Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows

 Exploring the path of totality in Texas’ State Parks

By Carrie Dunlea

The Lone Star State eagerly awaits a celestial spectacle as the solar eclipse graces the skies April 8, casting its mesmerizing shadow over its diverse landscapes. To witness this extraordinary event, adventurers and nature lovers alike are gearing up for an unforgettable journey through Texas’ state parks, where the path of totality is expected to offer a front-row seat to nature’s grandeur in 31 of them.

Here’s a small sampling of what six of the parks has to offer aside from experiencing the magic of the solar eclipse. 

Guadalupe River State Park

 Located along the scenic Guadalupe River 30 miles from San Antonio, Guadalupe River State Park beckons visitors with its sprawling diverse terrain including oak groves, limestone bluffs, and tranquil river vistas. 

The park has four miles of river frontage, making it a popular destination for paddling activities, including a new 5-mile paddling trail. Anglers can cast their lines into the clear waters in search of bass, trout and catfish, while swimmers and tubers can cool off in the park’s designated swimming areas. Hikers and bikers can explore 13 miles of hike and bike trails.

For those seeking a bit of history and culture, the park features interpretive exhibits highlighting the area’s rich heritage and Native American history. 

If you’re visiting for the eclipse and plan to stay, there are 85 water and electric campsites and nine walk-in tent sites to choose from.

Whether camping, picnicking by the river, or simply immersing oneself in the beauty of the natural surroundings, Guadalupe River State Park promises an unforgettable outdoor experience for visitors of all ages.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

For those closer to central Texas, Enchanted Rock presents an ideal destination for eclipse chasers. This majestic geological marvel in the heart of the Texas Hill Country just outside Fredericksburg, offers panoramic views of the surrounding Hill Country. 

Adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike can explore its rugged beauty and storied landscapes. Dominating the horizon with its 425-foot pink granite dome, Enchanted Rock stands as a testament to
the forces of nature, offering visitors a glimpse into the region’s rich geological history. 

This iconic 1,600-acre landmark welcomes hikers, climbers, and explorers to traverse its ancient granite formations and discover the secrets hidden within its rocky crevices.

Stay a few days at one of the campgrounds at the State Park and explore over 10 miles of hiking trails that weave through oak and juniper forests. Rock climbers will experience the thrill of scaling the granite formations, while stargazers witness the celestial wonders of the night sky. No matter the activity, visitors will find adventure and inspiration amid the landscapes of this Texas park.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Nestled in the rugged terrain of the Texas Hill Country two hours northwest of San Antonio in Vanderpool, Lost Maples State Natural Area is natural beauty. Boasting over 2,000 acres, this pristine sanctuary is renowned for its stunning display of fall foliage, where the leaves of the Bigtooth maples blaze vibrant shades of red, orange and gold against the backdrop of limestone cliffs and clear streams. 

Beyond its autumnal splendor, Lost Maples offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts year-round, with a 10-mile network of scenic trails winding through dense forests, rocky canyons and meandering creeks.

For nature lovers and photographers alike, Lost Maples State Natural Area provides endless opportunities to explore and capture the essence of Texas wilderness. Visitors can embark on leisurely strolls along the East and West Trail loops or challenge themselves with the rugged terrain of the West Trail, which offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Fishing, birding and geocaching are a few other activities that can be enjoyed while visiting the park.

If you plan to camp, there are 30 campsites with water and electricity, or you can backpack to one of the primitive campsites.

Whether seeking solace in nature’s embrace or simply marveling at its beauty, Lost Maples State Natural Area promises an unforgettable journey through one of Texas’ most enchanting landscapes.

 Pedernales Falls State Park

Tucked away in the heart of Hill Country, Pedernales Falls State Park captivates visitors with its picturesque waterfalls and cascades, meandering trails and rugged limestone cliffs which sets the scene for a spectacular vista to watch the solar eclipse unfold.

The park is a top spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts with a variety of winding trails ranging from an easy half mile to a more challenging six-mile trek. 

Mountain bikers will enjoy the park’s 10-mile trail complete with obstacles for more advanced riders. Anglers, tubers. canoers and kayakers can try their luck in the clear waters of the Pedernales River and swimmers and picnickers can relax and unwind in the park’s designated areas. If you’re an experienced horseback rider, there are 10 miles of rugged trail to traverse while viewing nature’s bounty. 

And while staying at one of the park’s 69 campsites is not an option due to a work project, there are primitive campsites available in the backcountry Wolf Ridge Camping area.

With its stunning vistas, diverse ecosystems and endless opportunities for adventure, Pedernales Falls State Park stands as a testament to the natural wonders of the Texas Hill Country.

Lake Bob Sandlin State Park

Nestled in the piney woods of Northeast Texas, Lake Bob Sandlin State Park offers a tranquil retreat for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. Spanning over 600 acres, this picturesque park boasts the serene waters of Lake Bob Sandlin, providing ample opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming. Visitors can explore the park’s lush forests through a network of hiking trails, immersing themselves in the region’s natural beauty while observing diverse wildlife such as white-tailed deer, squirrels, and numerous bird species.

Beyond its natural splendor, the park offers a range of recreational activities for visitors of all ages. Picnic areas with scenic lake views invite families and friends to enjoy leisurely meals amid peaceful surroundings, while playgrounds provide entertainment for younger visitors. The park offers 75 campsites with water and electricity and there are cabins and screened shelters available for rent.

Whether seeking adventure or relaxation, this hidden gem promises an unforgettable outdoor experience in the heart of Texas.

Inks Lake State Park 

One hour northwest of Austin, Inks Lake is haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking both adventure and relaxation. Whether a day trip or for a weekend getaway, visitors are drawn to the steady waters of Inks Lake, perfect for year-round recreation. 

The lake offers a plethora of activities, from paddling to water skiing and scuba diving, all within a designated no-wake zone that ensures peaceful enjoyment for all.

On land, Inks Lake State Park offers a wealth of opportunities to connect with nature and unwind amid its scenic beauty. There are nine miles of hiking trails, opportunities for angling enthusiasts — without the need for a fishing license — from two fishing piers or the shoreline, along with playgrounds and picnic pavilions. Swim in Devil’s Waterhole or explore nearby scenic waterfalls for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

The park boasts nearly 200 campsites and 22 cabins, many with lakefront views or easy access to the water’s edge, providing the perfect setting for a night under the stars or a cozy lakeside retreat.  

Whether you’re a seasoned stargazer or a casual observer, the Lone Star State offers a diverse array of destinations for experiencing the magic of a total solar eclipse. So, mark your calendars, pack your gear and get ready to chase shadows across the Texas skies.