Where were you right before the covid craziness began? For us, we were in Burnet on a spring break camping trip to Inks Lake State Park. We were hiking all the hikes, and roasting all the s’mores, and enjoying all the rugged Hill Country beauty that area has to offer totally unaware how much life would change the next week. Our drive home to north Texas was surreal as I caught up on my emails and timelines and realized things were getting serious. It’s crazy that was 6 months ago. I know a lot of us have had to cancel so many things and if you’re like me, the trips were the most difficult to scratch off the calendar. Thankfully for our family, state parks have remained a relatively safe place to recreate throughout the pandemic. And since there’s still time to squeeze in some outdoor fun, and even some swimming hole swimming before it’s too cold, I thought I should share our Inks Lake trip with you. With two other great state parks in the area, you’ll find that there’s a lot of bang for your buck with this park and I’m sure you’re going to want to start planning a trip there soon.
This trip was all about the hiking for us. Inks Lake has some of the best trails we’ve ever hiked and they are on lots of different terrain and elevation to suit all skill levels. Our favorites were the Devil’s Waterhole and the Pecan Flats trails. No matter which trails you hike at Inks Lake, there’s sure to be a fantastic view at some point in your trek. It’s worth noting that many of the trails in this park were created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s when the park was built. Inks Lake State Park is one of our favorite CCC parks. Other activities to do in the park are swimming (keep reading to learn about the Devil’s Waterhole), fishing, paddle sports, and the park has a few nice playgrounds. They also have a great park store where you can get souvenirs and supplies. And when we were there they had a Kona Ice stand and a food trailer set up near the park store serving lunch and dinner with a side of snocones. If Kona Ice is there when you visit, try the lavender lemonade flavor and you can thank me later. Delicious!
One thing we really love about Inks Lake is that it is so close to another one of our favorite CCC parks, Longhorn Caverns State Park. I’m really into history, especially Texas history, and Longhorn Caverns has many stories to tell. The caverns are a geologic national treasure that has been used by many native Texans through the ages. Comanche used it for shelter and to mine stone for their points. Anglo settlers used it to mine bat guano to make gun power. Legends even say that outlaw, Sam Bass, used it to hide a cache of stolen money although there’s no evidence of that. But there is solid evidence of the times it was used as a speakeasy during prohibition and later a dance hall when attitudes about alcohol softened. And of course, our family loves the CCC history of this park. Taking the tour through Longhorn Caverns is enjoyable for anyone because it’s an easy walking tour and the caverns are always a comfortable 68 degrees. It’s a perfect spot to escape the heat, cold, or rain depending on what elements you’re dealing with. You might even see a bat or two. For those that want a more challenging adventure and don’t mind getting dirty, they offer a tour that takes you a deeper in the caverns with passages so narrow you have to crawl on your stomach to get through. There’s even hiking trails and picnic areas above ground over the caverns, so you can really make a day of your visit there. You can reserve your spot on the walking tour online.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has been on my bucket list for a long time and since it’s only about 45 miles from Inks Lake State Park, we took the opportunity to squeeze in a day trip to take a hike up the rock. One thing we invested in for this trip were good hiking boots because I knew we’d be a lot safer on the granite at Inks Lake and Enchanted Rock with proper hiking footwear. Enchanted Rock proved that to be true and we learned how slick the rock can get when a light drizzle started as we were half way up. Things got dicey and each one of us slipped a little, but we pushed through and made it to the summit. It’s a lot steeper than you think and with the added challenge of the drizzle, we were all pretty proud of ourselves to reach the top. And thankfully the rain held off until we made it back down. We can’t wait to go back and hike it again. You can make reservations to camp or just visit for the day online. Most days they reach capacity, so booking early is a smart plan. And even if it’s raining the day you visit, there’s still several trails around the rock if the rock is too wet and slick to hike. It’s also important to note that regardless of weather conditions, those are the only trails that dogs are permitted on at this park.
This trip was our first time to camp in a camper. And we LOVED it! I’d be lying if I told you we didn’t come home and start shopping for campers in pandemic boredom. We rented this camper from a friend of a friend and it was perfect because the owners delivered it to our campsite and picked it up and the end of our trip. Inks Lake State Park has about 200 campsites for all types of campers. From primitive camping to RV sites with water and electricity to waterfront sites with cabins. Coincidentally, we ended up in the same site that Matt and I camped at with friends during a spring break trip in college! Reservations for camping or day visits can be made online.
The crown jewel of Inks Lake State Park is the Devil’s Waterhole. We took the girls to swim there on a day tripping road trip we took several years ago. They loved jumping from the cliffs, as most kids do. This trip we didn’t even take our suits because we figured it would be too cold to swim. Then we hiked the trail the over looks the Devil’s Waterhole and some teenagers were jumping off the cliffs and both girls got real upset with mom and dad for not bringing the suits. When you go, don’t forget yours because you’ll want to take a dip. Trust me. We love swimming there so much we included it in our list of favorite swimming holes. We definitely won’t go without our suits when we go back. Anything to avoid seeing these sad faces again.
I hope this inspires you to get out and explore Inks Lake State Park and the surrounding area. With so much to see and do both inside and outside of the park, it’s sure to be a fun trip for anyone who takes it. Follows us on Instagram and Facebook for everyday adventures. And leave a comment below if you have any special memories of Inks Lake or plan to take a trip yourself.