Here’s a secluded spot with beautiful views of Lake Travis that not many people know about. Tom Hughes is a Travis County Park tucked away between The Oasis and Mansfield Dam in the main basin of Lake Travis.
When you decide to go check out this hidden gem, head over to Marshall Ford Road located right across from the Randalls at Steiner Ranch. Shortly after turning off Ranch Road 620 is when you’ll notice a sign for Tom Hughes Park that will point you in the right direction. You’ll be on the same road that leads to the Marshall Ford Marina.
Getting to this park is half the fun! The scenic drive along Hughes Park Road is very narrow and windy so be alert for traffic coming from the other direction.
When you do get a chance to take your eyes off the road, you’ll notice several large homes perched up high along the rocky banks on the hillside above. Rooftops of homes below are accessed with steep driveways that disappear into the dense cedar trees. It’s a good thing for these homeowners that we don’t see too many ice storms in Austin.
Shortly after you pass the Marshal Ford Marina, the homes disappear and you’re surrounded by hillsides filled with cedar and oak woodlands. As the road winds back around the inlet, you’ll catch glimpses of Lake Travis between the trees. After a few more turns, you’ll reach your destination with the road ending at the entrance to Tom Hughes Park.
Officially, there’s a $10 entrance fee and the park is closed from November 1 through March 31. The word on the street is the entrance shack is rarely occupied by someone to collect the fee — that happened to be the case when I visited the park on my lunch break.
It’s a pretty rustic location so don’t expect to be blown away by a fancy parking lot with nice restrooms … just a few port-a-potties.
One of the many trails that will lead you down to the shoreline of Lake Travis is marked with a sign displaying the park rules — no pets, no glass, no public display of the consumption of alcohol. This doesn’t mean you have to watch the sunset over Lake Travis without a cold one! You can be a rule follower in all Travis County Parks by simply covering up the label. Throw a koozie over your beer can (remember no glass) and give Ranger Smith a smile.
Grab some sturdy shoes or hiking boots if you plan on bouldering in the limestone or treasure hunting through the rocky terrain lining the shore of Lake Travis.
There are several primitive trails that wind through rocks and tree roots of juniper and oak as you navigate a path down to the limestone outcroppings. When you come out of the trees, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of Lake Travis and the surrounding hillsides. And Sometimes Island — sometimes.
The lower the water level in Lake Travis, the more exposure to a steep, limestone shoreline and distance to the water. Plan on a technical hike when making your way all of the way down to the edge of the water. Grab a spot on top of one of the many large boulders and enjoy an afternoon picnic, read a book, take some pictures, or spend an evening relaxing as you watch the sun go down over Lake Travis.
With its rustic location and steep terrain, I don’t expect the low visitor numbers of Tom Hughes Park to increase by much. Let’s hope this hidden gem stays just like it is.
12714 Hughes Park Rd. Austin, TX 78732 (map)
9:00am to dark.
Closes during hazardous trail conditions.
Closed from November 1st through March 31st.
Visit the Tom Hughes Park Website for news and alerts.
A beautiful park beautiful trails a beautiful drive to get to the park unbelievable trails a must see and the water is beautiful
Linda Hambrick says
I just read an old report done for UT many years ago and there’s a reference in it about Tom Hughes I thought you might like. He owned a tavern at Marshall Ford and one of his friends was Warren Jones, one of the Jones brothers who started Jonestown, across the lake. Warren hung out at the back booth of the tavern and sold tents, lumber, lanterns and other necessities to the men who were doing the construction on Mansfield Dam.