Bastrop State Park owes its impressive beauty to the presence of the “Lost Pines,” the westernmost forest of loblolly pines in the country, separated from their nearest neighbors in east Texas by 100 miles. Also of interest are several buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Considered an excellent example of the rustic, non-intrusive architectural style of the National Park Service, the structures earned the park a rare National Historic Landmark designation. Tragically, a fire spread throughout the Bastrop area in the summer of 2011, affecting 96 percent of the park. In spite of this damage, the ashen forests retain a stark beauty of their own, and the beginning signs of new growth returning to the area offers a hopeful experience of the enduring powers of nature.
The park is just 30 miles east of Austin, with immediate access off of Highway 71. It can be a popular destination, with a busy season running from spring all the way through the fall. Bastrop’s considerable size, however — 6,000 acres of seemingly endless woods — provide plenty of room for peaceful wandering. Be warned that the close proximity to the highway means road noise can often be heard in the park, especially in the Copperas Creek area. As of publication, the restroom facilities are under construction and portions of the Lost Pines trail and the primitive camping areas are inaccessible due to fire damage. The park has a $4 daily entrance fee, though kids 12 and under get in free.
The park boasts 93 camping sites over four camping areas: the 7 walk-in and 16 tent-only sites go for $12 a night, and the 70 sites with hookups run from $17-20 a night. At the time of writing, the restroom facilities are closed for reconstruction, with portable toilets located at the Piney Hill and Copperas Creek campgrounds. A single temporary shower facility is available at Piney Hill. Primitive camping is currently not allowed, but before the fire 50 primitive campsites were available for $10 a night. There are also 14 cabins that showcase the remarkable CCC architecture and provide full amenities: bedding, a/c, fireplaces, kitchen facilities, bathrooms, and more. These range from $80 for the smallest (sleeps 2) to $200 for the largest (sleeps 8) per night. Pets are not allowed in cabins.
Bastrop State Park provides 11 trails for exploring the pine forests, taking you past scenic overlooks, sandstone outcrops and impressive CCC architecture. Although most are under a mile and take only 10-15 minutes to complete, many of them connect with each other and the park has suggested routes to keep you busy for half an hour to a full day of hiking. The short paths aren’t too strenuous, with a surface of soft sand and gravel under a layer of pine needles and minimal elevation changes. Each trail is also color coded, both on the map and along the trail with colored markers placed on trees, simplifying navigation. The real jewel though of the park though is the Lost Pines Trail, a 7-mile trail that winds through some of the tallest pines and deepest gullies in the park. Unfortunately, about half of the trail is currently closed due to fire damage and replanting efforts.
Bikes are not allowed on the trails in order to minimize soil erosion. However, Park Road 1C is a scenic, 12-mile ride through the pines that connects Bastrop to Buescher State Park and is a favorite route for cyclists.
On the Water
Canoes are available to rent by the hour or day to enjoy on the park lake. A swimming pool is also available with an additional entrance fee.