Mel Bilich Karst Preserve

0.25 Mile
40 Feet
3stars (3.20)5
halfstar (0.70)
2stars (2.00)

Getting there: From MoPac Expressway in Austin head south and take the Davis Lane exit. Head west on Davis Lane and turn left on La Cresada Dr. Turn right on Tiombe Bend and look for the trailhead on the right. Park along the road.

The Hike: Mel Bilich Karst Preserve is a very small natural area designed to protect the numerous karst openings on the property. A karst is a cave opening that provides a quick conduit to an aquifier below. Because of the rapidity with which water can get into the aquifer, bypassing some of the natural filtering done by layers of rock and soil, pollutants that enter the karst opening are more likely to cause environmental damage.

The preserve has no less than 5 karst openings, a pretty good number for such a small area. Each is surrounded by a fence to keep visitors out, and hopefully some trash as well. Each of the caves has a sign indicating the formations' names and some seating areas are available.

The trail surface is crushed granite and is almost perfectly flat. There's a mixture of Sun and shade and an out and back hike will only yield half a mile and take no more than about 20 minutes.

Dick Nichols Park with its 2 miles of trail is only a few blocks away, so this hike can be taken as part of a package deal. It too has karsts, though not as concentrated and not so near the trail.

Wide, commodious paths
Wide, commodious paths (Photo by plectrudis)
Senatorial Sink - one of the caves in the park
Senatorial Sink - one of the caves in the park (Photo by plectrudis)
Trail View
A view of the trail through the preserve. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Here's what the preserve is for. Karsts are caves that feed right into aquafers. Pollution allowed to enter karsts can easily end up in someone's drinking water. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Log Entries
Pleasant, easy trail with nice native plantings
By plectrudis on 10/9/2017
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: halfstar Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 0.25 Mile Duration: N/A

This is a really short trail, but the caves are a nifty feature, and the trails are dotted with nice pockets of native landscaping.  I combined it ith Dick Nichols and the Latta Greenbelt to make a decent ~3.5 mi hike.

By lancescape on 1/7/2007
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: halfstar Solitude: 1star
Distance: 0.50 Mile Duration: N/A
Nice weather, nice little park
By tone on 12/31/2005
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: halfstar Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 1.50 Miles Duration: N/A
I think they renamed the place to West Oaks Karst Preserve according to the kiosks. The trail isn't very long, but it is well groomed. The trail seems to be used by neighborhood folk walking their dogs. I got a phone call from my parents while in the park and ended up chatting with them for about an hour without seeing anyone. Then on the way back, I saw three groups of families or folks with dogs. As for the caves, the fences they used were not really too robust for keeping people out. Maybe dogs and other wildlife. There were gates on the bigger caves, and the sinkhole was really cool because it had an enormous oak tree on it. This hike is short, but it is close to Dick Nichols Park, and there is a nice path around that, and a neighboring path on the other side of the street called "Villages at Western Oaks Hike and Bike Trail."
Very educational hike!
By DebnJohn on 10/20/2005
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 0.50 Mile Duration: N/A
Went to websites ahead of hike and found this cave system very interesting. Imagining the unique caving experience for those fortunate few.
Nice for a neighborhood stroll
By Austin Explorer on 7/31/2005
Rating: 2stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 1star
Distance: 0.57 Mile Duration: 20 minutes
This very small preserve is intended to protect the numerous cave openings found here. The crushed granite trail is short and easy. My main reason for visiting this day was to find caches in the area.
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