Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Take a Hike

Nice Gneiss


Distance: 1.2 miles (one-way) • Difficulty Level: 3/5 • Approximate Time: 45 minutes

Inks Lake, one of the jewels of the Highland Lakes chain, sits on the eastern edge of the Llano Uplift, the geologic heart of Texas. The region contains some of the oldest rocks in Texas; you can see them along the Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail at Inks Lake State Park.

We’re talking some classic rock here. But there’s more than rocks. The trail features waterfalls, a wildlife viewing station, scenic views and one of the state’s best swimming holes.

The Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail skirts the northern shore of the rocky cove that contains Devil’s Waterhole, an iconic swimming hole formed where Spring Creek meets the lake.

“This is where a lot of people spend their day — Devil’s Waterhole,” says park interpreter Monica Stewart as we stand at an overlook and see swimmers, paddlers and loungers.

The trail offers several beautiful vistas of the cove and lake before reaching the wildlife viewing station, a great place to see birds.

The pink rock outcrops in the park are Valley Spring gneiss (pronounced “nice”), a granite-like metamorphic rock that’s likely 1 billion years old. Gneiss “islands” support unique microhabitats.

“As the rock decomposes, it creates dirt and soil for these kinds of plants,” Stewart says, pointing out an array of wildflowers, grasses, forbs, mosses, lichens and ferns.

To reach the Devil’s Backbone trail, start on the Devil’s Waterhole Nature Trail and connect with the Valley Spring Creek Trail (total hiking distance is almost 4 miles round-trip). The Devil’s Backbone trail starts along Spring Creek.

Once there, get ready to rock.

 Russell Roe  Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD

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