Discover Austin: Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Tucked among the neighborhoods and roadways of Austin and West Lake Hills is a nature preserve just waiting for you to explore.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is a 227-acre nature preserve located along Loop 360 about 4 miles south of the Pennybacker Bridge. The endangered Golden-cheeked warbler takes up residence here along with other rare species. It’s part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve which covers about 50 square miles throughout the Austin area and is one of the largest urban preserves in the country.
There are almost three miles of hiking trails available to visitors. The trails vary in length with the shortest, Arroyo Vista, being 6/10 of a mile while the longest, Yaupon Loop, is almost 2 miles long. It’s a nice variety of trails with some that are flat and easy to hike while others have nice elevation changing terrain. There are several notable spots along the trails including a waterfall and a variety of nice views. In addition to hiking, the preserve is a popular place for birdwatching.
Wild Basin is one of the few areas of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve that is open to the public year-round. There is no cost and no reservations are needed to visit on weekdays. However, weekends and holidays require a reservation and a modest fee for a day-use pass. This is to control traffic and prevent overuse. They also offer guided tours so check their website for those schedules. When you come out, remember this is a nature preserve so no pets, no bikes, no fires, no picnics, no drones, and no collecting. Water clip here.
In the 1970s, a group of seven ladies initiated the creation of the Wild Basin Preserve. They were members of the Now or Never environmental group which had been organized to preserve a natural area for science classes and teacher training. Recognizing the significance of the Wild Basin area, the ladies set out to preserve the land as part of a bicentennial project to commemorate the countries 200th anniversary. They worked for several years to drum up support and they convinced Travis County of the merits. With grants from the state, Travis County purchased various tracts of land completing the project in 1976, making it Austin’s first nature preserve. In 1996, it became part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.
Wild Basin is co-owned and co-managed by Travis County and St. Edwards University. Travis County oversees land management and ensures adherence to the terms of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. St. Edwards manages daily operations and also runs the Wild Basin Creative Research Center. Obviously, the research center conducts research at Wild Basin, but it also fulfills the original vision of a place for science classes and teacher training. They host school field trips and are always looking for more guests, so contact them if you’d like to arrange to bring a class to the preserve. There are exhibits and learning opportunities for any guest who stops by. They also features an Artist in Residence program that cycles through several times a year.
The next time you’re looking for to strap on your hiking boots, head over to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve to enjoy over 200 acres of preserve land.