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Balcones Canyonlands offering guided hikes to closed areas

Guided hikes at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge begin March 15. Photo by Dakota Morrisiey

The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is offering free guided hikes to areas normally closed to the public. The hikes are in partnership with the refuge's Friends group. Registration is online and will open at noon of the 15th of each month starting in March. Hikes are expected to fill up quickly.

Hikes vary in difficulty and length and will be led by knowledgeable guides with insights into the refuge’s geology, history, wildlife, plants, and more. Hikers are encouraged to wear appropriate shoes, sun protection, and insect repellant and bring plenty of water (drinking water is NOT available at the refuge). Binoculars are suggested to observe wildlife

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1992 to protect important breeding habitats for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, the now-recovered black-capped vireo, and other wildlife and plant species endemic to the refuge's ecosystem. It also protects watersheds and water quality, restores damaged wildlife habitats, and provides opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

With limited exception, the refuge is closed to the public most of the year to ensure that wildlife and their habitats are not disturbed. It does have three public areas — Doeskin Ranch, Warbler Vista, and Shin Oak Observation Deck — offering more than 10 miles of hiking trails where wildlife can be observed year-round. Admission to these areas is free.

For more information, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's webpage for the refuge.

For other areas to hike in the Highland Lakes, browse the 101 Hiking Guide.

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