The Westcave Preserve and Outdoor Discovery Center is a quick 43 miles from Austin, TX and somehow in our many many years of living here I had never even heard of it! Located just past Hamilton Pool in the Texas Hill Country, the preserve is a beautiful and lush fern covered grotto and cave with highland grassland trails open to the public and runs tour groups daily to the Cave itself. The property of Westcave was first a 25-acre private property starting in 1973 and over time converted into a non-profit corporation, acquired by the LCRA, expanded by another 45 acres and then into the 2000’s became a Learning Center and Discovery Park. This beautiful property is open to research partners and students. The grounds are run by a small group of individuals who care for the land, restore the grasslands and protect the cave preserve area.
There are two trails: the Uplands Trails and the Canyon Trail/Tour. You can find their hours and reservation information here. Upon arrival we quickly saw why the website said to arrive early because the noon tour was sold out, we signed up for the 2pm tour and headed up into the grasslands. The Highland Grasslands were beautiful; a quick 15-30 min easy hike around the property that was covered in bluebonnets, milk thistle, native plants and other assorted wild flowers. We looped the trail back and forth and after 30 min we decided to head down the road and sample the Westcave Winery while we waited for the next tour.
Westcave Cellers Winery
Westcave Cellers was a quick 2 minutes down the road from the Preserve making it very easy to have a mid-day treat before the tour. The vineyard is just over 8 acres and set back from the road along Hamilton Pool road and the tasting room is open daily including Sunday. You can select from a sampling of reds, whites, or both for about $10. The wine Sommelier and owner were both friendly and delightful, eager to share their story and educate about their wines. They have live music on the weekends and anyone is welcome to come, sip, sit and enjoy! The wines were full bodied, lush and delish. Had I not already joined a wine club last year I would have jumped on this, and am kicking myself because I would much rather support a Texas vineyard.
Back at the Preserve, we showed up for the 2pm tour and our guide was thoughtful, knowledgeable and took us from the visitor center to the top of the trail overlooking the Pedernales River, then down the trail into the cave area and preserve. The trail snakes its way down to the bottom of the canyon, the river is lined with gorgeous, huge bald cypress trees, ferns and wild prehistoric horsetail reed. Coming around the final bend the canyon opens up to the pristine overhang of the cave, lush greenery and a small waterfall, Westcave Springs, trickling down the front.
The Preserve itself is protected land; private and accessed by tour group only. Our guide explained that the property used to be open to the public but then closed because everywhere the moss and fern are now growing was all stripped away due to the overuse of the area. He said, “the only green was the Mountain Dew bottles littered in the water by the rocks!” The area has since been in recovery mode and now a beautiful landscape and park adding to the beauty and desire of the Texas Hill Country. The Cave up on the right side of the grotto is still expanding and growing, as is most caves. The water trickling down from the hillside collects and forms the tiny tubes from the ceiling forming what will eventually become stalagmites and stalactites.
The last stop on our Daycation was Pieous Pizza on Hwy 290 outside of Dripping Springs. Perfect way to end the day, grab a glass of wine with the ladies and recap our awesome day. We grabbed a couple salads and sampler plates, two pies and sat out on the porch enjoying the beautiful weather and relaxing from a long day of education and adventure. Get there early if you don’t want to wait too long in line. They do not take call in orders but you can download an App that will allow you to order/pick up before 4pm on most days. The employees focus on the people in store and therefore don’t want to be kept up on the phone or dealing with call ins, which is great. Try the bacon jam, it’s mouthwatering!
Till next time… Adventure on Y’all!