Airfield Falls, Texas

For such a large state, Texas seems to have few well-known waterfalls. Many of the “advertised” waterfalls are found in and around Austin (Upper McKinney FallsGorman FallsPedernales Falls, and more) or in/near Big Bend National Park (which I have yet to visit). I did a bit of research and couldn’t find many other waterfalls, especially near big cities. Near Dallas/Fort Worth, two searches results consistently show up…Kickapoo Falls and Airfield Falls. I wanted to visit Kickapoo Falls, but realized it was even further outside of Dallas than I expected, and I’ve also read that not much water flows there now. So instead, I headed to Airfield Falls, which is not far outside of Fort Worth.

Airfield Falls doesn’t seem to be advertised as much currently, though the falls were busy when I visited. There’s just not a lot written about them yet, nor is there even an extremely clear map to find the falls. It’s so named because it’s near an airfield associated with the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. I believe there may be a way to get to the falls by heading toward the entrance to the base. I instead parked along Westworth Boulevard.

After a bit of confusion about which direction to head to find the falls, I finally was on the right track, and came upon the falls after walking for 10-15 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to find the falls looking like they were natural falls. (I had just visited waterfalls in Oklahoma that seemed more man-made than expected.) The cliffs on the side have clearly been altered, but that doesn’t detract from the overall perception. If I were looking for a short trek to a beautiful waterfall not far outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area, Airfield Falls is a great choice.

Directions:

  1. From I-35W or I-30, head onto TX-183. If you are on I-30, you’d head heading north (then east) on TX-183, while you’d be heading west (then south) if you get off I-35W.
  2. The road seems to change names a number of times. You’re looking for the middle stretch near the airfield where the road is referred to as Westworth Boulevard.
  3. Looking at Google Maps, it appears you can turn onto Pumphrey Way and head north to the Airfield Falls Conservation Park, which has some interesting items there. From this park, you would head east along the paved trail to the falls. I instead parked on the shoulder of Westworth Boulevard, where there was a sign for the trail to the falls. I parked on the right (north) side of the road. From there, I connected into the trail. You want to head UPSTREAM, and when you reach the side-creek to your left, veer along that trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 8′
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip from the Conservation Park on Pumphrey Way; 1.2 miles round-trip from Westworth Boulevard

Airfield Falls (83)

Airfield Falls in March 2018

Where in the World is Airfield Falls?

Hamilton Pool Falls, Texas

Hamilton Pool Falls in December 2011

Texas does have waterfalls! That might not come as a shock to some, but for the 2nd largest state, it can be rather difficult to obtain a list of the waterfalls in the state. They aren’t all advertised particularly well. Many of these falls are found in the Austin area (or to the west). Pedernales Falls and McKinney Falls are the two most widely known in the area.

If you’re looking for an even less advertised waterfall, look for Hamilton Pool Falls. It’s not particularly difficult to find, as a county park is designated for the Hamilton Pool Preserve. The hike to the falls is very enjoyable, and the geology of the area is intriguing. A large overhang has been formed, so you can walk under/behind the falls, and I enjoyed photographing the rock layers above. In December 2011, though, there hadn’t been a significant amount of rain in the area for a while. If I remember correctly, the state had been experiencing drought conditions. Hamilton Pool Falls had been reduced to a trickle, though if you look closely, you’ll notice enough water was flowing to at least capture it was a waterfall! After an intense rainfall, Hamilton Pool Falls looks better, at least from the photos I’ve seen.

I would suggest checking the county website for updates on the falls if you’re planning on visiting.

Directions:

  1. From Austin, head west on US-290/TX-71. When they branch off, continue northwest onto TX-71.
  2. Keep driving on TX-71 until you approach the town of Bee Cave. In the Bee Cave area, turn left onto 3238, Hamilton Pool Road.
  3. Drive along Hamilton Pool Road until you reach the Hamilton Pool Preserve. The parking area will be on your right.
  4. There is an entrance fee to the park, and parking is somewhat limited, though we had no difficulty parking in late December. From the parking area, follow the trail the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Hamilton Pool Falls?

Cascade Cavern Falls, Texas

Cascade Cavern Falls at very low flow in December 2011

When you’ve visiting Cascade Cavern in central Texas, it’s unlikely that your focus will be on an underground waterfall…And yet it’s just really cool that there’s a waterfall underground in the middle of Texas. That’s not exactly where you would expect to find any falls.

The Cavern is impressive, and it’s hard not to enjoy the views. Along the way, you’ll see a salamander that is specific to this cave and just one other. You might also see a rare species of bat. At the end of the journey, you’ll enter a central “hall”, and at the end of that is Cascade Cavern Falls. Now, the photo isn’t really that great in the first place. It was hard to get a really good shot of the falls considering we had about 5 minutes at this point. To further complicate things, there wasn’t much water flowing at all. I’ve seen photos with more water, but drought in the area may have drastically reduced the flow. Oh well, it’s still a very cool place to visit!

Directions:

  1. Take exit #543 from US-10.
  2. Follow the signs to Cascade Cavern.
  3. There is an entrance fee. Pay the entrance fee and then enjoy the trip!

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, most people should be able to do this)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip (?)

Where in the World is Cascade Cavern Falls?

Gorman Falls, Texas

Gorman Falls in December 2011

Gorman Falls is one of those ethereal places on earth that I’m not really sure how to describe. The falls are unlike many other falls I’ve ever seen. They are least where you would expect them, emerging from a spring near the base of the falls. So instead of being confined to one or two paths, the falls seems to fall in whatever way it pleases.

I found the falls to be extremely enjoyable, but they are a little bugger to photograph. I found that the most photogenic viewpoint was right at the end of the stairs, taking a right. There was this clay “ledge” of sorts where you could get beautiful views of the water cascading down, but at that vantage point, you can’t see the whole falls. When you try to see the falls in its entirety, which can be difficult, it seems less photogenic, as each little sub-fall is thin and wispy. So from the side, all of those add up to make it appear “fuller.” It’s just a fun place to explore and try to get unique and interesting pics. And the travertine (calcium deposits) only make it that more impressive.

Directions:

  1. From Lampasas, I headed west on Farm Road 580, which is paved.
  2. After 20 miles or so, you’ll clearly see a sign for the entrance to Colorado Bend State Park. If you are heading west, the entrance will be on your left. (I think it might be county road 442.)
  3. After you turn, it will seem odd. There are numerous signs indicating private property, so keep following the signs that lead to the entrance to the park.
  4. After about a mile, a sign will indicate the Gorman Falls Trail. Turn left here.
  5. Drive to the end of the road, park, and pay the entrance fee at the self-pay box.
  6. Follow the trail. (Look for armadillos…We came across one foraging.)

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate, This is NOT a bad trail, but it is by no means handicapped-accessible. Near the end, it does get a little bit steep, but on the way back up it is not bad.)
Height: 70′
Length of Hike: 3 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Gorman Falls?

Pedernales Falls, Texas

Pedernales Falls is one of the larger waterfalls in Texas, a very large state without a lot of waterfalls. The falls are pretty wide, but not considerably tall. When I visited in January 2011, there wasn’t a huge amount of water flowing over the falls, but I’m under the impression the flow might be even lower currently (in summer/fall 2011). There has been a drought in Texas, and warnings on the Pedernales Falls facebook page have talked about wildfires nearby.

When you visit at a time when there is water, it’s very pleasant. It was warm, but not outrageously so. If you don’t live in the area, choose your visit carefully, though.  Of the three days I was in the area, two of those days were not open to everyone because of scheduled hunts. You can now electronically reserve a visit on the Texas parks website.

Directions:

  1. Head west out of Austin on US-290.
  2. After some distance, you’ll see a sign for Pedernales Falls State Park. Turn right onto Ranch Road 3232.
  3. Head north for about 9 miles to the entrance. There’s a fee to enter the park.
  4. Head to the parking area. A trail there heads directly to the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Pedernales Falls in January 2011

Where in the World is Pedernales Falls?

Upper McKinney Falls, Texas

Upper McKinney Falls in January 2011

I showed up to McKinney Falls State Park when there clearly wasn’t a whole lot of water flowing down the river. At the right time, you could see a waterfall that looks very different. With flash flooding, it could even be dangerous.

Even without all of the water flowing, Upper McKinney Falls is still pretty interesting. In this case, it’s really all about erosion. At higher flows, you probably wouldn’t notice this. At low flow, though, the water clearly chooses the paths that erosion has created. At this low flow, you can actually explore and jump over each of the different mini-rivers that are present. It also allows for fun with the camera trying to get different shots of the water plunging.

Directions:

  1. I came from I-35 heading north. I believe I exited at Texas route 71 and headed to the right (east).
  2. I then took the exit for Burleson Road, taking a right onto Burleson.
  3. Keep heading down Burleson Road to McKinney Falls Parkway. At that point, there should be a sign indicating the falls. Turn right onto McKinney Falls Parkway.
  4. Head to the sign indicating the entrance to the park, and enter the park.
  5. At the entrance, pay the entry fee and then follow the signs. Upper McKinney Falls is near the visitor’s center, and there’s much less likelihood of getting “lost” when compared to Lower McKinney Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 5′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Rocks near Upper McKinney Falls

Where in the World is Upper McKinney Falls?

Lower McKinney Falls, Texas

I showed up to McKinney Falls State Park when there clearly wasn’t a whole lot of water flowing down the river. At the right time, you could see a waterfall that looks very different. With flash flooding, it could even be dangerous.

Even without all of the water flowing, Lower McKinney Falls (and its Upper partner) were still interesting. In this case, it’s really all about erosion. At higher flows, you probably wouldn’t notice this. At low flow, though, the water clearly chooses the paths that erosion has created. At this low flow, you can actually explore and jump over each of the different mini-rivers that are present. It also allows for fun with the camera trying to get different shots of the water plunging.

Directions:

  1. I came from I-35 heading north. I believe I exited at Texas route 71 and headed to the right (east).
  2. I then took the exit for Burleson Road, taking a right onto Burleson.
  3. Keep heading down Burleson Road to McKinney Falls Parkway. At that point, there should be a sign indicating the falls. Turn right onto McKinney Falls Parkway.
  4. Head to the sign indicating the entrance to the park, and enter the park.
  5. At the entrance, pay the entry fee and then follow the signs. The first falls is Lower McKinney Falls.
  6. It’s a short but rather confusing hike to the falls, especially on the return. There are no signs, and there are multiple trails that often lead to dead ends. Just pay attention!

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 5′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Lower McKinney Falls in January 2011

Where in the World is Lower McKinney Falls?