I heard about a cave system near Austin that had hiking trails, so I just had to check it out. There are actually two parks where trails can be connected for a further distance, the main one being the Discovery Well Cave Preserve. Next to it is the Buttercup Creek Cave Preserve. Both are worth checking out.
Check out my video below to see what it looks like in some of the caves!
About Discovery Well Cave Preserve
Located just west of Cedar Park and NW of Austin sits a huge cave system right in the middle of a subdivision. This 108-acre preserve was acquired in 2002 when TxDOT needed to expand HWY 183 for the toll road. In order to expand the highway, they had to destroy Jug Cave (an endangered species cave due to a rare cave beetle called Rhadine Persephone) and were required to locate another cave system with this rare beetle to make it into a preserve. The stipulation was that it had to be at least a 100-acre site and have at least three caves. The area that the Discover Well Cave Preserve sits on, is the only site that came close to these requirements.
In 2008 the management of the Discovery Well Cave Preserve was transferred to the City of Cedar Park.
When you first pull up you will notice the only parking is within the cul-de-sac and only 2 (maybe 3) cars can fit. Once we got our packs and water out, we headed towards the only trail I could see.
There are 3.7 miles of hiking trails within Discovery Well Cave Preserve with a total of three different trails. The main trail is marked by a blue blaze and makes a loop back to the entrance.
We did not do the red or green trails which just criss-cross over and intersect with the blue trail.
Finding the Entrance
I assumed the trail we came to, was part of the trail system in the preserve. It was not, but did lead us the long way to the gated entrance which is located to the left of the playground (if you are looking towards the playground from the street).
The Blue Trail
We decided to take the blue trail which is the main trail and loop. Every so often you will find blue markers reminding you that you are still on the blue trail.
Along the blue trail, you will find many cave entrances that are covered with gates and informational plaques. The gates were put in place to keep humans out but allow water and critters free access.
After entering the gate, we just kept left (there was no sign or marking saying which way to go). For the most part, the trails are not marked well and even the areas that are marked, it is pretty confusing.
If you do not have a good sense of direction, you may way to take a compass or GPS device (which should be part of the 10 Essentials you always take with you anyway). I don’t feel like there would be any way you could possibly get lost out here (just due to the fact that it is in a subdivision and surrounded by streets) but I have seen stranger things happen.
This trail was roughly 2.5 miles long and was flat and easy. It doesn’t appear to be well maintained and is very narrow at points, so I’d leave strollers at home.
Finding the Caves
I was excited to see our first cave, right on the trail, called Under Three Oaks Cave. Like all the other cave entrances, it is covered with a gate to stop humans from trying to explore, getting stuck, and requiring a rescue. This one has a small opening to allow smaller mammals through.
Oddly enough, we apparently passed by several others (not directly on the trail) but had no idea since at the time we did not have a map of the caves locations (which I later found):
Don’t expect a lot of cool scenery, the feature of this preserve is definitely the caves. You walk your way through mostly open prairie-type land with shaded areas within trees every now and then.
Shortly after passing the first cave, we came upon an informational plaque that stated that this location would be where the future Discovery Well Cave Preserve nature center and bathrooms would be located. You can see this in the video below.
Watch My Video
Directions & Information
Ranch at Cypress Creek Park
2003 Rachel Ridge
Cedar Park, TX 78613
Cedar Park Cave Location Map
HOURS: Daylight Hours Only
PARKING: Limited parking in the cul-de-sac (maybe 2 or 3 cars)
Other Info & Tips
Dog Friendly: pets are welcome at Discovery Well Cave Preserve but must be kept on a leash and you must pick up after them and dispose of the poop properly in trash cans located outside of the preserve.
Venture Off Trail: Most of the time you will hear me talk about Leave No Trace and staying on trail. However, at this park, it is encouraged to venture off-trail to find and learn about the other caves located within the park.
Parking is Limited: Parking is VERY limited at this point and the only parking available is within the very small cul-de-sac or along the streets (assuming you can find parking there).