As we drove into Wimberley’s town square, I rolled down the window and my dog immediately began to bask in the cool autumn breeze as his fur blew gently. We both observed the quaint shops, decorated boots and bustling activity on either side of the street. Wimberley was already charming me.
While the square was filled with people it did not compare to the crowds and atmosphere of a busy city like Austin.
Just minutes away, east of the town square lies one of the largest regional parks in Hays County, Blue Hole Regional Park. It is an award-winning park consisting of 126-acres of hiking and biking trails, a swimming hole, gathering areas, an amphitheater and more.
A paved trail leads to the Blue Hole where the sun is peeking out from the long tree branches and is gently touching the water with its rays, making the colorful fish visible. There is a serene rhythm to the park; children are enthusiastically running around, students lay on the ground reading, and families stand on a platform by the water taking in the view that almost looks like an oil painting.
Park operations supervisor, Michael Tanner, walks around greeting people and answering questions. He says his favorite part about the job is being able to be outside in a stress-free environment and the opportunity to teach people about the land and wildlife inhabiting it.
He lends his polarized glasses to 9-year-old Edgar Mendez who is identifying the fish in the water and tells him to look for a resident turtle. Mendez eagerly puts them on and exclaims about the newfound visibility that allowed him to see more fish than just those near the surface. Although he could not spot the turtle he was thrilled to see catfish, tadpoles and more.
“I think it’s cool when you can see the kids that have never seen something like this, they’ve only seen it in books or pictures, seeing that spark of curiosity is really rewarding,” Tanner says. “Because it’s sad a lot of kids don’t get to go outside and if they do they’re in the big city where there’s not a lot of space for this kind of stuff and if there is someone owns it, especially in Texas.”
In 2005, Blue Hole Regional Park was under the threat of residential development. Prior to that, those wanting to swim, picnic or camp on the land would pay to do so. Today however, the park is open to anyone free of charge thanks to the efforts of the community to save it. The city purchased the land and opened the park in 2011.
Swimming at Cypress Creek is only allowed from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it is more than enough to sit near the edge and enjoy the natural oasis.
The nature trail is great for a quick hike. The tree canopy shades most of the trail making it a perfect trek all year long. The trails in the park can also be enjoyed on bikes or with leashed pets.
Jacob’s Well Natural Area is the primary source of the Cypress Creek’s cold and clear water. The artesian spring was named in 1849 after Jacob de Cordova, Wimberley’s first land promoter.
Jacob’s Well, also known as “the gem of Texas Hill Country,” is the second deepest underwater cave in Texas. It is at least 140 feet deep and is a mile long. Many have tried to dive into its depth to unfold its mysteries but most only make it 10 feet down. However, the park works with diving teams to explore the caves for scientific study.
The algae gives the well a beautiful emerald color and the sunlight makes it possible to look about 20 feet down into the crystal clear cave.
Two friends, Alisa Abdelwahed and Kelcey Coto, have their feet submerged in the water as they look down into the cave. They came from Austin to visit Wimberley for the day.
“It’s nice to get away from the city and see the landscape and nature,” Coto says. “It’s peaceful.”
Aside from the well, the 81-acre natural area offers bird-watching spots, hiking and walking trails and a nature center. I set out to explore more of the park and just as I was about to pass a small bed of water I saw a small snake devouring a frog. I recalled what Tanner was saying about how one may see such things in books and pictures but not always in real life. This was my first time seeing a snake in its natural environment, I only ever encountered them in pet stores.
The natural area is a haven from the congested city not only for people but for animals too. Butterflies surround shrubs and flowers, birds chirp from the trees and squirrels scurry on the ground looking for food.
Another outdoor Wimberley attraction is the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens, home to an amphitheater, gardens, trails, a maze, sculptures, games and more. There are little sets where people can act out plays, challenge each other in a game of giant chess, or make their way through a maze and create sounds at the musical garden.
Aside from outdoor exploration and recreation it offers theatre productions throughout the year as well as a trail of lights from Thanksgiving through late December and an annual butterfly festival in April. The mission of the EmilyAnn, “to reinvest in the dignity of the human spirit through the performing arts, the beauty of nature and community fellowship,” as stated on their website is evident in the layout and atmosphere of the place.
Old Baldy, a staple of the Hays County city, offers a panoramic view of the Wimberley Valley. Just north on FM 2325 on La Toya Trail you will come across a parking area and the steps that lead to the top of the mountain which is also known as Prayer Mountain.
After ascending the 218 stone steps you step onto a platform where you can take in the view. As if there needed to be anymore reaffirmation that Wimberley is an outdoor paradise, the majority of the view is green. It is breathtaking to stand there and take it all in after having explored the area below.
On the way back down I see a falcon just a few feet above. Next to the car a fawn and a deer froze in their tracks. After a few minutes pass and they realize no danger is detected they make their way into the trees from which I assume they came from.
Although Austin is home to parks, swimming spots and even outdoor pubs it is hard to truly escape its bursting city ambiance. Just an hour’s drive away, one can experience nature with no interruptions and encounter things not usually seen in the city.
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