Live oak at Grelle Recreation Area

The huge hanging limbs of a live oak loom over a trail at the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Grelle Recreation Area in Spicewood. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Highland Lakes is home to tons of towering trees: gargantuan cypresses, gnarled oaks, and fragrant junipers. What better way to celebrate Earth Week 2024 than to walk among them?

Earth Week kicked off with Earth Day on April 22 and runs through April 26, which is also National Arbor Day. Texas likes to be different and has its own Arbor Day on the first Friday in November.

Here are the best places to see trees in the Highland Lakes, whether on an adventure or seeking relaxation:

OAKS

This massive live oak grows near the city of Granite Shoals on the shores of Lake LBJ. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Oak trees are universally adored for their hardiness, character, and climb-ability. Countless childhood memories are made in the shade of a majestic oak, and the tree grows in abundance in Texas State Parks and Lower Colorado River Authority recreation areas across the Highland Lakes.

Colorado Bend State Park

2236 Park Hill Drive, Bend

Open daily from 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Colorado Bend is one of the most beautiful public spaces in the Texas Hill Country. The huge live oak trees near park headquarters are some of the brightest gems to be found. 

LCRA Grelle Recreation Area

640 CR 412, Spicewood

Open daily from sunrise to sunset

Grelle has over 8 miles of trails that weave through the hills along the southern shores of Lake Travis. Elevation varies, but the closer you are to water, or even dry creekbeds, the more likely you are to happen upon magical groves of looming oaks.

CYPRESS

Cypress trees at Krause Springs
Giant cypress trees tangle about the shores of Krause Springs in Spicewood. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

Few things are more impressive than a stand of enormous cypress trees lining a river or natural spring. Their roots are often interwoven, forming banks for the bodies of water they tend to congregate around. They’re relatively rare in the Highland Lakes, but you can see them in all their glory in at least one spot.

Krause Springs

424 CR 404, Spicewood

Open daily from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (closed November through mid-February)

Krause Springs is a perennial natural spring tucked away in the wilds of Spicewood that has become a favorite swimming hole for Highland Lakes locals. The huge cypress trees that offer shade for swimmers and campers are a highlight.

ASHE JUNIPERS

Ashe junipers at Balcones Canyonlands
A hiker looks through an opening in a dense Ashe juniper forest on a hilltop in Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Ashe juniper, usually called cedar around these parts, often gets a bad rap for cluttering up ranchland and putting out horrendous amounts of pollen every winter, but it is still a beautiful, native tree to be appreciated in person. Its frayed bark, gnarled trunks, and fresh fragrance go hand in hand with the rugged hills of the Highland Lakes.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Three locations:

  • Refuge headquarters and trails, 24518 RR 1431 East, Marble Falls
  • Doeskin Ranch trail system, 10645 FM 1174, Bertram
  • Warbler Vista trail system, 21650 RR 1431, Lago Vista

All open daily from sunrise to sunset

Trek through the limestone hills and canyons that divide Burnet and Travis counties at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. This harsh yet beautiful environment is the perfect habitat for Ashe junipers. The smaller trees are little more than shrubs, but the refuge has many large, older trees that are hard to find in public spaces across the Hill Country.

dakota@thepicayune.com