A Day in the Pines- Buescher State Park, Smithville, Bastrop County, Texas

trailhead sign

Buescher (pronounced Bisher) State Park is the little sibling of Bastrop State Park. In fact, State Park Road 1C connects the parks which are only about 4 miles apart. The three things they have in common; sandy trails for the most part although they are still in the hill country, Pine Trees; lots of them, and sadly, they have both suffered major damage from wildfires, Bastrop in the 2011 Bastrop Complex Fire the largest in Texas History, and in 2015 the 5000-acre Hidden Pines Fire destroyed most of Buescher’s pines.

starting out

The hike started off on the Woodland Trail. Happily, this trail winds through a forest of mixed hardwoods and Eastern Red Cedar. Red Cedar differs from Ash Juniper or Mountain Cedar in that it grows tall with the pines whereas the Mountain Cedar has a more bush like structure. Today I am headed out on a 9 mile hike which is a lollipop route to the far reaches of the park. I was here in 2018 but most of the trails were still closed due to the fire and I didn’t find the place all that nice. What a difference a few years makes! My route will take me over the Woodland Trail, the Pine Gulch Trail and the Roosevelt Cutoff, which will form the roughly 9 mile route.

starting out the pine gulch trail

Buescher is one of the parks built by the CCC. 318 acres of the land was donated in the 30’s by Emil and Elizabeth Buescher. Upon Mr. Buescher’s death his heirs gave the state an additional 318 and the rest was acquired from the City of Smithville. The park consists of 1016 acres. Once over 1700 acres the State cut out 700 acres and gave it to the University of Texas at Austin to build a research center for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Hospital. I think they were splitting atoms last time I was here as something at the research center was buzzing so loudly you could hear it all over the park.

recreation hall built by the CCC.

The Companies 1805 and 1811 of the CCC worked in this park between 1933 and 1936 although construction here wasn’t as extensive as at Bastrop.

Anyway, back to hiking. I turned left on the Pine Gulch Trail (see picture above) and soon came to the road and the only overlook at this park.

view from the Buescher Park Overlook

I soon saw why this was called the Pine Gulch Trail. The trail skirted a deep wide ravine that was of course full of Pine Trees. Most of the trees are only ten to fifteen feet tall as the area continues to recover from the fire. I did find some nice stands of fully grown pines that survived the destruction.

As I circled back towards the Woodland Trail, I came into the part that was most burnt. It is still struggling to regrow the pines.

The trail topped out into a prairie, so I took the Roosevelt Cutoff back to the hills and pines where I would rather be. The Roosevelt Cutoff was named for U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who created the CCC. Back at the pine gulch area I hiked back to the overlook which had tables. Here I ate a snack and rested for a few minutes before the last mile and a half back to the car along the Woodland Trail.

view into Pine Gulch

I really liked this park, it reminded me of hiking back home in NC with the pines, sandy trails and the wonderful pine smell and a surprising amount of elevation gain throughout the hike.

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