You have likely heard of Guadalupe River State Park, but do you know about Honey Creek State Natural Area? We had the opportunity to take a private tour of the preserve this past week…and WOW! It is a real Hill Country treasure! The guides were incredibly knowledgeable and personable, and the landscape was varied, beautiful and very surprising. If you’re planning on being in the Boerne area on a Saturday morning and need to get moving, hop on a tour to expand your Hill Country flora and fauna knowledge and get some exercise!
What to Expect-
Honey Creek State Natural Area is open for tours every Saturday at 9:00 AM and run approximately 2.5 hours depending on how inquisitive you group is. The trails in the preserve are defined, but are not paved or substantially improved. There are a team of about 10 volunteer guides that are all well versed in the preserve’s history and habitats. Most are certified Master Naturalists and lead tours in teams of two.
The tour of Honey Creek State Natural Area is free, but a $2 per person (or $5 per family) donation is recommended. I will say that the tour was fabulous and worth much more.
Access to the Honey Creek State Natural Area is within Guadalupe River State Park. (Directions) Once you have arrived at the state park and paid the park entry fee you will travel less than a mile on the main park road and take a right just past the Park Host campsite. The turn is clearly marked and park ranger will provide a map and verbal instructions if you tell them that the Honey Creek Tour is your goal.
Our tour guides for the day (J.W. and Wilt) shared vast amounts of information about German, Indian and Prehistoric history of the land that is now the natural area. Both are certified Master Naturalists and encouraged everyone to ask questions about anything in the natural world. We had several dialogues about an assortment of trees, grasses, shrubs, mammals, birds, insects, rocks and more.
Prior to hitting the trail, the group gathered on the front lawn of the historic Rust House and told tales of the property’s past in the mini amphitheater. As we hit the trail, both guides shared tidbits of information about different plants and animals that we saw or heard. There were several stops along the tour that had obviously been orchestrated to share specific lessons, tales and nuggets of information. These breaks are ideal for a little cool down and a sip of water also. We went LIVE on Facebook for the first half hour of the tour. Check it out!
Having grown up in the Texas Hill Country and spent many weekends hiking in parks, including Guadalupe River State Park, my expectations for this facility were that we would see more of the same rocky shores that we are familiar with along the Guadalupe River and plenty of live oak and cedar (ash juniper). Surprisingly, this was not entirely the case at all! Our decent to Honey Creek revealed cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, palmetto palms mixed in among the preserved shrubbery and a layer of lily pads hugging the banks of the creek. Words can’t describe the beauty or my feeling of surprise as we made our way into the cooler riparian zone. This is an environment I would have expected a little further east of here.
Leaving the creek behind us, we headed up the most extreme part of the trail. It wasn’t particularly challenging for me, however the “steps” that have been crafted into the hill side may be tricky for someone with rough knees or struggles walking.
How to Prepare-
As with any hiking outing in Texas, it’s wise to check the weather in advance and dress accordingly. Sturdy walking shoes are a must. Flip flops will not fly on this outing.
Bring water and wear sun protection! There are several sunny spots as you head down to the creek and back up to the Rust House. While it’s much cooler down by Honey Creek, the Texas heat will make you thankful for both as the day warms up.
Remember: Take only pictures and leave only footprints!
What about the kids and pets?-
Children are welcome and encouraged to join the tour. However, as a mom of young children myself, I’d recommend taking your own child’s hiking aptitude and patience levels into account. Jogging strollers will not handle these trails. If you have little ones that may not be able to handle a lengthy hike with multiple stops to talk about an assortment of topics, a visit to the Cibolo Nature Center may be a good alternative. The trails are shorter, they CAN get into the creek, and there are regularly scheduled children’s programs happening that may be of interest.
Pets are not welcome in the preserve. This rule is in place to help protect and preserve the natural habitat and the critters that live there.
Fun Facts from the Tour-
- Honey Creek State Natural Area is LARGER than Guadalupe River State Park.
- Honey Creek’s headwaters are in a cave on private property near the park and the creek is only 1.5 mi. long.
- Mustang Grapes from Texas saved the wine industry in France. These same grapes grow wild throughout the Natural area.
- What we tend to call cedar trees is actually ash juniper. Contrary to what many locals may say, it is in fact a native species and not brought over from Europe.
- The protected golden cheek warbler, which are very fond of using the bark of the ash juniper for its nest, are all native Texans. They may migrate and travel outside of the Lonestar State, but they breed and nest here in the “Romantic Texas Hill Country”.
- The ash juniper berry is a popular food source for animals in the Texas Hill Country, but it is also used to flavor gin and other foods and beverages that we love.
- Ball moss is a common site here in the trees of the Texas Hill Country. It is a bromeliad, and is actually related to the pineapple.
- The strange brown round balls that you will occasionally find on the ground or attached to oak trees are called galls. They are created when an oak gall wasp stings the tree and lays their eggs in the tree. The tree then creates the ball around the egg and the wasps will develop inside and eventually “hatch” out.
- Gall ink is created out of these same galls. The Declaration of Independence is signed in gall ink.
Written by: Tori Bellos, Boerne Convention and Visitors Bureau Marketing Specialist