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Explore Longhorn Cavern State Park above ground

The 90-year-old “parkitecture” at Longhorn Cavern State Park can be as much fun to explore as the underground cave. A 2-mile hiking trail through the Texas Hill Country is another treat at this free state park in Burnet County. Courtesy photo

Longhorn Cavern State Park has so much more to explore than its underground wonders. Start at the 90-year-old visitors center and gift shop and then check out the picnic areas and trails to discover one of the hidden gems of the Highland lakes. You can also climb up for a view of the Hill Country from above the trees.

An added bonus: It is the only state park in Texas with no entrance fees. Unless taking a cavern tour, Longhorn Cavern State Park is free!

PARKITECTURE

A Civilian Conservation Corps building at Longhorn Cavern State Park. Staff photo


The facilities at the park were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and are as much a part of history as the cavern itself. Architectural enthusiasts call this rustic National Park Service look “parkitecture.” The buildings were designed to harmonize with the natural beauty around them. Native wood and stone were used in asymmetrical designs to blend in with the environment,

TOWERING VIEW

Falkenstein Castle can be seen in the distance from a tower at Longhorn Cavern State Park. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell


Near the CCC house is an observation tower. A climb up the indoor spiral staircase to the top offers spectacular 360-degree views of the Texas Hill Country, including Falkenstein Castle.

Don’t forget to visit the gift shop, where you’ll find some of the most unusual ideas for gifts and souvenirs.

HIKE A TRAIL

Picnic tables sit under old-growth trees, shielding snackers from the burning Texas sun. After a quick bite, take a hike along the Backbone Ridge trail system, about a 2-mile loop. The trail, which is mostly crushed gravel and fairly flat, is an easy hike for beginners.

Hikers will find numbered stations along the way for a self-guided tour. A trail map and brochure with description of plants you’ll most likely see is available at the visitors center.

Cedar and oak shade most of the trail, although parts are exposed to full sunshine.

For an added challenge, look for the “3-Minute Loop” sign, where the path forks to the left. The trail here is rocky and without numbered stations. It drops you right back on the main trail to continue your hike on more level ground.

Another decision comes at the next fork in the road. Take the right to get to the park’s circular driveway and a return to the trailhead. You’ll find a few more trail stations along the way.

Head to the left, which is marked “1 Mile Hiking Trail,” for a longer and more challenging hike, though it’s not too rough. This trail is rockier and not as easy to follow. Orange paint on occasional rocks shows the way.

During rainy days, at Boulder Stream, you might find some water. Most of the time, the stream “flows” with a solid and permanent stream of gray boulders.

The 1-mile trail also takes you back to the circular drive and CCC house.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

From September 3, 2019-May 22, 2020, Longhorn Cavern State Park will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends and holidays.

From May 23-August 16, 2020, grounds and facilities will be open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week.

Longhorn Cavern State Park is a day-use-only park. No overnight camping is allowed.

Longhorn Cavern State Park is located at 6211 Park Road 4 South in Burnet.For more information, call 512-715-9000, email info@visitlonghorncavern.com, or visit visitlonghorncavern.com.

Read about what's below the surface at Longhorn Cavern State Park.

suzanne@thepicayune.com

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