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Take me to the River

San Marcos River Trail at Palmetto State Park

Distance: 1.25 miles • Difficulty Level: 2/5 • Approximate Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Palmetto State Park is a pocket tropical paradise an hour’s drive from Austin or San Antonio. At 270 acres with well-spaced campsites, this Gonzales County getaway offers a natural respite with lots of isolation.

Hiking, swimming, biking, wildlife watching, paddling and fishing are some activities you can enjoy here. The trails are relatively short and flat — you can even bring your dog, on a leash.

While there are two shorter trails near the park headquarters and the Oxbow Lake, the rest of Palmetto’s trails are located in the main part of the park across Park Road 11. The San Marcos River Trail is the longest of these at a mile and a quarter and, as the name indicates, primarily follows the river.

A wide, sand/gravel path crunches under my feet, making the only sound besides the nearly deafening chorus of birdsong. I’m hoping to see a crested caracara, prothonotary warbler or red-shouldered hawk; they are among the 240 species found there. Of course, the park’s namesake dwarf palmettos are abundant here as well.

The park seems lively for a Tuesday morning, but I share this shady cathedral of tall trees with only a few passersby, most notably a jolly dad with a chubby-cheeked cherub in a backpack and two more kids happily skipping beside him.

A giant bench beckons, but I’m determined to try out the two spurs on this trail — the Canebrake and the Mossycup — and I even
try a short bit of the connected Mesquite Flats Trail.

I am ready to dip my hot toes in the San Marcos River when I near the trail’s end at the RV campground, where the easiest water access can be found.

 Louie Bond  Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD

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