The winding roads out to Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area hide a bit of the gem of the far-west Austin landscape. As you make your way out the roads become slightly less busy, and all of a sudden you’ll start to see a peek of the water below. The Colorado River flows through Austin’s downtown, but the mighty river is the main backdrop at most Lower Colorado River Authority parks through a large portion of Texas.
Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area is a park that offers vast views of the river as it starts to swell up for Lake Travis, but its spaciousness allows for some amazing camping, and the trail system makes a great challenge on a mountain bike or foot.
Because it’s close to the Colorado River, there are a few different LCRA parks close by including Gloster Bend Recreation Area and Turkey Bend Recreation Area. Here is a list of the top LCRA parks around Texas.
What to expect at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area
If you’ve read any of the other LCRA park posts you’ll know that they each offer a little different in terms of recreation. Down on the coast, you’ll see the Colorado River pour into the Gulf Coast, and spend some time in the sand; at McKinney Roughs you can hike through the hills and zipline through the trees; but at Muleshoe Bend, spending time on or around the water is the main attraction.
Despite its size, this park entrance felt like a small park. There is no main headquarter building, and at the time of this posting, you’re trusted to pay the entrance fee at the pay station kiosk. (Don’t worry, park employees are driving around checking).
In November the grey skies kept the vast crowds away during the week. But you’re not in complete silence out in the wilderness. The area around the park is growing as evidenced by the constant hum of machinery off in the distance. Also beyond the horizon are the tall houses on the other side of the river looking down at the guests dipping toes into the water.
If you’re wanting to get out on the water but don’t have a boat this park offers a handful of different watercraft options to splash around on:
Facilities and Equipment
Kayak, fishing kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals:
- Only available Thursdays through Sundays
- Per hour (2 hour minimum) – $10
- Half day (4 hours) – $35
- Full day (8 hours) – $50
- 24 hours – $65
Camping at Muleshoe Bend
There are 41 total camping areas here, and to access them you’ll drive on mostly paved roads, but turning down for the campsites you’ll hit gravel, and you’ll make your way towards the water and the majority of the camping.
Each of the main side roads takes you to a different part of the riverbank and showcases different camping areas. Once you’re on the bank the trees taper off and slowly disappear to open to spacious camping and picnic areas.
Turner Farm Road is the site to one of the boat ramps, and it also features the most concentrated of the camping areas. But if you continue down the road you’ll make your way down to Trammel Road and the rest of the camping.
These sites are fairly spread out, and mostly in the open space. There is a selection of sites in the oak trees, so definitely take some time to cruise around the park and decide where you want to stay ahead of time. The LCRA parks use Reserve America to book sites, and like the Texas State Parks, there aren’t are individual photos of the campsites, but not enough to get a full grasp of the sites themselves. Book your site here.
The camping area also allows for some gently off-roading. When the river is down it opens up more dirt roads that are accessible to vehicles. Take that SUV off the pavement and cruise around by the water.
The restrooms at the campsites are non-flushing, and if you want a shower it’s at the restroom at the entrance to the park.
Two park entrance fees are
included in your stay.
- Standard – $25
- Group – $35
- Explorer tent – $35
Hiking at Muleshoe Bend
There are eight trails to hike at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area. They are rated using the International Mountain Bicycle Association chart, so it doesn’t translate to being on foot, but on the ground, these trails offered plenty of scenery and showcased some amazing landscape views.
The real challenge here is the Great Escape Trail. At 6.5 miles this trail wraps around the entire park, but if you’re not wanting to hike all afternoon you can hop onto some of the other trails within the main Escape trail.
Because these trails are mostly used by visitors on bikes, be mindful of the right away, and be aware of your surroundings so you can hear the ‘On your left’ statement.
As opposed to DORBA trails, or some other popular mountain bike parks, there isn’t a designated direction for hikers or mountain bikers. Just share the trail and be kind.
|Great Escape Trail = Top Pick||6.5|
|Easy Rider Trail||0.7|
As you wind through the trees you’ll see a bit of Austin’s growth near you as you’ll see at Mckinney Falls SP. Houses bump up to the park in some sections, but that’s juxtaposed to deer wandering around here as well. Pretty much Austin in a nutshell.
The trails here are fairly well marked, and the trails show signs of plenty of use to keep you on track. There are some signs here that are no longer in use, but for some reason still on the trail, so ensure you’re paying attention to your pathway and the map.
The updated trail markers have great info here for emergencies, and they remind you to call 9-1-1 in the case of emergency, not to change your phone’s voicemail. Ahem.
There was only one section on the Great Escape Trail that seemed a bit backward, and it was during some of the intersecting parts of that and The Recycler trail. The map itself here is a bit confusing, but if you pay attention to the general direction you’re headed you’ll see the main trail to keep going on the right path.
If you don’t want to stay on the full part of the trail you can cut it short and make your way down the Easy Rider trail back to the main road and back to the trailhead. There is a picnic table here under an oak tree.
Because you’re so close to the river bank elevation is very minimal. You’ll need to focus on the typical limestone rocks on the trail, so make sure you have ample toe cap protection if you’re on foot. This trail was completed wearing Merrel Moab Mid hiking shoes. (Affiliate link)
Adults – $5
Children (12 and younger) – Free
Disabled – $2
Seniors (65 and older) – $2
Horse and rider – $12