We made our way to the trailhead for the Painted Bunting Trail, which is the first trailhead beyond the park headquarters on the main park road. There is good parking at this trailhead. After putting on our gear, we headed across the road in a southeasterly direction to hike the trail in a counter-clockwise direction. An information kiosk at the trailhead informed us that there had been a controlled burn recently, but it did not say when exactly.
- Distance hiked: 5.25 miles
- Time: 02:16:46
- Elevation Range: 927 feet to 1162 feet
- Painted Bunting: 2.66 miles (estimated)
- Live Oak Trail: .82 mile
- River Overlook Trail: .77 mile
- Cedar Sage River Trail: about .1 mile (estimated)
- Barred Owl Trail: about .1 mile (estimated)
- We also did some road walking to connect trails
The trails that we hiked in this park were in excellent condition. A wide swath had been mowed along most trails. Signage along all the trails was excellent. Trails matched maps. While on the trails themselves, we never doubted our location.
|View toward a instant hill across semi-open prairie that had recently enjoyed a controlled burn.|
For the first half mile or so, we hiked through a semi-prairie area. Views were available in all directions, with distant hills standing out. Most of this trail was over large exposed rock, so it is necessary to watch your step at all times. Grass outside trails was very tall, at least knee high. There were few trees. Obviously, this area has recovered very well following the controlled burn and is now quite healthy, just as it should be after such a burn.
|Trail rut with a generous swath of mown area around it.|
After a half mile or so, the trail dipped into some heavy brush, mainly juniper and oaks. There were stretches through here where the trail was on dirt, no rocks, so walking was easy. Where this trail branches to intersect with the Oak Savannah Loop, we turned back north. This section of the trail was basically like what we had just hiked.
|Good signs were placed at frequent intervals along the trail.|
At the road crossing, the trail began to change slightly. For one thing, we began to come across hunting blinds. Trees along this section were also more numerous. At the split with the Live Oak Trail, the little pond indicated on the map was almost dry. At the end of the Live Oak Trail, we turned east into the Cedar Sage Campground to work our way over to the Scenic Overlook to view the Guadalupe River. At this point, while on a paved road and technically off the trails, we encountered a bit of confusion as the trail map did not match what we saw. We should have brought a park map, which is more accurate as regards campgrounds, facilities, and paved roads. At the restroom, we turned 90 degrees north along the paved road for perhaps a 100 yards or more. There is a parking area there with some signs. At this point, we were able to get on a trail and follow our map again.
|These well-built benches looked out cross an open meadow.|
|One of several hunting blinds we saw along the trails on the west side of the park road.|
|Junction of the Live Oak Trail and the River Overlook Trail. We followed the trail in the picture to the campground on our way to the Scenic Overlook.|
We followed part of the Cedar Sage Trail to connect to the Barred Owl Trail, which then led us to a rocky outcropping overlooking the Guadalupe River. After admiring the view for a few minutes, we retraced our steps through the campground to the River Overlook Trail. This trail does follow the river, and there are a few side trails that work to the ledge overlooking the river. However, good views of the river require a bit of scrambling, and I was unwilling to do this, so we just followed the trail. We then connected to the Painted Bunting Trail again and followed it back to our truck.
|Looking upstream at the Guadalupe River from the Scenic Overlook.|
|Another view of the Guadalupe. Note the cypress trees and aqua water, both typical of so many Hill Country streams.|