Balcones Canyonlands NWR - Doeskin Ranch Log Entries

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Pretty prairie & hills landscape, especially nice creek
User: plectrudis - 2/18/2017  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.26 Miles Duration: N/A

Doeskin Ranch has lots of nice grasslands, as well as some very pretty sections along the creek.  I always drive in along Cow Creek Rd to really soak in the creek views.  The park is roughly on two levels--you park and begin on the lower level, then hike up to a plateau, then some more hills, back to the plateau, and then back down to your car.

The stretch up to the hill is a bit of a gasper (for me), but otherwise, it's a fairly moderate trail, with lots of good hill country landscape flavor.

Easy, relaxing hike with beautiful scenery
User: heatharcadia - 12/30/2015  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 6.00 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 6 minutes

This is a good place to go hike if you just want to wander around, take in the scenery, and think. I stopped many time to admire the hill country views or inspect plants, rocks, and fossils (there was one portion of the Indian Grass Trail where the ground is just covered with marine fossils, a reminder that this area once was a shallow sea).

I managed to walk all of the marked trails, though this involved doubling back on some portions. The total trail mileage is less than 6, but you can make it a longer hike by doing what I did. Also, walking both directions on certain parts of the trail gives you different views. My favorite views were had from the Indian Grass Trail.

The parking lot was pretty full but I did not encounter as many people as I thought I would on the trail. There were a couple of families I passed, but other than that it was pretty quiet aside from the highway sounds.

The terrain was easy for me. The most difficult part was ascending/descending Rimrock Trail from/to the main trail head, but that wasn't bad at all. If you hike a lot you should be fine.

Be sure to bring you own water; there is not a place to fill up here.

User: jimmy peace - 12/7/2014  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 1.50 Miles Duration: N/A
Nice Fall day, with monarch butterflies all over
User: Riff Raff - 10/5/2014  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.85 Miles Duration: N/A

Took my normal route of the Rimrock, Shin Oak, and Indiangrass trails followed by the Creek Trail loop. Lovely Fall day.

A nice quick-hit challenge
User: jeffyg - 1/26/2014  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.00 Miles Duration: N/A

Although there were a half-dozen cars at the trail-head parking lot, I only saw a few people near the trail-heads and then no one else the rest of the day as I covered all but one of the trails.  I arrived at 3pm and I covered all but the creek-side trail within 2.5 hours.  The Indian Grass trail was especially nice with some small but interesting elevation changes and the trail meandered a bit allowing one to enjoy it even though it could have been much shorter ala point A to point B.  Some varying hill-country views from different vantage points throughout the trails.  It was near 80 degrees that day and I managed to break a sweat.  I'll be back with my kids as the trails were more than interesting enough to satisfy them.  But I sure liked the solitude and "quiet" I enjoyed this first time I did it so I may go that route with it again soon as well.

User: Jessica.Preston - 1/1/2014  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: 2 hours
Not a soul out today
User: Riff Raff - 5/18/2013  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.60 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 53 minutes

Did my usual large loop of the Rimrock, Shin Oak, and Indiangrass trails followed by the Creek Trail loop. Did not see a single person out there today once I left the parking lot area.

User: crocodile235 - 5/7/2013  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Great hike
User: andrewsageek - 1/6/2013  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.00 Miles Duration: N/A
First time going to Balcones so we wanted to see as much as we could. Started out on Rimrock trail and connected with Shinoak and then Indiangrass trail making one huge loop around the Ranch. The scenery was pretty nice and open on Indiangrass. Rimrock was a nice hike up to a plateau by means of switchbacks. Only downside was a large family of ~10 that came in right behind us at the start of the hike. But, we let them pass and waited a bit; didn't see them again! Except for them, we only saw a family of four pass us going the opposite direction an hour later.
Nice hike had a breeze to keep me cool
User: Jack3409 - 4/23/2012  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.50 Miles Duration: N/A

Trail was always well defined. Hardly any difficulty asending or desending. Got some good pics of  scenery

Relaxing Hike, Spectacular at Sunset
User: estudio64 - 3/3/2012  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.70 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 45 minutes
The drive down FM 1431 to get to this location is incredibly scenic in and of itself. We got a late start - 4:00 - so the sun wasted little time in working against us. But beside the brisker pace this necessitated, the woods and plains drank up the warm magic-hour lighting as though it were a newfound spring. The posture of the trees silhouetted by the fading light rose unmistakably as that of ancient exaltation. There are some wonderfully dramatic vegetation changes along the trails - especially the Indian Grass Trail, which also gets you the furthest away from the highway. The songbirds here take a more appropriate stage than those busking against the traffic. I'd recommend this hike to anyone who's not afraid of a couple hills.
Call ahead
User: texaskdog - 11/15/2010  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: N/A Duration: N/A

We couldn't hike it.  2 hour drive round trip and it was closed for hunting...beware!

Nice secluded hikes
User: jtkatie - 7/4/2010  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: 3 hours

My wife and I visited Balcones Canyonlands NWR looking for a nice long moderatly-challenging hike. So, we set off on the most difficult of the three loops: Rimrock Trail. We headed right at the 'trailhead', instead of crossing the river and going clockwise around the loop... Big mistake. After about a half mile, the trail grows very narrow and very grown over (nothing like the posted pictures). We ended up turning around as our legs were getting torn up by the growth and we could not see our feet (and did not want to end up stepping on a snake).

After backtraking to the beginning, we took the Creek Trail from the same trailhead area as the Rimrock Trail. Unfortunately, this was backwards for the interpretive trail, so we didn't get to pick up the guide until we finished the trail. Still a nice and peaceful hike. Saw and heard quite a few songfull Summer Tanagers.

After finishing the Creek Trail, we tried the Rimrock Trail going clockwise (crossing the river at the jeep trail). This was a much better experience and we easily climbed to the top (a few hundred feet elevation climb), which gave us spectacular views back down towards the prarie. After spending some time at the top, we headed back down the same way. We finished the day with a stroll around the interpretive Creek Trail.

Do note, there is absolutely no cell phone service in the area. You are on your own if you have any problems, want to check the radar, etc. Also, we did not see a human soul there the entire time.

good hike but too hot
User: sandew - 5/30/2010  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.70 Miles Duration: N/A

mistake starting out at 11am didn't finish until 1:30, ran out of water and the heat was too much for the un-treed outer loop (Indian grass).  Only wildlife out in the heat was a few lizards.  Glad the creed was there on the trip back as we got our sweat cloths wet to cool us off.

There were lots of  wooden signs going out to the last loop.  Found a lot of rock markers along the Indiangrass loop, but as we exited that loop, there were no signs to go left or right to connect to the loop back to rimrock.  We went left, but right probably connected was hot and we were tired, so the shortest route would have been nice.  Needed tio print out the map next  time.

Will do this again next fall/winter when it's cooler.

Outer loops
User: Riff Raff - 1/23/2010  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.50 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Hiked all of the outer loops today (Rimrock Trail, Indiangrass Trail, and Creek Trail). Only saw one other group out on the trails.

Nice quiet and peaceful
User: raidium - 4/19/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.00 Miles Duration: 3 minutes

The wife and I hiked this one today. We did all of the trails and only came across 2 people all day. When we arrived there were 2 cars in the parking lot. Ours and a mini van. When we finished up for the day and made it back to the parking lot there were about 6 cars but we only saw the one couple out on the trail.

The trail is very well marked and easy to follow. There are a few elevation changes that offer nice vistas. Benches have been placed at the top of the more demanding parts to give a nice place for a rest or quick lazy snack. 

We went after a stormy period and all the trails were still very accessable. Not too muddy. The breeze blows through the hills making the open grassland part of the hike very nice. We were able to spot several animal tracks and for bird watchers there are tons around. 

Overall, very nice, secluded and easy to hike.  

Hidden Gem
User: bspross - 2/22/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.65 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes

This hike is a hidden gem in Austin.  We got there about 10:45 and there was only 1 other car in the parking lot.  We did all of the different trails.  Rimrock, Indian Grass, Shin Oak, Pond and Prarie and Creek trail.  The best one is Indian Grass.  It is an up and down and then across a pretty open hilly field.  I loved it.  Make sure you add to the rock cairns. 

When we left there were more cars in the parking lot, but still very tranquil.  This one would be extremely hot in the summer so if you go in summer, be careful.


Brian Spross

User: claireBGC - 11/25/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.00 Miles Duration: N/A

One of my favorite places to hike in CenTex.  I've been several times, both spring and fall.  If you go at the right time, the oaks that are sprinkled in the woodland area circling the top of the hill are a really pretty red - mid to late November.  Saw quite a few birds, too.  Most of it is unshaded, so in summer I would definitely make sure to bring a hat. 

Rimrock Trail
User: nurse4rocks - 8/10/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 2.50 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 14 minutes
Quiet Monday Afternoon
User: Riff Raff - 7/7/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.50 Miles Duration: 3 hours

Hiked the outer (outer) loop of the Rimrock / Shin Oak / Indiangrass Trails, along with a bit of the Creek Trail before aborting as the rain came in.  Saw only one pair of people on the Rimrock trail while I was there.  Lovely area.

User: LVX - 3/15/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.00 Miles Duration: 3 minutes
User: dawnosu - 7/18/2007  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 2.60 Miles Duration: N/A
I really enjoyed this hike. I never knew there were so many speices of grasshoppers. They were everywhere. There are some good inclines and declines, enough to get your heart pumping. The grass was knee-high in some areas but we have had a lot of rain. I took my shoes off and walked through the creek at the end. It was great! There is a beautiful waterfall. I saw a small frog, fish and a tadpole. I didn't see anyone except when I was in my car leaving. Another car came into the parking lot.
Enjoyable Quiet Hike
User: LVX - 4/24/2007  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.49 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 25 minutes
It is a very easy hike but makes for a nice afternoon if you don't want anything to strenuous. thanks
New trail added!
User: Riff Raff - 4/15/2007  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.20 Miles Duration: N/A
A new trail (the Indiangrass Trail) had been added since I was out here last year. It's a 1.5 mile loop that connects on both ends to the Shin Oak trail. So the outer loop now consists of the Rimrock, Shin Oak, and Indiangrass trails. Since I had never actually seen anyone else on the Shin Oak trail before, I was a bit worried about how well marked the new trail would be. This proved to be an unfounded concern. In the places where it looked like a trail would be easily missed or overgrown, large rock cairns had been built as markers (as are commonly seen on desert trails). The new trail is a great place for solitude as you can neither see nor hear the road from the valley back there.
A nice walk
User: kharker - 10/22/2006  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.70 Miles Duration: N/A
My wife and I decided to get out of the house on a gorgeous fall afternoon and drove from northwest Austin out to Doeskin Ranch. The drive out on 1431 was scenic, and the park was easy to find. We saw one other couple out hiking, but only in the last quarter mile of our hike. There were more cars than that parked in the little parking lot, so I presume everyone hikes in the same direction (we looped counter-clockwise, which is the way the signs point you). The scenery is interesting with both substantial grassland (in late fall, the grass waving in the breeze and sunshine is very beautiful) and the mixed oak/cedar forest on the hillside. The trail that circles the top of the grass-covered hill is just an old jeep trail, and does not visit the high point of the hill. The best view of the hike was from one of the trail bends on the way down. Unfortunately, once we got down the steeper hillside and crossed the gully, the remainder of the trail to the creek is just an old jeep trail that is straight and gravelled, which is both a little uninteresting and occasionally slippery in spots. Overall, the terrain is very representative of central Texas, and does not seem to be very crowded even on weekend afternoons with excellent weather.
Rimrock Trail
User: Kane - 9/30/2006  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 2.20 Miles Duration: N/A
Great trail with beautiful scenery. Somewhat challenging with short uphill climb...but with noone else on the trail, I could simply take my time.
Supremely enjoyable
User: Riff Raff - 3/25/2006  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.30 Miles Duration: N/A
I love this area. Hiked the Rimrock, Shin Oak, and Creek trail loops. Saw two other people near the trailhead, but not another soul on the trails. Lay down on the rocks by the creek for some time also. Very nice.
Nice climb to the top, beautiful views, nice creek
User: figment - 3/5/2006  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 2.70 Miles Duration: N/A
Hiked the Rimrock trail, the Shin Oak trail, and the Creek trail. The incline up the Rimrock trail is steep, and is a great workout. The Shin Oak trail is an old jeep road, and there isn't much on top of the plateau. Very nice views, however, and the creek is pretty.
Excellent series of loops
User: Riff Raff - 11/2/2005  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.50 Miles Duration: N/A
As suggested here, I did all three of the main loops in one outing. The Rimrock Trail was first as it looked to be the most strenuous, and indeed it was a decent ascent. The Shin Oak trail at the top was a nice break from the climb. Could still look back and see the parking lot throughout the climb up Rimrock Trail, but after hitting the top I never saw it again until I was back at the trailhead. Getting out of sight of 1174 is nice for the solitude factor, and the only people I saw were in the Creek Trail area. Plus a random overflight of a military helicopter. Overall this is a very nice area, with lots of meadows and clearly marked trails (pretty much every intersection I might have been confused by had a sign clarifying it). If you want to feel solitude, do avoid the Pond & Prairie Trail though - it goes right next to FM 1174.
User: bolilloradio - 1/29/2005  [View Log Page]
Rating: N/A Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.20 Miles Duration: N/A
Went out on an overcast and slightly chilly day. The only sounds to disturb the quiet were the birds (more than I expected) and the occasional vehicle passing by on 1174. There was a large party of trail workers out there, but I didn't run across them until I had finished hiking.
Walked barefoot in the creek
User: Blake - 1/19/2005  [View Log Page]
Rating: N/A Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 9.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Not a bad hike
User: enhance - 12/8/2004  [View Log Page]
Rating: N/A Difficulty: Solitude: N/A
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: N/A
I'm new to the area, so every hike has been amazing. This hike really gave me a feel of what Texas is all about. The creek is beautiful. It was quiet and I saw no other people.
A two hour tour
User: Austin Explorer - 10/10/2004  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 0.60 Mile Duration: N/A
Visited Doeskin again for the last day of the NWR week celebrations. Took part in the naturalist tour during which we were introduced to some of the native flora found in the refuge. There were also lots of displays to check out. I had never seen Dragon Fly and Damsel Fly larvae before.
User: Riff Raff - 4/14/2004  [View Log Page]
Rating: N/A Difficulty: N/A Solitude: N/A
Distance: N/A Duration: N/A
Just FYI the Doeskin Ranch portion of the Refuge is actually quite a bit further out than the Warbler Vista part. I had a mistaken assumption that they were pretty close to each other. Basically from 183 and 1431, it's 12.7 miles down 1431 to Warbler Vista. Then it's another 12.7 miles to the intersection with 1174, and 4.6 miles up 1174 to Doeskin Ranch. So thirty miles in all, from 183. Also take note that you can turn left from 183 onto Lakeline Blvd just before Cedar Park, to avoid the normal traffic snarls there. Just stay on Lakeline Blvd and you'll be able to turn left onto 1431 at a point about a mile and a half southwest of 183. Nice shortcut for avoiding the traffic.
A great hike with a bit of everything
User: Austin Explorer - 11/30/2003  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.63 Miles Duration: N/A
This great hike covers a variety of different terrain that is found throughout the hillcountry. Unlike nearby Warbler Vista, this one is not adjacent to as busy a road, so the car noise is far less of a distraction and is non-existent on a good portion of the hike. Not as great a view as at Warbler Vista, but overall a better hiking experience.