There is plenty to do in Austin, but what about recreation outside the city, but within a reasonable drive? There are plenty of places to visit.
If you want to stay relatively close to Austin, take a drive out Hamilton Pool road and visit Hamilton Pool Preserve. Formed when a cave partially collapsed, Hamilton Pool is a Hill Country treasure. An 80 foot waterfall plunges into the pool below. The pool is shaded much of the day by the remains of the cave. Walking around under the rock grotto, you will scurry around and over boulders. Looking up, you will see ferns growing out of the rock where water trickles through it. As the creek leaves the pool, it flows down the valley and feeds many huge cypress trees before spilling into the Pedernales River.
Just a few miles past the turnoff for Hamilton Pool and across the Pedernales River is Westcave Preserve. Westcave Preserve is similar to Hamilton Pool in that there is a large grotto and the end of a box canyon. Visiting Westcave Preserve is a as much a nature lesson as it is a hike in the woods. As your group is being lead by a guide into the canyon, she will show you different plants and animals in addition to talking about the geology of the canyon.
Want something a bit farther, but still within an hour of Austin? Try Pedernales Falls State Park. This is an area where the Pedernales River cascades down a series of rapids and small waterfalls. It is a pretty easy hike to the river, but once there you can walk and climb on various rock formations. People are not allowed in the river at the falls, but there is another area below the falls that is dedicated for swimming and splashing around in the water.
If you want to drive a bit farther, visit Enchanted Rock State Park out near Fredericksburg.
Enchanted Rock is a huge granite dome rising out of the hills. The hike to the top is relatively simple if you take the route most people take. There is also a more technical area for rock climbing. There are small caves close to the top of Enchanted Rock.
Besides spending money on gas to get to these Hill Country favorites, the cost to enter each is small. If you visit in the summer, take sunscreen and water. If you visit in the spring, make sure to check the weather. Heavy rain will either close these places or will make them difficult to access.
Sam Chapman is an Austin REALTOR® who has lived and worked in the Austin area since 1987. Sam enjoys telling people about things to do in Austin, helping people buy or sell Austin real estate and he enjoys volunteering in the community.