Railroads in Texas are an essential way to move goods throughout the state and beyond, but sometimes they are no longer used. Such is the case at Old Tunnel State Park.
In the 1800s the railroad here was used as a way to move items from Fredericksburg to San Antonio, but in 1941 the track was decommissioned, and the metal from the ties and rails was taken and used for other essential items.
But as the official website notes, the train may have left, but a familiar cave resident moved into the caves; and anyone familiar with bats in Texas can understand why this empty train cutout was a popular spot for the Mexican free-tailed bats.
When is it best to view the bats?
The bats live in the tunnel from May to October, so plenty of time throughout the year to check out a spectacular showing of them leaving the cave to find food.
The ranger-led programs require advanced tickets that can be purchased online, or by calling customer service. There are two different ticket options: The upper area is $2 per person of any age, and the lower area which is $5 per person for only people 4 and up. According to the site, this is because bats are sensitive to noise, and 4-year-olds are… loud?
Visiting Old Tunnel State Park
If you arrive before the bat showing you can still enjoy the park. The park closes at 5 p.m. all year, so if you want to stay longer you’ll need to have a ticket for the bat show.
Hiking at Old Tunnel State Park
Once you park you’ll make your way down to the main viewing area, but continue on below to get a great view of the cave. Your vantage point is from a distance, but you can get a great view as you walk down, and at the bottom.
There isn’t a trail map here, but there is the half-mile Old Tunnel Nature Trail.
It’s a simple interpretive loop that has various signage throughout noting the various types of plants that you’ll find.
The main portion of the trail takes you down on the land where the original track was laid, so it’s pretty neat to imagine the trains zooming by and into the tunnel behind you.
There are some shaded areas, and some minor portions of elevation change, but nothing too strenuous.
If you’re looking for another great park to view bats, then check out Kickapoo Cavern SP.