Adventure and explore to your heart’s content at this natural gem in Spicewood—about one hour northwest of Austin. At Pace Bend Park, a four-mile-long peninsula surrounded by the recently restored waters of Lake Travis, the terrain alternates between packed dirt and plenty of rocky ledges. Take a hike on the North and South Croton trails (marked in blue on your park map) to make a loop that nestles its way into the far northwest corner of the park.
Grab a trail map at the park entrance station and follow the park road north until you round a sharp bend to the right. Just past Camp Texlake, park at the trailhead lot on your right (marked by a red trailhead symbol on your map). At the first fork, begin your adventure on the far right trail (marked in gold) to connect to the North Croton Trail.
This loop winds through exposed grassland areas and patches of cool shade provided by the oak, ash juniper, persimmon and cedar elm trees on this preserved wildlife area. Enjoy the breeze coming off the lake as you traverse through open areas bursting with native flowers, cacti, and soft, willowing grasses. Keep an eye out on the trail for the park’s local population of jackrabbits, whitetail deer, raccoons, ringtail cats, foxes, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and red-tailed hawks.
The trail has a nice, easy-to-navigate terrain flow that is perfect for intermediate-level mountain bikers and trail runners. Use caution at the rocky ledges that provide a 1- to 2-foot drop.
Expect the North and South Croton loop to take about one hour if you are hiking at a moderate pace. You can easily make it a longer hike, ride or run by continuing right on the blue trail, Paleface Pass, once you have completed the loop. To head back to the parking lot, take the Pack Trail. Paleface Pass, known by its fans as the NXNW Trail, treats you to some of the areas best lake views. Cap the day off by taking in the sunset over Lake Travis, soaking in the sublime sparkling blue waters below.
What to bring: $10 per vehicle (cash only); plenty of water; a sunhat and sunscreen. Bring a swimsuit for a cool dip in the lake afterward.
Directions from downtown Austin: Travel west on Texas 71 (11 miles past RM 620). Turn right at RM 2322 (marked by a Chevron gas station). Follow the signs to Pace Bend Park.
Join Hill Country Outdoors for a guided hike at Pace Bend Park on Sunday, Aug. 30. Visit their club calendar at HillCountryOutdoors.com for details and to RSVP.
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