This past month, rain clouds have taken up residence in central Texas. The weather app displays thunderclouds over every day for the next week and a half. It is dark, humid, and warm outside; and this is unfortunate, seeing that outdoor activities are always the best option for entertainment in small town America. I know rain is good for Texas with our continual drought and all. But people…maybe you can take a break on praying for rain?
With all this rain, I’ve realized how much I love Belton’s outdoor attractions, and so I thought I’d write about them! In addition, Belton is only an hour from Austin and 45 minutes from Waco. For those of y’all looking for a new hike or day trip with friends, consider Belton. So… On those days when the sun defies the weather man’s predictions (as Texas weather loves to do), the following list is some of the places I’ve enjoyed throughout my years here. I’ll do my best to give a Google Maps address or some street directions, but you might have to get a local to show you the way! At least you’ll know it’s out there.
1. Chalk Ridge Falls Park
Google Maps address: 5600 Farm to Market Road 1670, Belton, Texas 76513-7055
This park is right below the dam of Stillhouse Hollow Lake. Start out on the main walk from the parking lot, and don’t turn off the main route until you hear running water! I enjoyed climbing up the waterfall as a kid (it’s not that big) and hiking up the creek some. Or you can swim in the basin below. It’s undergone some change in the past years, so I’m not sure if the swinging suspension bridge is still there but that’s fun too. After the bridge, continue down to some of the trails by the river and notice the little caves in the cliffs on the right. Warning: the last couple times I’ve been here, the maintenance of the park hasn’t been the best. But hopefully this will have improved!
2. The tube shoots on Nolan Creek (Downtown Belton)
Google Maps address: 219 S East St, Belton, TX 76513 (takes you to The Gin restaurant, and then you can walk down to the river from there)
This brand-new series of tube shoots on Nolan Creek is so fun. Both inner tubes and kayaks can go down Nolan Creek; I’d scout it out a bit before you start. I can see this becoming a central hangout spot for Belton families in the summer because it’s also simply beautiful. Large pieces of limestone line the river and provide sort of a community patio, complete with wide steps perfect for picnicking. The shoot for tubing dams the water into a pleasant wading area. On the side of the river away from the courthouse, there is a sidewalk stretching from the Belton Christian Youth Center all the way to the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. If you’re across the river, face the courthouse and walk to the left. You can follow the trail by the river through nice parks to a new bridge.
Also: Belton is really developing the downtown area, and I’d recommend walking through some of the downtown shops as well. Look up Arusha’s Coffee and Tea, Moore Garrett & Co. (if you like antiquing), and the Creekside Weigh Station (a yogurt shop under new management). Just off the river, the little square around The Gin holds a good Mexican restaurant named Corona del Oro, the Nolan Creek Winery, as well as a pizza place and a spa. It’s very pretty at night with the strung lights and glowing courthouse.
3. The Bridge between Temple and Belton
Google Maps address: 1410 Waco Rd, Belton, TX 76513 (address to nearby Summer Fun Water Park)
This isn’t a park and takes a little persistence and willingness to trudge through some grasses. On the Belton side of the bridge, across the road from Summer Fun, look for a trail down to the river. It’s not all that difficult to find! Look to the right for the huge fallen tree stump; it’s interesting. I was there a couple days ago, and the dewberries are just about ripe. Follow the river til you see the dam. That’s a good view of the river as well as a nice place to sit and chat. I think a lot of people come here to fish. It’s mostly fun because it’s a place only known to locals.
P.S. Cool off afterwards at Frosti Cones in the Summer Fun parking lot. Soft serve ice cream + sno cones= a Belton favorite.
4. Miller Springs (http://www.millerspringsnaturecenter.org/)
This park, below the Belton Lake Dam, has miles of trails. There’s an entrance on both sides of the dam that you can find just by driving. Honestly, I don’t know the best way to explain what all you can see, but if you’ve never been here before, you’ll enjoy wandering. This is my dad’s favorite thing about living in Belton; he often jogs and bikes here. My brother found a waterfall up in the cliffs in the park too. There are beautiful limestone cliffs all throughout this area! If you’re a Beltonian, I recommend asking one of your more exploratory friends to show you the good stuff :)
5. Belton Lake
Google Maps address: 2207 Lake Rd, Belton, TX 76513 (address for nearby Dead Fish Grill)
Belton Lake attracts people from all over for boating and fishing. I’d recommend watching the sunset from the dam or pulling the car off the road to look at the dam up close and explore the cliffs. The nearby Dead Fish Grill has fantastic views and summer drinks. Frank’s Marina has boats for half-day and whole-day rental, but that’s pretty pricey.
pc: left: my Instagram, right: Weston O’Leary
My family enjoys kayaking on the lake as well as the river behind the dam. Go to the Westcliff Park boat ramp and kayak to the right along the shore, until you see a neat, picture-worthy waterfall (though not natural). It’s larger up close.You can also walk along the cove to the waterfall. I’ve gone cliff jumping out at the lake too, but I’d recommend going with someone who knows the way and has done it there before. Check the water depth first! There is tons to explore around Belton Lake, including camping.
6. BLORA (Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area)
Come here for swimming, boating, playgrounds, grilling and even water slides. I think there’s some mountain biking trails as well. If you want a small taste of the beach, this is a great place, although a bit crowded on the weekends. As a kid, I liked the paddle boats!
These places have enough acreage and exploring in them to fill an entire summer. Don’t ever say there’s nothing to do in Belton again! I know there’s so much I left out; these just seemed to be the highlights. However I’d love to hear your recommendations too. If I haven’t heard of it, I’ll do a bit of exploring and then add it to this post later.