Garner State Park is an excellent place to hike. It offers distance, elevation, scenic overviews, and interesting places to explore along the way. The one disappointing part of hiking this park was seeing graffiti spray painted and written all over the rocks and signs. A few bad apples can sure screw things up for everyone else.
I started my hike from the campground and along the East Trails. I deviated from the established trails to climb Old Baldy in the "Danger Unsafe Area" and was rewarded with spectacular views of the park. At the top, I encountered several mountain goats.
After finishing the East Trails, I hiked the West Trails focusing all hitting all of the main trails. As a result, I hiked up and down the hills several times and occasionally backtracked.
Aside from hiking, camping at Garner State Park looks very enticing. Spending time on the Frio River engaging in water activities or simply cooling off in the water is a must-do. It is very pretty and there are numerous ropes hanging from the trees so you can swing and jump into the river.
20 minutes north of Garner SP is Lost Maples SP. The trails are better, the views are better and the trees are better. And, unless it's fall, it is much less crowed. However, if you're looking to go swimming, stay with Garner. My husband and I went hiking at Garner last weekend (3/19/11) and were horribly disappointed. The trails are pretty bad, the crowds were loud and there was litter/graffiti all over the park. Even after an hour of hiking we could hear the obnoxious music of the pavillion. The trails were crowded with people who could not read hiking maps, were ill equiped for trails made entirely of loose rock, and did not seem to be enjoying nature at all. Go to Garner SP to enjoy the river and the "party atmosphere", but not to enjoy quality hiking.
Hiking at Garner can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. I've done marked trails with my tiny niece and slighty larger nephew and a bunch of out of shape folks. For more of a challenge get off the trails and try some of the cliff faces and I always like to try and get myself lost on the hills that are more like mini-mountains. It's good hiking and if you get off the trails it really opens up alot more opportunities.
Our last day of hiking in Garner, we decided to go to the top of Old Baldy. Old Baldy is one of the iconic images of Garner State Park. Ironically, Old Baldy is not in Garner State Park. The initial climb was very steep and very rocky. Not being a part of the park, we had to look a little to find the trail once we got up the initial climb. We eventually made it to the top of Old Baldy. The kids really enjoy the challenge of climbing to the top of a peak they'd been camping under for several nights.
On the way down, we decided to go to Ice Box Cave. The trail to Ice Box Cave had been pointed out to us two days before by an interpretive guide. The trail follows along the face of Old Baldy. It is very narrow with a few places requiring climbing over rocks to pass.
The cave itself is a very narrow cleft in the rock that goes back about thirty to forty meters before ending and requiring you to sidestep back to the opening.
For those of you climbing Old Baldy. Please be careful about kicking rocks off from the summit. People on the Ice Box Cave trail are very exposed.
We went on another guided hike. This one took us on the Green Trail. This took us to the highest poing in not only Garner, but in Uvalde County. The guide, one of the park rangers was very knowledgeable about the geology and history of the area.
We had nine children ranging in age from six to thirteen and they all had a good time.
This was a guided hike with a group of twenty or so people. The hike followed the red trail up beside Old Baldy, along a ridge to the west, down to painted rock and eventually to crystal cave before heading back to the campground. The trail has a little less than 600 feet of net elevation gain mostly done in short fairly intense segments.
Of particular interest were artifacts left from the days when crews of CCC workers created the trails.
The water was cold...but so worth it.
We went on one of the steeper trails and though it was challenging we enjoyed it very much. Only got lost once off the trail, but found it again within 25 yards. The wild goats surprised us on our ascent.
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