The trails near the trailhead are well maintained and easy enough for beginners.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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
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.
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
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.