Hiking at Balcones Canyonlands

Most of my posts are about photography but this one will be about hiking as well.

Winter in central Texas is really ideal hiking weather. The temperatures are very mild, usually not getting above 70°F and It doesn’t rain much in January. Contrast this to July and August, during which daytime temperatures can hit well over 100°F in the afternoon, which takes all the fun out of it for me.

On Sunday I wanted to check out the Doeskin Ranch trails at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, which is not far from my house. I had been to another part of the wildlife refuge to take some sunset photos, and I had wanted to check out these hiking trails. You can find a map of the trails here. I cut part of that out and put it below. As you can see, you can hike around for 3 or 4 miles out there with some elevation changes.


I wasn’t going to pack all my heavy camera gear along, so I only brought the D750 with a 70-200mm lens, which is light enough for me to comfortably carry around. I chose this lens because I thought I might see some animals for which I’d want the 200mm reach and I figured that I could make 70mm work for other photos.

The sky was blue and during my hike the nearly full moon was coming up on the eastern horizon as the sun was sinking. Moon pictures don’t usually look good without a really long lens. But, I took this picture of the hillside with the moon above at 200mm focal length and I think it turned out nice. Incredibly clear blue skies. Great day for a hike!

Moon over Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

I want to come back to this place in mid-spring when the grasses will be a bit greener and perhaps some wildflowers will be in bloom. Below is a bare tree with the hills in the background. This is at about 170mm as I was trying to keep the hills from getting too compressed in the distance. I was also shooting around some power lines in the distance and a large tree next to me. The trail winds down into the valley to the right.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Below is another lonely tree that I am attempting to use to show the slope of the hill in the background. Without this for reference, it just looks like I was holding the camera at an angle. My idea is dividing the picture diagonally with the blue sky and hillside. This will probably work better when the place greens up in the spring.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Toward the end of my hike, I came to a massive live oak surrounded by the golden grass lit by the setting sun. I backed up as far as I could, and at 70mm focal length I just managed to just get the entire tree in the shot. Would have like more of the golden grass in the foreground.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

I had a lot of trouble getting this photo to show up with out faint banding in the blue in the sky. I could have fixed this with a giant image, but this one is over 3 MB.

The weather was perfect, the trails were nice. I was able to get to the Rimrock trail and the Indian Grass trail which provided a nice hike through the hills. There were plenty of others out enjoying the trails so I was seldom alone for long. There were a few places with switchback climbs, but it wasn’t too bad.  I had a wonderful time and can’t wait to get back. The Pacer app I used reported that I hiked about 3.92 miles over 2 hours when I got back to my car.

Thanks for reading.




3 thoughts on “Hiking at Balcones Canyonlands

  1. How do you carry the camera when you’re walking> I usually use the normal camera strap over one shoulder but it can get a bit awkward when you’re carrying a rucksack as well, especially if you need to climb over things. If I carry it in the rucksack then inevitably I can’t retrieve it quickly enough if I see something interesting 🙂


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