We are lucky to have many places to hike here in Austin, but one which my family keeps coming back to is the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. This hidden gem was founded over 40 years ago by a group of seven women concerned about preserving nature in light of increased development in northwest Austin. The 227-acre preserve is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, a collaboration among public and private landholders to protect over 30,000 acres of habitat for eight endangered species, including the golden-cheeked warbler.

9.14.2008 005The Preserve has 2.5 miles of family-friendly trails which are open from sunrise until sunset, seven days a week. There is a parking lot and restroom facilities. At the trailhead, there is a kiosk where you can leave a suggested donation of $3 per adult and $2 for ages 5-12 and seniors.

As with any outdoor activity in Central Texas, bring your water and sunscreen, and if you are visiting during the warmer months, consider heading out early, as it can get hot on the trails. Note that bikes, pets and picnics are not permitted, and the trails aren’t stroller-friendly, unless you are content sticking with the Easy Access Loop, which is 0.39 miles. You may want to print out a trail map or take a photo at the trailhead to refer to as you are hiking. If you want to make the trip into a scavenger hunt of sorts, you can see what you can find on the self-guided tour.

Near the parking lot is the Creative Research Center, the welcome hub for the Preserve, which is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekdays. From the trailhead next to the Center, you can hike a mere 0.2 miles to get to a scenic overlook, which gets you away from the more populated view as you drive to the Preserve on Capital of Texas Highway to a more pristine 180 degree view of nature. From here, you can either continue on to complete the 1.75 mile Yaupon Loop, complete the 0.6 mile Arroyo Vista Loop or make the 1 mile round trip walk to see the waterfall.

IMG_1275My crew most enjoyed the shady parts of the trails along Bee Creek best, where we had the opportunity to make several creek crossings. While we stuck with the shorter loops when my son was little, we had no problem with the Yaupon Loop on a recent visit, even considering the trail was mostly downhill for the first half, which meant a lot of the way back was uphill.

One of the best parts about visiting Wild Basin is that you can often feel virtually alone. Unless there is an event or if it’s Museum Day, the parking lot is usually pretty empty. If you want a break from the crowds of the Greenbelt and want a few hours of relatively easy hiking close to downtown, Wild Basin is a great place to explore.

IMG_1291For more information, you can visit the Travis County Parks website or the St. Edward’s Creative Research Center website.

Looking for more great trails to visit with the kids? Check out our Top 10 Family Hikes in Austin.

About the author: A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole Basham uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of adventures.