Turn onto State Highway 71 and drive just a few dozen miles east of Austin, and the landscape changes. When the trees get taller and you see your first loblolly pine, you’re almost there.
This thicket of pines and hardwood trees has sheltered travelers for centuries, even acting as a stop on the El Camino Real de los Tejas, a 1600s-era roadway between Mexico and Texas.
Residents of Bastrop — considered to be the third-oldest settlement in Texas — used these trees to support local building booms during the 1800s.
When the state acquired this land in the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps and architect Arthur Fehr built the park structures. Their work eventually earned the park National Historic Landmark status, making Bastrop State Park one of just seven parks of its kind to have the recognition.
In 2011, a devastating wildfire burned through 32,000 acres in the Bastrop area, destroying 1,600+ homes and affecting 96% of the state park. Researchers predict full forest recovery is more than a generation away, but visitors can already see signs of new growth and fresh life among the trees.
What to see
First, look up.
If it seems odd to see pine trees in Central Texas, that’s because it is: these loblolly pines are known as the ”Lost Pines” of Texas, because they’re isolated as the species’ westernmost stand in the country.
According to pollen records, these pines have been growing in the Bastrop area for 18,000+ years. So, we suggest you listen to reader Steve K.: “Take a deep breath. Smell the pines.”
What to do
With 6,600 acres to explore, there’s plenty to do at Bastrop State Park, including:
- Camping, starting at $15 per night
- Hiking and biking
Make a reservation to visit.