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Trails Information

Explore an ancient world in the Hill Country.

Tranquility, exploration and adventure await you in this peaceful, tropical setting. The lush habitat provides for diverse plant life, such as the park's namesake, the dwarf palmetto.

Bring a fishing pole or explore one of the well-maintained trails with a bike or on foot.


All trails are hiking and biking unless otherwise indicated. 

This list may not include all trails in the park.

Trail Distance Time Difficulty Description
Palmetto Interpretive Trail 0.3 mi. 30 min. Easy This short trail gives you a good idea of the variety of habitats in this crossroads of ecoregions. Learn about the plants, animals and cultural heritage of the area from the many interpretive panels.
Oxbow Lake Trail 0.7 mi. 45 min. Easy Take a leisurely stroll around the 4-acre Oxbow Lake. This is a great place to look for birds, such as herons and kingfishers.
Mesquite Flats Trails 1.1 mi. 1 hr. Moderate This trail is the best place in the park to see mesquite trees. Native to Texas, this hardy, drought-tolerant plant is an invasive plant in some places, such as ranches, where it out-competes grasses.
Ottine Swamp Trail 1.0 mi. 1 hr. Moderate Named for the nearby town of Ottine, many of the ephemeral swamps can be seen off of this trail as it meanders through the area.
San Marcos River Trail 1.3 mi. 1.5 hr. Moderate This trail borders much of the San Marcos River and is rich in wildlife, especially birds.
Mossycup Spur 0.3 mi. 30 min. Easy This trail is a good place to spot North America's largest native acorn, the bur oak acorn, averaging 1 to 1.5 inches in length. It gets its "mossy cup" name from the fringe around the edge of the acorn cup. 
Canebrake Spur 0.1 mi. 15 min.  Easy This trail is named for the "canebrake" or "timber" rattlesnake. More common in the eastern third of Texas, this snake at Palmetto State Park is indicative of the unique ecosystem here.
Park HQ Trail 0.2 mi. 30 min. Easy A quick hike down this trail gets you to the day-use and tent camping areas of the park. Rent a kayak or paddleboard, cast a fishing line, or stay in the cabin for the night.
List of Trails

Points of Interest

GPS coordinates shown in decimal degrees.

Point Latitude Longitude 360° Views Description
Oxbow Lake 25.5937° -97.5874° View of Oxbow Lake from the fishing pier Once part of the San Marcos River, this 4-acre bow-shaped body of water was formed when erosion cut a wide meander from the main channel of the river. Enjoy this lake's serenity in kayaks or on paddleboards, or see if you can catch a fish!
Artesian Well 29.5929° -97.5870° View of the Artesian Well Created by the CCC, the artesian well and "mud boil" re-creation keep water levels up in the three ponds in this area.
Low-water Crossing 29.5899° -97.5850° View from the Low-water Crossing This low-water footpath crossing on the San Marcos River is a great place to look for wildlife.
CCC Refectory 29.5895° -97.5838° View of the CCC Refectory

View of the CCC Refectory patio with picnic tables

View of the CCC Refectory back porch

View inside the CCC Refectory
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the refectory was designed to emphasize the park's natural features.
Extinct Mud Boils 29.5882° -97.5825° View of the Extinct Mud Boils Extinct since the 1970s, this depression in the ground was once a "mud boil," a place where water heated deep within the earth bubbles to the surface.
CCC Water Tower 29.5870° -97.5842° View of the CCC Water Tower The Civilian Conservation Corps installed a pump here in 1936 to supply the nearby group picnic shelter with water. Today, it pumps water into a 1930s-era cistern and water tower for release into the wetlands along the Palmetto Interpretive Trail.
List of Points of Interest

Staying Safe

  • Know your limits. Prepare for sun and heat. Wear sunscreen, insect repellent and appropriate clothing/hiking shoes.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your body quickly loses fluids when you’re on the trail. Bring a quart of water per hour of activity.
  • Tell others where you’ll be. If possible, avoid exploring alone. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Wear a helmet. When mountain biking, check with park HQ to match the trail to your skill level. Wear a helmet to protect yourself in case of a crash.
  • Potentially harmful plants and animals live here. You’ll see them more easily if you stay on trails. Do not approach wildlife!

Trail Etiquette

  • Trash your trash. Keep the park natural. Pack out all of your trash and Leave No Trace.
  • Leave feeding to nature. Feeding wild animals will make them sick and more likely to harm people.
  • Take only memories and pictures. Please don't disturb or remove any of the park's plants, animals or artifacts.
  • Keep pets on leashes for their safety, and to protect wildlife.