Miller Springs Nature Center

4.00 Miles
100 Feet
4stars (4.05)11
3stars (3.27)
3stars (3.30)
Temple & Belton
More Info

The trails near the trailhead are well maintained and easy enough for beginners.
The trails near the trailhead are well maintained and easy enough for beginners.
Getting there: From Temple, head west on FM 2305 (a.k.a. West Adams Avenue). Turn left onto FM 2271 and head south. Look for the entrance to the parking area on the left, right before approaching the northern edge of the Belton Lake Dam.

The Hike: What do you do when the world gives you lemons? Make lemonade. When the dam that created Belton Lake was created in the 1950's the land downstream from the construction site was a mess. The ground had been torn up by construction equipment and a large scar was left on the land. The lunar-like terrain attracted off road vehicle enthusiasts, but local citizens wanted to find a more tranquil use for the area.

Looking down into Bee Suck Hollow.
Looking down into Bee Suck Hollow.
The Miller Springs Nature Preserve was organized in 1989 and in 1993 it signed a 25 year lease for the land with the Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for the dam and owner of the property. A master plan for the parcel was developed with an emphasis on conservation management and providing educational opportunities for "children" of all ages. For most of the public, the center's extensive trail system is the most commonly used benefit, and the one we took advantage of our our trip.

Starting at the parking area marked by the waypoint "Trailhead" we took the leftmost trail option and headed to the east. This route will follow the edge of Bee Suck Hollow, the walls of which are composed of large talus slopes.

The bridge crossing at Bee Suck Hollow.
The bridge crossing at Bee Suck Hollow.
The trail will descend to the bottom of Bee Suck Hollow and turn to the north following the creek upstream. At the waypoint "Bridge" the trail will cross the creek and head downstream on the opposite side of the bank.

The portion of the trail that straddles the hill/prairie boundary is a bit more overgrown, but still easy on the legs.
The portion of the trail that straddles the hill/prairie boundary is a bit more overgrown, but still easy on the legs.
Up to this point the trails have been clear, wide and well maintained. We take a left turn at the waypoint "4-L" onto more overgrown terrain. The trail, though overgrown, is flat here and easy to follow since it mirrors the contours of the steep rock slope to our left. In the Summer hikers may want to wear bug repellant to ward off chiggers and the like.

At the waypoint "Pavilion" a map can be used to help reorient one's self. The hiker is presented with a choice of venturing to the right towards the southern open grassy area or continuing east along the edge of the hills to the left. We choice to follow the ridge.

The trail in Cox's Hollow mostly hugs the canyon walls on sloped rock.
The trail in Cox's Hollow mostly hugs the canyon walls on sloped rock.
The end of the main trail marks the eastern edge of the preserve. A road grade bridge traverses Coxs Hollow and seems to provide vehicular access to the back of the park. A small, very overgrown, parking area right next to the bridge may be used by local rock climbers who visit the park.

Not wanting to turn back and call it a day just yet, we decide to follow Cox's Hollow as far upstream as possible. This section of our hike was by far the hardest. We suggest you turn back at this point if you are averse to steep rock slopes or pushing through some vegetation now and then.

The rock fall at the turnaround point in Cox's Hollow.
The rock fall at the turnaround point in Cox's Hollow.
The Cox's Hollow spur trail starts at the back of the small parking area just to the west of the bridge. The trail changes from well marked to almost invisible and from hard pack to rocky to solid rock slopes. At times the trail will no longer be visible, but following the bare rock slope for a short distance will provide the vantage point to pick up the trail once again.

A couple of spots along Cox's Hollow are very steep. While the drop offs of the trail are not huge, the steepness of the rock along the trail increases the possibilities of falls, resulting in twisted ankles, or worse. If you venture into the Hollow please be very careful and take your time.

Trails are generally well maintained.  Here the route uphill even includes switchbacks to help control erosion.
Trails are generally well maintained. Here the route uphill even includes switchbacks to help control erosion.
For the extra effort of working through Cox's Hollow the hiker is rewarded with spectacular solitude and vertical rock walls on either side of the canyon. Small springs trickle water from the side of the canyon at several places.

At the waypoint "Turnaround" huge rock boulders have broken off of the wall above creating a large rock overhang, and a barrier to further exploration. This spot also resides at or near the boundary to the preserve, so we decide to turn back here.

The view from the Overlook at ridge's edge.
The view from the Overlook at ridge's edge.
We retrace our path back to the 4 way trail intersection at the waypoint 4-L. Instead of merely doubling back all of the way to the trailhead we descend to the creek bed and cross over to the other bank. Here we run into what Miller Springs calls the Green Pool Trail. From this point we follow the trail to the west as it ascends to the top of the eastern plateau overlooking the park.

The rocky flat section near the end of the hike includes some wooden plankways.
The rocky flat section near the end of the hike includes some wooden plankways.
For some additional distance on the hike and a view overlooking the park's lowlands, we turn to the left at the top of the ridge and follow Miller Springs' Armadillo Trail. A wooden platform at the waypoint "Overlook" provides some of the best views in the park. The trail loops back on itself and we then head back to the trailhead over the flat and rocky plateau that also serves as an occassional spillway for the dam. Wooden planks are in place here, though no water was to be found on our trip.

In total our trip covered almost 4 miles and included about 500 feet of elevation gain. Most of that elevation gain came from Cox's Hollow and the ascent back onto the plateau at the end of the hike. The land beneath the dam is recovering nicely from the abuse it took during and after the construction. Though the creation of man looms overhead at times there's a little bit of the wild back along the Leon River.

According to reports, the ADA (wheelchair) accessible parts of the trails are those by parking lot, across flood plain, and board walk to viewing areas.

looking out bigger cave
looking out the bigger opening (Photo by jimmy peace)
looking out smaller cave
looking out of it (Photo by jimmy peace)
one of the caves
looking in the cave (Photo by jimmy peace)
more bluffs towards the dam (Photo by jimmy peace)
natures art
a dragon look alike in the tree (Photo by jimmy peace)
tiny waterfall
still water in the creek (Photo by jimmy peace)
along the creek
more of the creek (Photo by jimmy peace)
small bluff along the creek
a bluff along the creek (Photo by jimmy peace)
starting on north trail
heading down the trail (Photo by jimmy peace)
Log Entries
By jimmy peace on 6/9/2013
Rating: 4point5stars Difficulty: 4point5stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 2.50 Miles Duration: N/A
the trails could have been better marked but.. we survived and followed the creek and saw two 'caves' that linked to each other
Good first hike, but need to revisist
By korinne1229 on 7/4/2010
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: 1.50 Miles Duration: N/A

This was our first attempt at our new hiking lifestyle! So I'm not sure how accurate my ratings are yet without much else to compare it to.

We drove there all the way from Houston because we didn't want just flat terrain. In that respect we were not disappointed! I pretty sure we lost all track of paths and just went our own course down into the gully and climbing back out. We lasted about an hour in the heat. I hope not bad for our first time.

I am a little fuzzy on the paths and how much of the park we did or did not get to explore. Not totally in love with this one but from reading other logs perhaps it needs another go.

Did not see a single other person, but it was 4th of July. Our idea of celebrating freedom was probably not what others had in mind!

Nice afternoon hike
By hiker65 on 5/3/2010
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 5.00 Miles Duration: N/A

There are a lot of neat trails here- I probably shouldn't recommend getting off the main trails but when you do you find little trails going everywhere. There is enough use that people have worn trails in a lot of these areas- down most of the canyons and up to the indian shelter overhangs along the cliffs at the west end past the old bridge. Most of the hiking is easy to medium. A little climbing can be found and in and around some of the canyons it could be dangerous for careless hikers or children. It's big enough that you can get lost- we came out in a subdivision on the north side once, but basically it is a contained bit of nature and there's no real fear of getting lost or anything. Check out the dam spillway at the extreme southwest of the park.

Rarely have we encountered a lot of people, but it is usually fairly active. We have never encountered any undesirable activities going on or any people there to do anything other than hiking. We hiked here to gear up for Guadalupe and I recommend Miller Springs whether you're just out for a walk or want a fairly good challenge.

By heinz57 on 8/1/2009
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 6.00 Miles Duration: N/A

Loved the area. Took my 7 year old son on a Saturday morning "adventure".

Solitude was great, we did not meet a soul on the 3 hour hike. Saw lots of deer, fish (on the trail next to the river) and quite a few Bobcat tracks (following one of the trails)

Negative: lots of trash in form of empty plastic water bottles. Graffiti at the overhanging cliffs.

Most positive: my son asked me if we can come back and pick up trash !

Hike on........Heinz

By gzkemp2 on 12/7/2008
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 2.50 Miles Duration: N/A
By seejanplay7 on 11/15/2005
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 1point5stars
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Miller Springs was a pleasant hike. There is a variety of interesting terrain, especially the hollow. Main paths are not well-marked. It can be either an easy or more challenging hike. Be careful to leave by shortly BEFORE sunset or the ranger will lock you in ... I learned the hard the way!
Hiking Miller Springs
By Miles on 10/22/2005
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 1star
Distance: 0.50 Mile Duration: N/A
This is a great place to hike, but it can be a very busy place on weekends, and during cool weather.
Armadillos let us pet them!
By jennyj on 7/30/2005
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 5.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Two problems....the parking lot appears to be a meeting place for middle-aged nancy offense and I'm not homophobic...but it was fairly was a little odd....the second prob was the trails were NOT marked well and most of the "kiosks" appeared to be dated from the 1970s and didn't have any info whatsoever/other than not being able to navigate trails/very unexpected pleasantness for a parent and seven year old
First time using my GPS
By Ranger 5-0 on 8/8/2004
Rating: N/A Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: N/A
The waypoints I found here were right on. It was enjoyable for my first experience doing this. I wish I would have found the trail quicker going up Coxs Hollow. Definitely get to the north side and follow the rock cliff as soon as you can. It was faster going when I found that.
What you make of it
By Austin Explorer on 11/18/2002
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 4.00 Miles Duration: N/A
This trail can either be easy or hard, somewhat crowded or sparse. Linger near the trailhead and you'll encounter easy trails and more people. Venture further afield and enjoy more challenging terrain and fewer people. I neither heard nor saw a soul in and around Cox's Hollow at the back end of the park.

Only showing last 10 log entries. View All Log Entries

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