One of the perks of being a member of the Travis County Audubon is special access to Baker Sanctuary just northwest of Austin, TX. So before we get started, to access this preserve you either need to be a member of Travis Audubon, or go with someone who is. You can learn more about donating here.
Baker Sanctuary consists of 715 acres of hill country goodness. That typically means limestone terrain, ash-juniper trees, oaks, and great views.
Even more importantly, those juniper trees provide an important resource to the nesting Golden-Cheeked Warblers that use the bark from those trees during nesting season.
The GCW is an endangered species that calls central Texas home starting in March, as they work hard to bring back dwindling numbers, and the juniper trees located in this sanctuary, and around central Texas become so important during that time. I felt it was such an important species, the TXTH gift shop is named after it!
Hiking at Baker Sanctuary
On the last two visits, the northern section of the sanctuary was still closed, so make sure you’re aware of that before making your trip. The address won’t take you to the correct gate either if you’re using Google maps. You’ll want to go down the road a bit to the gate, but once you’re there you can pull in and park by the small building.
From here you can view the trailhead, but seek out the chimney structure just through the trees to learn about the importance of Chimney Sweeps.
Baker Sanctuary has two main loops: Baker Springs Trail (1.75 mi.)& Hatfield Loop Trail (2.78 mi.). Winter storms did a number on the Hatfield Loop Trail, so be advised that the apex of the loop was closed. You can walk in, but you’ll need to turn around and connect from the NW portion of the loop.
The trails here are fairly typical hill country trails with very little elevation change or challenging portions. You’ll be able to focus on enjoying your hike through the trees, and not have to worry about difficult terrain. The trails here are well-marked, and even the side springs trail portion, while a tad overgrown in some areas, is fun to hike and enjoy with or without water.
Hiking the entire section is recommended, so take some good snacks and enjoy the day.
Birding at Baker Sanctuary
The reason why a lot of folks go here in the first place is to spot the wildlife. I’ve seen a good share of warblers, cardinals, and sparrows, but I am looking forward to visiting these places more this year to see how different the species variety is.
This place is very woody, so keep an eye out above the tree line, and make sure you pick spots to stop and listen. The smaller birds will eventually make their way back to you.
Other Travis County Birding Sites
There are four sanctuaries in the Austin area sponsored by Travis Audubon. Besides Baker, there’s:
Commons Ford Ranch is one of my favorite birding sites in the area. Not only do you get great birding and hiking, but you also get great views of the Colorado River.