DESTINATION: HIDDEN FALLS ADVENTURE PARK
Deep in the heart of Texas By Lane Lindstrom
Any riding area that shows up on nearly a dozen lists as one of the best places to ride deserves a look-see. It piques our interest when a riding area garners that kind of attention in Texas, a place that, in case you haven’t noticed, is pretty darn big.
We can’t help but wonder out loud if riding spots like Hidden Falls Adventure Park is a major reason the Lone Star State is number one in the United States for ATV and UTV sales. The truth is that riding parks like Hidden Falls, which is located about eight miles east of scenic Marble Falls (population 7037) in Texas’s Hill Country, are relatively rare. Texas is massive with a large population, but much of the state is private property. Riding parks in the state are mostly privately owned, probably because there are enough people with properties large enough to ride on to create powersports sales.
We’ve explored Hidden Falls on a couple of different rides and can see why it consistently shows up on must-ride lists in Texas. There’s an impressive array of beginner to more difficult and technical trails, most of which weave in and out of trees, across creeks, and up and down hills and ravines.
Since we’re talking Texas, we’re choosing to hit the highlights of our two Hidden Valley adventures through five “Texas isms.” And yes, that’s a real thing. Look it up.
EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS
Okay, compared to some national forests or other wide-open riding spaces like the Glamis sand dunes, maybe Hidden Falls isn’t “bigger.” However, with nearly 240 miles of trails crisscrossing 3000 acres, Hidden Falls is the largest off-road park in the state of Texas. There are trails for side-by-sides, ATVs, dirt bikes, jeeps, pickups and buggies.
Thanks to Hidden Falls sitting in the heart of Texas Hill Country, there are lots of hills and elevation changes, along with spots in various areas of the park where you can see the surrounding tree-covered hills and valleys. One of our favorite viewpoints is Wildcat Mountain (elevation 1,40 feet), which is not only the highest point in the park but also in Burnet County. From the top of Wildcat Mountain you can see for dozens of miles in all directions.
While Texas riding is mostly limited to private riding areas like Hidden Falls, there are some nice riding areas spread out all over Texas. Considering Hidden Falls is, as mentioned, almost always near the top of must-ride lists, that’s quite the bragging right in a place like Texas.
LIKE TRYING TO BAG FLIES
This Texas ism refers to the difficulty of any given situation. There are a handful of “fly bagging” trails in Hidden Falls. We took a roundabout way to Wildcat Mountain, riding several different trails from park headquarters. Maybe one of our favorites is North Pole trail, which runs along the northern border of the ride park and has, we think, some of the best technical terrain with hills and valleys and is one of the more scenic trails in Hidden Falls. The North Pole trail has some fun rock crawling where we were able to test our UTV’s capabilities, which are quite difficult in certain stretches. There are a couple of bypasses on the North Pole trail if you don’t feel like tackling the toughest parts.
Another technical trail is Royal Gorge, which is located over near the actual Hidden Falls. The sign says it’s for 4x4s and is a “level 5” trail, with level 5 being the most difficult in the park. We’re guessing a long-travel sport UTV, like an Arctic Cat Wildcat, Polaris RZR, Honda Talon, Kawasaki KRX or Can-Am Maverick, would be able to tackle it just fine. Still, another technical (and very fun) trail is North Peak, which is in the farthest corner of Hidden Falls and connects the West Loop and North Pole trails.
There is also a good mix of tight, twisty trails through thick stands of trees that are littered with rocks and tree roots. There were some very narrow spots where the Arctic Cat Wildcat X we were riding barely fit. In fact, we were brushing against the trees in spots.
Because there are plenty of trails, we hit a handful on our first ride at Hidden Falls, and then several new-to-us trails on our second ride. We mostly stuck to the Valley Road trail and the Green Loop and Green Spur during our first ride, while on our second trip we hit more than a half-dozen different trails. Those included (besides the main park roads) Valley Road, Vista, West Loop, North Pole, Turkey Run, Lazy Man, Wildcat and Red Oak. As mentioned before, North Pole is a favorite of ours, as is the West Loop, especially close to where it intersects with the North Pole trail. Turkey Run and Vista are also fun.
FASTER THAN A SCALDED CAT
There are trails in the park where you can open it up and gain some speed. One of the park rangers we rode with got our Wildcat up to 50-plus miles an hour a few times, although he was quick to point out that park officials do monitor speeds on certain park roads, especially the ones labeled “Park Road,” followed by a number (i.e. Park Road 1). When you get to the trails where you can hammer the throttle a bit, he said the speed limit is “as long as you’re in control.”
HOT AS A STOLEN TAMALE
Our park ranger and guide on our second ride explained that while Hidden Falls is open year round, the busy time for the park (read: ideal riding season) is “any time it’s cool.” That means June, July, August and the first half of September are hot and dusty. How hot? By June 1st it’s 89 degrees Fahrenheit, rising to 94 degrees by July 1st, and 96 degrees by the beginning of August. Add to that the fact that the area’s rainy season is mid-April to mid-June, and that translates into “very muggy.”
However, he did say that some diehard riders will ride the park at night during the summer months after the sun goes down and it cools off a bit.
During our first ride, which took place in January, we were warmly greeted by mid-60-degree temps and deep-blue skies. Our second ride was in late May, and it was much warmer but still fairly tolerable—nearly 86 degrees by the time we loaded our machines on the trailers at the end of our ride.
So, what about the falls named Hidden Falls, which are one of about 14 different falls in Hidden Falls Adventure Park? There was a trickle of water running in Camp Creek in January and May, as the creek is fed by a spring, but the falls, which are in another drainage, were not falling, as there was no water in that creek, except at the base of the falls where the water was pooled up and hadn’t evaporated yet. We hear the falls are impressive when they are flowing.
As dry as it was during our May ride, there were still a few “tanks” as our guide called them. These tanks are deep waterholes that he cautions riders should avoid, mostly because riders and drivers underestimate just how deep they are.
THIS AIN’T MY FIRST RODEO
Here are a few things to know before you go. Hidden Falls is open to the public Thursday through Sunday, but memberships are available that allow you to ride all week. Rates are available for a single day of riding to all weekend long. The day rate for one adult drive is $30, with a passenger for another $18. The website, www.hidden
fallsadventurepark.com, has all the details and current prices. ATV, UTV and motorcycle rentals are available on-site, as is camping (RV, cabins and tents).
Other things to keep in mind:
—Only ride on marked trails. Riding off-trail or “trail blazing” is not allowed.
—All ATV riders are required to always wear DOT-approved helmets. Those in UTVs with roll cages are required to wear seat belts. Helmets are recommended but not required.
—Night riding is permitted on Friday and Saturday nights. All persons and vehicles must be back at camp by midnight.
—Hidden Falls deserves its place on any Texas off-road must-ride list. And, you can take that to the bank.
HIDDEN FALLS ADVENTURE PARK
ELEVATION: 974–1,400 feet
TRAILS: 240 miles
Austin (59 miles)
GETTING STARTED: Hidden Falls Adventure Park’s contact info is (830) 798-9820 or
www.hiddenfallsadventurepark.com. Information is also available from the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce at (830) 693-4449 or www.marblefalls.org.
GETTING THERE: Hidden Falls is located on FM 1431, about eight miles east of Marble Falls.
GETTING AROUND: There are UTV, ATV and dirt bike rentals in Hidden Falls from Hill country Adventure Rentals (830) 693-3147 or www.hillcountryadventurerentals.com.
BEDDING DOWN: There are lots of camping/cabin/RV spots options in Hidden Falls. Or, if you don’t want to camp, the town of Marble Falls has several lodging options. Refer to the Chamber of Commerce website for lodging locations.
EATING OUT: Almost all of your dining options are in Marble Falls. There is a general store in Hidden Falls that sells food.