Texas in a natural state
wenty-three per cent of the forests in the south of the USA are in Texas, about 24 million hectares of forestland, a figure only exceeded by the state of Alaska. In fact, visit here and you probably won’t even see one piece of tumbleweed, those famous balls of twigs that roll across the screen in Westerns, and which we inevitably associate with Texas. The second largest of the United States has happily traded on its Western image, from the eternal ‘Dallas’, to Chuck Norris playing Walker. But beyond these clichés of ‘Deepest America’, Texas hides true natural oases.
An indoor pool in the middle of the forest
Somewhere between a cave and a natural pool, the people of Austin always go to Hamilton Pool when they fancy a cool dip. It’s part of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, though if you feel like having a swim in its transparent waters, you need to book in advance.
Big Bend National Park- it IS a country for old men
The story of Texas’ first national park is as old as its mountains. According to an Indian legend, after the Earth was created, the Great Spirit just threw the rocks left over into the Big Bend. The result? More than 320,000 hectares with three different ecosystems: mountains, deserts and rivers. Despite its nickname, ‘The Despoblado’ (the uninhabited), Apache Indians, Spanish conquerors, miners and Mexican revolutionaries have all travelled along its paths and several trails now take tourists will deep into the park. One of the best known leads to Santa Elena Canyon, on the border between Mexico and the USA. An impressive formation at times rising 450 metres above Rio Grande.
Gorman Falls – Texas is green
The water gushes down and falls among rocks and vegetation in a setting that looks anything but Texan. Gorman Falls, nearly 20m in height, is the largest waterfall in Colorado Bend State Park, just two hours from Austin. The park authorities organise excursions to this natural gem. The trip lasts about two hours and crosses 2.5km of rocky landscape that ends in a downhill slope, very near the waterfall. It can also be accessed without a guide by following the somewhat longer Gorman Falls Trail. The waterfalls are not the park’s only natural treasure; here there are also more than 50 hiking and mountain-bike trails.
The desert flower
Every spring the fields of Texas are covered in a blue blanket, in much the same way as in the French region of Provence. However, instead of lavender, the flowers are bluebonnet, the official flower of the Lone Star Stare since 1971. Two of the best places for seeing them are Willow City Loop and Muleshoe Bend.
Caverns of Sonora – Inner beauty ‘in crescendo’
Crystal Palace and the Valley of Ice are just two of the most famous caverns. The suggestive names do justice to this underground paradise situated halfway between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park. The caves were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century on the ranch owned by the Mayfield family, and they were opened to the public in 1960. Since then, thousands of people have been able to enjoy this cave, one of the most active in the world, where 95% of its formations are still growing. One of the star attractions is the photography tour, which enables both professionals and amateurs to capture the beauty of its interior.
Guadalupe River State Park – ‘Be water my friend’
The river is the great protagonist of this park that attracts both locals and tourists from San Antonio and Austin. The cypress trees growing on the riverbanks not only offer shade to bathers, but also to the numerous species that inhabit the area: coyotes, deer, skunks and raccoons, just to name a few. There are also various trekking trails and activities for children, who are given the chance to become rangers for a day.