Hiking in Bastrop State Park

It has been almost 10 years since the devastating 2011 wildfire. When hiking in Bastrop State Park, you notice things still aren’t back to normal. Recovery takes time.

I can’t believe it has been almost ten years since the 2011 wildfire that swept across the Bastrop State Park and surrounding areas. The fire ravaged 32,000-plus acres, killed two people, and destroyed more than 1,600 homes.

In 2021, the scars left by the fire still mark the landscape. Bare, blackened trees stand over fresh, green vegetation. Smaller loblolly pines, finally almost double my height, offer little shade to hikers on the trails. But the new growth contrasted against the reminders of the fire creates a beautiful scene.

The contrast between the bare trees and new growth is beautiful in its own way.

Recovery Takes Time

When I was a child, my family met my grandparents at Bastrop State Park for an afternoon. They had brought their camper, a Class C RV that I loved to play in. We hiked through the park, taking pictures and making far too much noise, I’m sure. What I remember most about that hike were the mushrooms and lush ferns. The rich, dense, wooded area seemed mystical.

This patch along the trail looks more like what I remember from my childhood. It’s as if this stretch was spared from the fire.

Today, the mystic nature of the park isn’t in its vegetation but in its determination to survive. Laid bare, without the protection of ground cover, erosion is evident in some areas. As I hiked up the gold and red trails up to the highest point in the park, the heat and dryness surprised me. I’d come to the park remembering the shade cover of the tall trees, forgetting that it takes a long time to recover after disaster. Something that’s true in life as well.

Go for the Day or Stay Over Night

In some places, the fire revealed treasures that had been lost to the overgrowth, like the stone water fountain built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It brought water up from the river to the area that had been set aside for hikers and families.

The discovery of this fountain got me to thinking about the things in my own life that, when removed (not always without pain), revealed new opportunities or forgotten truths. Can you relate?

This cool, old water fountain was rediscovered after the fires.

It will likely take another decade or more before the trees offer shade to the hikers along the trails at Bastrop State Park. Even then, I wonder if the vegetation will ever be the same. Regardless, its well worth a visit. Wildflowers bloom in abundance in the sunshine, and skinks scurry across the sandy trails. The little lizards are fun to watch but are way too fast to capture on my phone camera.

With hiking trails, picnic areas, a swimming pool, cabins, group areas, and campsites this Texas state park offers a variety of outdoor recreation options without being too far off the beaten path.

To learn more about the fire recovery at Bastrop State Park, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/bastrop/life-after-wildfire

The Roaming Texan Trails Review – Bastrop State Park

Hike #10 of my 52 Hike Challenge

I’m participating in the 52 Hike Challenge (#52HikeChallenge2021) and decided to hike in as many state parks as time will allow this year. (With my handy-dandy Texas State Park Pass, entry for day use is free for any of the 89 parks.) For Hike number 10, I decided to hike in Bastrop State Park.

Hiking in Bastrop State Park

Trails Hiked – Piney Spur (Gold) and part of the Scenic Overlook Trail (Red); out and back

Difficulty – Moderate

Elevation Gain – 150 feet

Distance – 2.8 miles

Trail Access – Trailhead parking is easy to find. I wish there were restrooms and water a little closer to the trailhead parking lots.

Trail Markings – Good but could use some updating. One connection point (switching from the Gold to the Red trail) was pretty faded. Another marker pointed to a trail that was no longer there.

Trail Maintenance – Great. The clear trails are easy to navigate. One small, downed tree blocked the trail at one point. Hopefully, the park service will clear it soon, but it is easy enough to get around.

Wildlife – Birds and skinks were the only wildlife I saw. My hike was midday and hot, so the smarter animals may have been resting in the shade.

Would I hike here again? – Definitely. The diversity in the recovering landscape on the hike was interesting. I would recommend going early in the morning to beat the summer heat.

Hiking Highlight – The scenic overlook tower was the highlight of the hike. A shade shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s provided a place to take a much-needed break while hiking. The overlook is the highest point in Bastrop State Park, right at 600 feet. The promise of pretty views and cool breezes blowing through the shelter provide incentive to keep going!

Tip: If you’re not up for a hike, you can drive up to the overlook.

Question for the comments: What is your favorite Texas State Park?