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Out With the Old and In With the New on Texas State Park Hikes

Hikers make their way along a creek in Inks Lake State Park. Several state parks are hosting hikes Dec. 31-Jan. 1. It’s a great way to end 2018 while ringing in 2019. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

First Day Hikes have become a tradition for Texas state parks. It’s a way for people to start the new year on the right (or left) foot.For the past couple of years, the parks have also been ushering out the old with Last Day Hikes.

Whether you want to say goodbye to 2018 or hello to 2019 on a hike (or both), state parks have a stroll for you — some easier than others.

“This is one of our favorite events of the year,” said Lindsay Pannell, interpretive ranger at Inks Lake State Park, 3630 Park Road 4 in Burnet County.

The park has several hikes from which to choose.

You can bid farewell to the past year with the Last Day Hike from 10-11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 31. It’s a 1-mile, easy-to-moderate hike along the Spring Valley Nature Trail. It starts in the Devil’s Waterhole parking lot.

On New Year’s Day, which is Tuesday, Inks Lake is offering two hikes.

“Our first is the traditional First Day Hike, which we’ll hike the Devil’s Backbone Trail to our bird blind,” Pannell said. “It’s a good hike to get things started in the new year.”

At the bird blind, enjoy sparkling apple cider before heading back — either by van or on foot. If you’re taking the van, children younger than 10 and dogs are not allowed. Both are more than welcome on the return hike.

“Then, we’ve got our First Starlight Hike,” she continued.

This is an evening hike from 6:30-7:30 p.m. along the Devil’s Waterhole Nature Trail and ending at an outcropping of rocks where hikers can spread out blankets (bring your own) and learn how humans have used the stars for survival.

Participants can even bring hot cocoa to enjoy while looking at the stars.

PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK

Pedernales Falls State Park east of Johnson City has several hikes planned as well.

On Monday from 5-7 p.m., join a ranger on a 2.5-mile hike to a portion of the park many people never see. The hike features slippery slopes, drop-offs, and mud, so it’s not recommended for younger children.

On Tuesday, start the new year with the First Day Hike-Pedernales Falls at 9 a.m. Meet at the Main Falls parking lot for this moderate 1.5-mile hike.

If you can’t make that one, the First Day Hike-Twin Falls is 1-2 p.m. along the Twin Falls Nature Trail. The hike starts at the Twin Falls Trailhead, and it’s kid- and dog-friendly.

Wrap up New Year’s Day at Pedernales Falls State Park with the First Day Campfire at 3:30 p.m. behind Campsite 33. Join park rangers for black-eyed peas, cornbread, and collard greens.

The park is located at 2585 Park Road 6026.

ENCHANTED ROCK STATE NATURAL AREA

Welcome an enchanting 2019 at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965 between Llano and Fredericksburg. The park is offering three hikes on Jan. 1.

The First Day Roundabout Hike, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., takes hikers on a 360-degree tour of the dome along three different trails.

If you can’t get up in time for that hike, consider the Late Riser First Day Hike at 1:30 p.m. Meet at the gazebo for a guided hike to the summit of Enchanted Rock, learning about its geology and history along the way.

The First Sunset Hike is 4:30-7 p.m. Again, this one starts at the gazebo before a ranger guides participants to the summit. Once at the top, enjoy the sunset and possibly a few stars.

No pets are allowed on this hike.

LBJ STATE PARK AND HISTORIC SITE

For something different, check out “Following a Farmer’s Footsteps” at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, 199 RR 52 in Stonewall.

The walk starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the park’s visitors center. From there, take a short hike to Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm along with the farmer to check animals, milk cows, and feed the livestock and see how the early settlers lived.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

As with all outdoor events, dress appropriately for the weather and always check with the parks via their web pages or social media outlets on the status of events. Weather can impact activities.

If an event is at night, flashlights are recommended. Those with red lights or filters are preferred because the red light doesn’t affect night vision.

The hikes are free, but regular park entrance fees apply. Those fees are $6 for ages 13 and older at Inks Lakes State Park and Pedernales Falls State Park and $7 at Enchanted Rock. Ages 12 and younger get in free at all three parks.

Admission is free for everyone at LBJ State Park.

If you arrive after park headquarters are closed, check in using the self-check station or kiosk.

And a good way to start off the new year is by purchasing an annual state park pass, which gets you into the parks at no additional charge. You can even get discounts on some events. Ask about the pass at park headquarters.

Go to tpwd.texas.gov for more information on these and other events.

Check out our Highland Lakes Hiking Guide for more opportunities.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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