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I'm so glad this trail reopened. I hiked it a few times after the May rains, when there was tons of water in the creek. I usually start at the bottom and go two or three miles then turn back, since the upper section is not quite as pretty. The creek is gorgeous and there are several small waterfalls that empty into picturesque pools. There isn't much solitude--this is (rightfully) a popular trail. This would be a good place to hike while training for a backpacking trip. Stairs and more stairs!
My dog and I started at the alternate trailhead and took the trail 3 miles to the Fox Bottom Primitive Campground. The trail winds in and out of small wooded areas, but spends much of its time in meadows with tall grasses and wildflowers. In places the trail was almost entirely obscured by grass, but common sense plus occasional trail markers made it impossible to get lost. I did not see any cow patties or snakes. The driftwood has been cleared off the trail. I did see a fair amount of poison ivy, but it was *mostly* outside the trail zone. Although it was a gorgeous day, we only saw one person on the trail.
We spent the night at the campground in blissful solitude - no one else around other than a few folks going by in small boats. The campground was quite overgrown and had poison ivy around its edges. The chemical toilet was full of trash and unusable. There are two short trails from the campsite that provide access to the San Gabriel River, but one of them has a deep drop-off such that it is pretty much impossible to climb back out of the water after you swim. My dog jumped in and couldn't get out - I jumped in, gave him a hefty shove onto the bank, then realized that I couldn't get out either! Ha. Luckily the other river access location is quite a bit easier to climb out of. That one is still a fairly good drop-off, though, which makes filtering water a bit of a balancing and stretching exercise.
I've been hiking Turkey Creek with my dog for a while now, but this spring has been fantastic. The frequent rains have made the creek nice and wet, and there are plenty of great doggie swimming holes. I love that this trail has both a shady, flat section and a rocky section with some hills and open spaces. Due to the water levels, I wear my Keen water shoes, and splash happily through the creek crossings while watching other people curse when they slip off a log and get their "real" shoes wet.
At the recommendation of a ranger, I hiked a portion of the Pine Gulch loop and skipped the Woodlands trail. The Pine Gulch loop has a couple of optional cutoffs, which helps you set your chosen distance - perfect for me that day since I had somewhere to be. I took the Roosevelt's Cutoff. I'll be back soon to hike the whole thing. This is a very pretty trail thanks to the great pine trees. You're hiking on a carpet of pine needles and smelling the intoxicating scent of pines along your entire hike. The Bastrop fires didn't affect the pines in this area, so you can almost forget that ever happened. :(
The Austin Parks Foundation website confirms that this is an official off-leash dog park (other than the playground areas, where leashes are required). The walk to the first creek crossing is 3/4 mile down what is basically a Jeep trail. From there you can play fetch in the shallow creek, then cross the creek and ascend a small hill to the rest of the trails. There is a veritable spaghetti bowl of trails up there, so you can really choose your own distance. I've done a couple of them, and even with a map, it is easy to get turned around since they're so twisty. Horses are allowed on these trails, so there is a good amount of horse poop (dogs think that is super fun to roll in!) but I've never actually seen a horse in the 5+ times I've been there this year.