Exploring the San Antonio Area:
Castroville, Garner State Park & Pedernales Falls
Since my husband and I will likely be leaving the state of Texas soon (thanks military), I have been wanting to visit as many new places possible. I have lived in Texas my entire years of life, and it is just so enormous of a state there are many parks and cities I have yet to explore.
Way back in 2016 I heard of Garner State Park for the first time, thought it looked like mountains, and have wanted to go ever since then. This weekend I finally made it happen. Due to covid, all Texas state parks require a reservation in advance for entry. The more popular ones like Garner fill up quickly, so I actually booked reservations for this and Pedernales a month in advance, and hoped I would get the weekend off.
Garner State Park is about 90 minutes west of San Antonio in Concan, Texas, located on the Frio River. We stayed in the Tru hotel by Sea World. It was kind of difficult to find lodging near Garner(that fit our price range at least) and camping permits were all sold out. Uvalde is the nearest town (about 35 mintues away), and there were some cute boutique-y hotels outside of the park, and further out in Castroville. Utopia is another town nearby that might have lodging. For us and our plans though, staying in San Antonio was the best fit.
The drive out to the park is not bad at all; the highway passes through the small towns of Castroville, Hondo, and Sabinal. We stopped in Castroville on the way out and were pleasantly surprised to discover such a quaint, welcoming small town. We bought pastries from Haby’s Alsatian Bakery and grabbed coffee from the Magnolia Filling Station. We also snagged a basket of massive carrots from a farmer’s stand for only $3, which then provided many snacks over the next two days. We really enjoyed the food we purchased, and the town itself held a lot of charm with it’s old buildings, sprawling oak trees, and falling leaves.
Back to Garner now, it was beautiful. The hill country always amazes me and Garner did not fail. The combination of massive rolling hills with green and yellow foliage, with a vein of red Cypress trees lining the pale blue river running through the green..wow. I had no idea how crystal clear the Frio River was, but trust me when I say it is clear as it gets. The river winds through the park, allowing guests to fish, float, or simply walk alongside it.
The park has a lot of smaller hikes (think less than 2 miles) that can be combined for a longer hiking day. We chose to hike the Blinn River Trail along the river first, and were rewarded with beautiful, up-close scenery of the Frio lined with colorful trees. After this, we hiked the Crystal Cave trail to the Bridges Trail to the Foshee Trail and up Old Baldy Trial. The whole hike had a decent amount of climbing and descending, but especially the Crystal Cave Trail. True to its name, the Crystal Cave Trail does indeed end at a 20 foot deep cave. When illuminated, the quartz (I’m assuming quartz?) in the ceiling sparkles.
The Foshee Trail up to Old Baldy gave us so many panoramic views of the park, the river, and the surrounding area. I would highly recommend hiking this. Old Baldy also is true to its name, and is a large rock with many bald spots on the top perfect for enjoying a snack and soaking in the scenery. It is a bit of a climb, although a short one at only 0.5 miles out. We sat on the top for awhile and ate while overlooking the Frio River below. The trees around the river are the only ones that are a reddish-rusty color, which really does make it look like a vein threading through the land.
After wandering around Old Baldy for awhile, we made our descent back down to the camping area. We grabbed some delicious mango sorbet from the ice cream shop in the park, soaked our feet in the icy clear water, and then said our goodbyes to the park.
On the way back into San Antonio we stopped at a local chain, Billy Bob’s Hamburgers, in Hondo. The service was fantastic and the food was made fresh to order.
Our second day, we had breakfast at Magnolia Pancake Haus before driving up to Pedernales Falls State Park. This park is located about an hour out of Austin, 90 minutes from San Antonio. It is famous for its bright blue falls carved into a limestone canyon. I visited this park about a month ago, but my visit was cut short by me dropping my phone into the falls. This time, I held tight to it and placed it in my bag and thus was at the park much longer. We hiked part of the Wolf Mountain Trail but honestly it wasn’t doing it for us. The trail was a nice walk through the mesquite trees, but we were hoping for better views. We headed down to the actual falls and were not disappointed. The turquoise-green of the water still amazed me. We wandered way up into the area and the little ponds of water became smaller but never seemed to end. The way the water has carved out the rocks is so interesting; there are many smooth, round divets in the rock where years of streams flowing have scraped out a path. There were also some colorful Cypress trees near the water here as well. We spent awhile wandering around the falls and eating a snack while basking in the warm sunshine before heading back home.
https://www.facebook.com/magnoliafillingstation/ Magnolia Filling Station
https://habysbakery.com/ Haby’s Bakery
https://www.billybobshamburgers.com/ Billy Bob’s Hamburgers
https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/garner Garner State Park
https://www.magnoliapancakehaus.com/ Magnolia Pancake Haus
https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/park_maps/pwd_mp_p4507_0026n.pdf Pedernales Falls Trails Map
https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls Pedernales Falls State Park