Hundreds of acres of pristine, native landscape are on display at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, where outdoor enthusiasts enjoy two-and-a-half miles of hiking trails that pass through grassland, streamside and woodland habitats.
Home to threatened and endangered species, as well as hundreds of native plants, animals and birds, the 227 acres of the preserve function as a living classroom for professional and budding environmentalists, as well as a beautiful place for families to simply get outdoors to enjoy a spring afternoon. If you’re lucky, you might hear or see the golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered songbird that nests only in Texas. As you walk the trails of the preserve, you’ll enjoy bright hues of flowers native to the area, including rain lily, lantana, ruellia, milkweed and sunflower.
A Foresight of Preservation
Just off Loop 360, north of West Lake Hills, Wild Basin was founded in 1974 by a group of environmentally minded women who wanted to preserve a natural area for use as an outdoor laboratory for science classes and teacher training. The insightful group recognized that as developers continued to build up west Austin, critical natural habitat would be lost forever unless steps were taken to preserve it.
Working with city, county, state and federal governments, and holding innumerable awareness and fundraisers, the diligent women succeeded in purchasing the land and establishing the preserve. Today, St. Edward’s University and Travis County jointly manage the preserve.
Waterfalls, Creeks and a Peek at Downtown
Of the many scenic and well-maintained trails that are available to visitors, one of the most popular is the Waterfall Trail, which leads to a secluded pond with a 15-foot waterfall. The Trail of Old Time Texas, which crosses the lovely and meandering Bee Creek, is an easy-access route that offers 20 natural highlights to check out, including native foliage and attractive rock formations.
Along the trails, you’ll find two scenic overlooks that showcase the wooded valley and offer a glimpse of downtown Austin in the background. To help you navigate the trails and interpret the foliage and wildlife that you’ll enjoy on your day at Wild Basin, pick up a handy interpretive guide/trail maps at the Creative Research Center, an information and welcome hub.
Learn from the Pros
The Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve offers a number of educational opportunities for area residents. One of the most popular is the Second Saturday guided hike, a 2-hour learning adventure headed by a seasoned trail guide and naturalist, who’s happy to share his insight into the flora and fauna of the native Texas Hill Country. Astronomy buffs marvel at the beauty of the night sky during stargazing and moonlighting tours offered by the Austin Astronomical Society.
Wild Basin’s beauty changes seasonally, and visits at different times of year offer new discoveries. Admission to the preserve is free, though a small donation is suggested. The trails are open sunup to sundown every day, and the research center is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.