Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. Visiting Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is a great way to do just that: unplug. Go for a hike and look for signs of wildlife. Smell the flowers along the trail. Bring your binoculars and look for birds overhead. Use your smart phone or camera to capture the beauty of the wild. Spend some time reading or journaling at one of our observation decks. There are many ways to connect with nature at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge!  

Driving Directions

Since there are no fees required to visit, you are not required to start at our visitor information center. However, if you’d like to speak with a ranger or want to hike some easy trails, then head to our headquarters office. It’s located 5 miles west of Lago Vista on Farm to Market (FM) 1431 in Marble Falls. This location is closed on weekends and federal holidays, but our other public areas are open 365 days a year: 

Warbler Vista

Warbler Vista is located at 21646 ½ E. FM 1431 Lago Vista, TX 78654. If you are coming from the Austin area take Highway 183A to the exit for Whitestone Blvd. (aka FM 1431). Head west on FM 1431 and the entrance is on the north side of the road about 1.5 miles past Lago Vista.  

Driving from Warbler Vista to Doeskin Ranch (or vice versa) is a lovely 20 minute drive on scenic Cow Creek Road/County Road 328. You cannot enter the refuge from Cow Creek Road.  

Doeskin Ranch

Doeskin Ranch is located at 10645 FM 1174 Bertram, TX 78605. If you are coming from the Austin area, take Highway 183A to Highway 29 and turn west. Take Hwy 29 for 3 miles and turn left (west) on Ranch Road 1869. Take RR 1869 for 10 miles until it ends at RR 1174, where you will turn left (south). The entrance to Doeskin Ranch will be 2.5 miles on your left (east).  

Shin Oak Observation Deck

The Shin Oak Observation Deck is just around the corner from Doeskin Ranch. Leaving the Doeskin Ranch parking lot, make a right (north) and drive 2.5 miles to RR 1868 and make a right (east). Continue for 1.5 miles and turn right (south) into the parking lot for the Shin Oak Observation Deck. Note that there is only an observation deck at this location, there are no trails or restrooms.  

Fees

There is no charge to visit.

Restrooms

Restrooms are available inside the refuge headquarters/visitor information center. There are vault toilets at the Cactus Rocks trailhead parking lot at Warbler Vista, and at the Doeskin Ranch trailhead.  

Points of Interest

Are you visiting to see our rare and endangered birds? Visit Warbler Vista for a chance to see a golden-cheeked warbler (spring and summer) or the Shin Oak Observation Deck to look for black-capped vireos (spring and summer). If hiking is more your style, check out the trails at Doeskin Ranch. They vary in difficulty level from easy to difficult, so there is one (or more) that you can enjoy. If you prefer to take in nature while being still, drive or hike to the Sunset Deck at Warbler Vista. The Sunset Deck has spectacular views of Lake Travis and the Texas Hill Country.  

What to Do

If you have 15-minutes: 

  • Drive to the Sunset Deck at Warbler Vista and take in the amazing view. 

  • Visit the photo blind or hike our short trails located at the refuge headquarters. 

  • Hike the easy 0.4 mile Pond and Prairie trail at Doeskin Ranch to look for butterflies and other wildlife. 

If you have one hour:

  • Hike the Cactus Rocks trail at Warbler Vista. 

  • Hike the Creek and Pond & Prairie trails at Doeskin Ranch.  

If you have half a day or more:

  • Visit Warbler Vista and hike or drive to the Sunset Deck for an amazing view of Lake Travis and the Texas Hill Country. 

  • Hike 4 miles of trails at Warbler Vista. 

  • Hike 5 miles of trails at Doeskin Ranch. 

  • Drive to and hike at each of our public areas: Warbler Vista, Doeskin Ranch, and the Shin Oak Observation Deck. 

Know Before You Go

If you are visiting on a weekend day or federal holiday, our headquarters area will be closed. To access our public areas when they are open (365 days a year from dawn to dusk), you can drive directly to Doeskin Ranch, Warbler Vista, and the Shin Oak Observation Deck.  

We want you to have an enjoyable visit to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge so please come prepared: 

  • Bring plenty of water. We do not have water available at our trailheads but do have a water fountain in the Visitor Information Center. 

  • Use insect repellent and sunblock and bring it with you to reapply. 

  • Many of our hiking trails are rugged and rocky, so wear your hiking shoes or other appropriate closed-toe shoes to protect your feet.  

  • Dress for the weather and don’t forget a hat for sun protection. 

  • We don’t sell snacks or water in the Visitor Information Center. Please bring your own snacks and plenty of drinking water. 

Visitor Tips

Wildlife viewing is best early in the morning and in the public areas (Doeskin Ranch, Warbler Vista, and the Shin Oak Observation Deck) open daily at sunrise. If visiting the headquarters area of the refuge, you’ll be able to borrow binoculars, field guides, and look at the wildlife sightings board. Maps are available at the refuge headquarters (kiosk at front gate and in the Visitor Information Center), the trailhead at Doeskin Ranch, and at the Cactus Rocks trailhead (second parking lot) at Warbler Vista. 

Activities

There are many ways to enjoy your time at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. From hiking to student field trips, archery to wildlife watching, we offer a variety of ways to connect with nature.  

Trails

Trails at Doeskin Ranch 

Pond and Prairie Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.5 mile loop

Location of trail: Doeskin Ranch 

Surface: Half of this trail is paved and half is a natural surface 

Difficulty: Easy 

Creek Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.5 mile loop

Location of trail: Doeskin Ranch 

Surface: Natural 

Difficulty: Easy  

Rimrock Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 1.6 mile loop

Location of trail: Doeskin Ranch 

Surface: Natural and rocky 

Difficulty: Difficult 

Shin Oak Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.5 miles 

Location of trail: Doeskin Ranch 

Surface: Natural 

Difficulty: Easy 

To reach this loop trail, you must hike up half the Rimrock trail. 

Indiangrass Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 1.5 miles 

Location of trail: Doeskin Ranch 

Surface: Natural and sometimes rocky 

Difficulty: Moderate 

To reach this loop trail, you must hike up half of the Rimrock trail and part of the Shin Oak trail. 

Trails at Warbler Vista 

Quarry Canyon Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.6 miles 

Location of trail: Warbler Vista 

Surface: Steep and rocky  

Difficulty:  Difficult 

Out and back trail or hike to connect to other trails 

Boulder Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.4 miles 

Location of trail: Warbler Vista 

Surface: Rocky 

Difficulty:  Difficult 

Out and back trail or hike to connect to other trails 

Cactus Rocks Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 1.25 mile loop

Location of trail: Warbler Vista 

Surface: Sometimes rocky 

Difficulty: Moderate

Vista Knoll Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.5 mile loop

Location of trail: Warbler Vista 

Surface: Sometimes rocky 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Ridgeline Trail 

Open Season: Open year round during daylight hours. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 1.2 miles 

Location of trail: Warbler Vista 

Surface: Rocky and natural 

Difficulty: Moderate 

This loop takes you to the Sunset Deck 

Trails at Refuge Headquarters

Post Oak Trail 

Open Season: Open year round Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, except federal holidays. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.4 mile loop

Location of trail: Refuge Headquarters 

Surface: Natural  

Difficulty:  Easy 

Pollinator Path 

Open Season: Open year round Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, except federal holidays. Not open to biking or horseback riding. 

Length: 0.2 miles 

Location of trail: Refuge Headquarters 

Surface: Natural 

Difficulty:  Easy 

You must hike half of the Post Oak Trail to reach the entrance to the Pollinator Path loop.  

Related Documents

Below you can find a digital version of our brochure. It includes trail maps, summarized activities, and information about our refuge!

Rules and Policies

Keep your National Wildlife Refuge safe for wildlife and people by following these simple rules: 

  • Pets are not permitted. 

  • Alcohol is not permitted. 

  • Camping and overnight parking are not permitted. 

  • Fires or grilling is not permitted. 

  • Motorized vehicles (UTV/ATV) are not permitted on trails. 

  • Bicycles are not permitted on trails. 

Locations

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
24518 E. FM 1431 Marble Falls, TX 78654-4096
Driving Directions

Since there are no fees required to visit, you don’t have to start at our visitor information center, but if you’d like to speak with a ranger head to our headquarters office. It’s located 5 miles west of Lago Vista on Farm to Market (FM) 1431 in Marble Falls. This location is closed on weekends and federal holidays, so if you plan to arrive on one of those days, just head to our public areas that are open 365 days a year: 

Warbler Vista

Warbler Vista is located at 21646 ½ E. FM 1431 Lago Vista, TX 78654. If you are coming from the Austin area take Highway 183A to the exit for Whitestone Blvd. (aka FM 1431). Head west on FM 1431 and the entrance is on the north side of the road about 1.5 miles past Lago Vista.  

Driving from Warbler Vista to Doeskin Ranch (or vice versa) is a lovely 20 minute drive on scenic Cow Creek Road/County Road 328. You cannot enter the refuge from Cow Creek Road.  

Doeskin Ranch

Doeskin Ranch is located at 10645 FM 1174 Bertram, TX 78605. If you are coming from the Austin area, take Highway 183A to Highway 29 and turn west. Take Hwy 29 for 3 miles and turn left (west) on Ranch Road 1869. Take RR 1869 for 10 miles until it ends at RR 1174, where you will turn left (south). The entrance to Doeskin Ranch will be 2.5 miles on your left (east).  

Shin Oak Observation Deck

The Shin Oak Observation Deck is just around the corner from Doeskin Ranch. Leaving the Doeskin Ranch parking lot, make a right (north) and drive 2.5 miles to RR 1868 and make a right (east). Continue for 1.5 miles and turn right (south) into the parking lot for the Shin Oak Observation Deck. Note that there is only an observation deck at this location, there are no trails or restrooms.  

Hours
Headquarters Area and Office Hours
Mon - Fri
8 am - 4:30 pm
Doeskin Ranch, Warbler Vista and the Shin Oak Observation Deck
Daily
Dawn - Dusk