With the reservation system still in place hiking to state parks hasn’t been top on my priority list lately. It’s not because of the crowds, but if you heard me speak about it on the podcast, it’s not as enticing to plan so far out for hiking. There’s no way to know what the weather will be like, and it’s usually something I decide I want to do the morning of. With the being said, Palmetto state park is not a hotspot for visiting in the summer, so I decided to make a trip back to the park, and I was reminded of how lovely the park can be.
The first time I visited Palmetto was during the wintertime. Well, wintertime in Texas. It was a quick trip with my family and looking back, really short-lived. We saw the palms, we saw the CCC building, but I don’t remember much about the experience.
This recent visit was a hiking trip. I wanted to hike as many of the trails as I could, and since I’ve picked up fly fishing, maybe get my feet wet in the San Marcos River that flows through it.
The other purpose of this visit was to document it. I wanted to show potential visitors what they could expect on the YouTube channel, so when I arrived I set up my tripod in the parking lot, put my phone on the back of my Outback, and started getting some shots.
Once the b-roll footage of the CCC refectory building was done it was time to hit the trails. The first trail that I went on was the Ottine Swamp Trail. This 1.01-mile trail takes you to the outer border of Palmetto and gives you a great glimpse into what you can expect from the other landscapes at this park.
When I started on this trail I was full of excitement and energy, but about halfway into the trail I reached for my phone to take a picture and realized I didn’t have it on me. I had left it on my back bumper when I was gathering the last of what I needed.
Back to the parking lot I go.
When I reached the parking lot from where I started there were already additional cars there. The park that I barely hear anyone speak of was starting to get a little busy. And thankfully my phone was right where I left it.
Ottine swamp trail take two.
Hiking along the Ottine Swamp Trail (1.01 miles) you’ll notice various markers along this shaded walkway. The signs will inform visitors of the various plants that you can find while walking, including Poison Ivy. So read the signs first before you get too close to the plants. I’d hate for anyone to pose in front of a plant only to realize after that they were posing with a large smile in front of something that will leave you with a rash to remember your visit for days after.
The trail here is fairly smooth with zero elevation. This trail, and the majority at this park, are suitable for hikers of all ages.
The trail wraps around and eventually meets up with the Palmetto Interpretive Trail (.26). This was a trail we hiked on the previous visit, and a must-visit when you come to the park.
Here you’ll see the amazing dwarf palms cascading around the trail, and depending on the time of the year, either more or less water in the swampy backgrounds as you meander your way through the lush landscape.
Depending on which way you go it will eventually hit the park road, so make sure you make the entire loop. This way you’re sure to see the CCC water tower that offers a relaxing sound of water pouring into the wetlands of the park.
It was originally built to supply water to a picnic shelter nearby, but more interestingly, it still runs without electricity. Look for the signage in the video below to learn how it operates.
There are benches here to sit and admire the water tower and the birds up above. There are numerous signs here warning of venomous snakes, and there are little nooks and crannies where you can get a closer glimpse of the water that helps create this amazing environment in which the dwarf palmettos can thrive.
Mesquite Flats Trail (1.08 miles)
One of the amazing things about this park is how quickly it goes from shaded swampland surrounded by tiny palm trees to a south Texas ranch surrounded by mesquite trees with zero shade.
That’s the case on the Mesquite Flats Trail, so be prepared to bust out the hat once again as the sun will smack you with all of its glory as you creep out from the shaded swamp.
The landscape opens up to a field of grasses, and you’re right back in central Texas as you continue on the flat track.
It’s not all ranch-y though. You will still pass through some tall oak trees, and cross over a few creek beds. The breeze flows a little better here as there is less resistance from the brush now behind you.
San Marcos River Trail (1.25 miles)
Approaching my final descent of Palmetto state park I had two spur trails that I decided to skip for another time, Cansbrake and Mossycup. Instead, I opted to hit the San Marcos River trail to extend my miles for the day and see some more ever-changing landscapes.
The trees get a little taller here, and you’re treated to some additional shade because of them. As you weave in and out of the oaks, eventually you’re following a slight bend in the trail as it comes closer to the river.
While it’s a ‘river trail’ you actually don’t get close to the water right off the bit, so don’t lose patience. You’ll know when you’re there. There are a few spots with large cypress trees that have patches of dirt overlooking the water below. You may also be greeted by the visitors that have decided to take a dip and cool off for the afternoon.
The San Marcos River Trail at Palmetto state park spits you out pretty close to the CCC refectory. That’s usually where I park, so consider that as well so you’ll be close to your vehicle. The area also has stone picnic tables around the building to sit under the trees and enjoy the sounds of the park. You can also access the low-water crossing on the opposite end of the parking lot which is a great spot to plop down into the river.
This is where I decided to wade down a bit and fish. Nothing caught on this particular visit, but it felt great cooling off after a short, but sweaty, hike.
Enjoy the video of Palmetto state park!