Get outside and challenge yourself at these three destinations

Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center

As part of the National Audubon Society who’s mission is to “conserve and restore natural ecosystems,” the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is one out of just four Audubon Recognized centers in Texas. This 1,200-acre area located on the south side of San Antonio is a nice place to enjoy a quiet walk and explore all that Mother Nature has to offer. With over 300 identified bird species stopping by throughout the year, Mitchell Lake has become an ideal location for bird watching. Not only does the center offer birding tours, visitors can also sign up for docent training, learning bird and plant identification, nature center procedures, and wildlife management in an eight-week course ($35). Other fall-scheduled events include a nature plant walk with Leslie Pasztor (Oct 1, 9am-12pm); Maura Nowalk of the San Antonio River Authority presents a talk on the “San Antonio River Watershed and You” (Oct 15, 9am-10:30am); and the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center’s Annual Fall Wildlife Festival and Plant Sale (Oct 22, 9am-4pm). $2 entrance fee, under 5 free ($5 for tours and programs), Sat & Sun 8am–4pm (open during the week by appointment only), 10750 Pleasanton Rd, (210) 628-1639,


Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Located outside Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is best known for its 425-foot pink granite dome. The park offers several different hiking trails accessible to all different skill levels and even a newly completed handicapped trail. Not only can you take in the idyllic natural setting while on one of the seven miles of trails, visitors can also take part in free rock climbing. Serious climbers can attempt the park’s 1,000-foot Enchanted Rock Fissure. Overnight camping is also available. Get a crash course in the fine science of sleeping under the stars with a two-day workshop (Oct 15-16, $65 per family up to 6). Texas Parks & Wildlife will also be having a “mini expo,” a family friendly event with activities for kids of all ages and a live snake exhibit (Oct 1,10am-3pm). Other scheduled calendar events include a bird watching walk with Audubon Society members Ed Fair and Stu Wilson (Oct 8, 7:30-1 am). $6 entrance fee, under 12 free (additional fees apply for camping), 16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg, (830) 685-3636, tpwd.state.


Government Canyon State Natural Area

With numerous trails available, Government Canyon State Natural Area has become especially popular with hikers and mountain bikers. But you don’t have to be a serious outbacker to enjoy the park. Located just outside of San Antonio, this 8,624-acre park first opened in 2005 and has quickly gained notoriety for all its natural features. “Hike the Canyon” is a 4- to 7-mile group hike, open to ages 13 and up (Oct 8, 8:30am-12:30pm). Every first Sunday of the month the park offers a 3-mile “Haiku Hike,” a combination of silent hiking and creative writing, led by local poet Mobi Warren (Oct 2, 8:30am-12:30pm). $6 entrance fee (under 12 free), Fri-Mon 7am-10pm, closed Tue & Thu, 12861 Galm Rd, (210) 688-9055, tpwd.state. — Yvonne Zamora

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