yogurt talking, but I'll take it. Check another place off the mental list!
Other things you might want to know about Reimers:
We didn't bring bikes, but Reimers Ranch also has nearly 20 miles of trails for beginner, intermediate and advanced mountain biking. Since the Park borders the Pedernales Rives for nearly 3 miles, there is plenty of space for fishing, particularly for white bass.
Reimers Ranch also has an area for horseback riding. We didn't see anyone riding while we were there, but I would imagine it would be a nice place to ride.
Reimers Ranch is day use only, so that means that unfortunately, no camping is allowed. The park opens at 8am and closes at dark. Pets are welcome, on a leash, and indeed we saw many with their owners enjoying the fresh air.
Reimers Ranch Park
23610 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Springs, TX 78620
A recovering workaholic, Nicole Basham now spends her time rediscovering Austin through her 6-year-old son's eyes. A soccer-playing mom, Nicole also enjoys tickling too close to bedtime, making and consuming baked goods, and being silly. You can also find her writing at LiveMom, Savvy Source for Parents and CultureMap.