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Christmas in Texas State Parks: Festive Hikes, Canyon Caroling, and More

Mistletoe grows in the branches of a tree. How did this parasite become part of a beloved Christmas tradition? Find out at ‘Kissmas Under the Mistletoe!’ at Inks Lake State Park from 1-2 p.m. Dec. 22. It’s one of several programs at area state parks this weekend.

What better way to enjoy Christmas than among God’s creations. And Texas state parks are a glorious respite from the hustle and bustle of the season.

Explore on your own or attend a planned event at one of the state parks within easy driving distance.

At Inks Lake State Park, interpreter Lindsay Pannell has organized several activities, starting with the Winter Solstice Hike from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, the first day of winter. It’s for ages 10 and older. No dogs are allowed on this hike.

“It’s a little more of a challenging hike, about two miles to the bird blind,” Pannell said.

Along the way, hikers will learn about local geology and how the Civilian Conservation Corps played a role in building state parks.

After 2 miles, you’ll arrive at the bird blind, where you can enjoy Christmas wassail.

The park will shuttle folks from the bird blind back to the main parking lot.

Then, on Saturday, Dec. 22, Inks Lake park volunteers and retired National Wildlife Refuge specialist Rob Iski are leading the Caroling Cardinals Hike from 8:30-10 a.m. The 1-mile hike starts at the Devil’s Waterhole parking lot. You might not actually do any caroling, but Iski will cover the basics of birding. The park will provide binoculars. (You might spy a great blue heron or an osprey.)

Did you know a popular Christmas tradition involves a parasite?

That would be mistletoe, and you can learn more from 1-2 p.m. Saturday during the “Kissmas Under the Mistletoe!” program.

“We’ll make a type of mistletoe ornament and then learn how this parasite became so tied to Christmas, especially why people kiss under it,” Pannell added.

Inks Lake isn’t the only state park with Christmas spirit.

Do a bit of caroling at Pedernales Falls State Park with interpreter Stephen Garmon at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Canyon Caroling Hike is a candle-lit journey to the falls complete with Christmas songs and fantastic canyon acoustics. You can bring flashlights, but you’ll turn those off at various spots to enjoy the night by candlelight.

For a quieter experience in another enchanting cathedral, consider the Silent Night Hike at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area at 6 p.m. Saturday. Take a guided hike to the summit of Enchanted Rock under the full moon and listen for the sounds of nature.

The hike takes about two hours. No pets are allowed on the hike.

As with all outdoor activities, be sure to dress appropriately and bring plenty of water. All events are free, but regular park entrance fees apply.

Always check the parks’ websites or social media pages for updates as things might change due to weather.

Park addresses and fees:

• Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965 between Llano and Fredericksburg; entrance is $7 for ages 13 and older and free for 12 and younger.

• Pedernales Falls State Park, 2585 Park Road 6026 east of Johnson City; entrance is $6 for ages 13 and older and free for 12 and younger.

• Inks Lake State Park, 3630 Park Road 4 between Burnet and Kingsland; entrance is $6 for ages 13 and older and free for 12 and younger.

If you arrive after regular office hours at a park, fees are still required at the self-pay station.

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