The entrance to the park along Republic of Texas Blvd.
Head south on MoPac and take the Southwest Parkway exit. Get in the rightmost lane as soon as possible and prepare to turn at the next stoplight. The stoplight marks the intersection of the parkway and Republic of Texas Blvd. Turn right and look on your left for the entrance to the park. There is a large green sign and a picnic bench. Park alongside the road.
The Gaines Creek Park trail is often marked by a row of limestone along the trail's edge.
Gaines Creek Park is a small park located just off of the Southwest Parkway in south west Austin. Chances are, if you do not live in the area you have not even heard of the park. There is no designated parking areas and people seem to park alongside the road on Republic of Texas Blvd.
The trail begins at the waypoint marked "Trailhead" and at this point the trail is largely gravel and rock. After only a short distance the trail crosses the creek and the terrain for most of the rest of the hike will consist mostly of packed dirt.
We saw deer prints in the park and this Texas Alligator Lizard.
The path of the hike through the park is an oval and to make sure that you go through as much of the park as possible just try and keep in mind that you should always go left when presented with a fork in the trail. Soon after the creek crossing you'll come to the waypoint "Intersection". By turning left you'll hike the trail in a clockwise direction and see most of what the park has to offer. Much of the trail is bordered by limestone that has been placed along the ground. Sometimes that also helps to determine what is the main trail
and what is not.
Several signs on the trail identified plants, like this one for Pencil Cactus (a.k.a. Christmas Cactus).
We were surprised to see several locations along the trail marked with signs indicating a particular plant that was present. The signs appear to be old, particularly the one proclaiming a Texas Oak, behind which appears to be a dead Texas Oak tree. Some of the the others are still quite valid. We're not sure who put those up or if at one point there was an interpretive guide to go along with the signs.
There is an added bonus to this trip. Actually, there are two. This small park boasts of two geocaches and we used a single trip to this park to find both caches and hike the trail. Both caches are very near the hiking trails and don't require that you stray far from the path. If you have a GPS you might want to give them a try. Look for links to these geocaches below.
Although largely wooded, the park also includes a few open fields.
Although the sounds of the highway nearby never totally let us forget how close we were to "civilization" the hike did provide some solitude. During the hike we came across only two other people.
Our total trip time was about 25 minutes and we covered .7 miles. This is an easy hike that is ideal for the beginner or anyone wanting a quick hike to go along with a little interpretive guidance on local plant life.