LONGHORN CAVERN STATE PARK VISIT RECAP
Longhorn Cavern State Park is located in Burnet County, just outside of Marble Falls. There exists a river-formed cavern, enormous chambers with smooth walls that have provided shelter for natives that inhabited this land hundreds of years ago. And as Legend has it …some Wild West hooligans used this space to hide out some treasures as well.
The Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, built the facilities in the 1930s that exist here today above ground, and these buildings have been used for a variety of things like an admin building and a dance hall. They were also responsible for digging out the slush in the cavern to make it what it is today.
The structures here are a sight to see. The building that greets you has beautifully stacked rocks that are typical of the CCC, and inside the first floor is some history of the buildings and the land itself.
There is a rooftop that’s accessible only by the staircase, but on top, there’s a compass on the ground and one of the great places to see the hill country.
The headquarters has a great Art Deco facade and the inside has a gift shop to one side, and a snack bar and small tv theater to the opposite side.
The inside was very reminiscent of one of the guest service buildings at Rocky Mountain national park. Very open and spacious, but with a hint of a vintage park vibe. Even the halls leading to the restrooms felt very parky. With the rocks creating the walls.
The ticket counter is where guests can purchase their souvenirs and tickets for the cave tour, but because this was going to be a double-trouble trip we opted to skip the tour for another time. I go into more detail on the Texas Trailhead Podcast found here.
Longhorn Cavern state park is a very small park, but there are trails here.
- Wildflower Way
- Karst Discovery Trail
- Backbone Ridge Nature Trail
- Warbler Walk
- Commanche Spur
We decided to do the Wildflower Way trail that takes you from the visitor center, past the very friendly park host, and on to the first point of interest away from the cavern, the CCC observation tower.
So just a quick note— as I said, this is a small park and the map makes it seem that these sights are kinda far from each other, but know they are not. They are laughably close to each other as I was looking at the map wondering how far the next building was only to be standing pretty much in front of it without even moving far.
The observation tower was used as a place to store water, and the building is quite magnificent. On the first floor is an open room with a picnic table to rest, or to wait as people walk on the winding metal staircase to gaze into the distance.
There’s a middle floor with neat concrete window sculptures, and the staircase continues to the roof. On top, you can see the Falkenstein Castle off in the distance.
Continue along the trail and come to the Karst Discovery trail that features the CCC cabin at its entrance. This building was used as officers’ quarters and is now only enjoyable from the outside.
Fun fact, I didn’t know what karst was and just thought it was someone’s name, so as you walk along the trail you eventually come across two sections of rock that have these valleys cut into the rock from a history of flowing water.
Well, as it turns out, these are Karsts. The actual definition is ‘landscape underlain by limestone which has eroded by dissolution producing ridges, towers, fissures sinkholes, and other characteristic landforms.” And where these are also the caves and caverns you find around Texas and the world.
This trail will eventually meet up with the Backbone ridge nature trail that will head back towards the visitor center.
Typical of central Texas parks. Lots of trees with cedar oak and mesquite, but the Karst sections are neat.
In total you’re looking at just under 2 miles to hike every inch of the trail here, so definitely something to do if you arrived early for your cave tour.
The cavern gives you enough of a glimpse before needing to be with a guide, but you’re not getting any glimpses inside the cavern. The entrance does have a bit of an underground feel to it thought. Some signs give a bit of the history of the formation, and how the CCC helped make it more accessible, but after that is the gate that keeps visitors out of the entrance to the cavern itself.
Longhorn Cavern State Park is about 20 dollars for adults and 10 for the kiddos over 12. If you’d like to know more about which CCC parks are in Texas click HERE.