MARBLE FALLS — If someone had told me a week ago that I would find myself at a 22-degree incline in the driver’s seat of my Jeep Gladiator while struggling to edge over a rock ledge ... I would have told them they were crazy.
But that’s exactly what I found myself doing this weekend when my family and I, along with some friends of ours, decided to visit Hidden Falls Adventure Park, located on the outskirts of Marble Falls.
As part of our exploration of Hill Country, we decided there was no better place to go. Hidden Falls is a 3,000-acre off-roading adventure park, perfect for those outdoorsy adventurers who love to jump into an all-terrain vehicle or 4x4 vehicle and hit the trails. They offer numerous camping options, to include bunkhouses, campsites, RV hookups and even a few basic-needs hotel rooms.
My family and our friends decided a bunkhouse (which advertises as sleeping eight people), was perfect for our needs; so after they traveled down from Oklahoma, our friends joined us in loading up our ATVs and prepping my Jeep for its first off-roading voyage.
Upon checking in (and signing the prerequisite waivers), we headed into the bunker camping area, which was conveniently located in between the public bathrooms and a general store on site. We dropped our baggage, unloaded our ATVs, and immediately hit the trails.
My Jeep has never been off-roading before ... and neither had I. With my 2-year old strapped securely in the back seat and my friend’s daughter in the passenger seat playing the role of truck commander — or TC as it’s called in the military, we hit the trails. My friends, who were on two 4-wheelers and an ATV, lead the way as they are experienced off-road drivers; followed by my 12-year old son, on a smaller 4-wheeler; my husband, who was on a dirt bike; and me in the Jeep taking the part of trail vehicle.
Within ten minutes, we hit our first snafu: we had ended up on a Level 3 trail, which is usually for more experienced riders than myself. (Trails are rated 1-5, with 1 being the easiest, and 5 being for the most experienced riders.) It was also a trail that my son’s 4-wheeler couldn’t handle as it wasn’t powerful enough. My friend Mike, who was leading the pack, took me up the trail on his 4-wheeler to show me the path and the difficulties we would encounter. I took a gander, did some mental calculations in my head ... and decided we could do it. So after loading up my son’s 4-wheeler in the back of my truck (and him in the backseat), we set off on what would become my first official rock-climbing experience in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
After navigating extremely tight turns (and numerous tree branches rubbing the side of my Jeep), we reached the first rock-face, which was about 18 inches tall. With my husband and my friends guiding me, I slowly crawled the Jeep up the rock level inch by inch — and made it! Two more levels of rock-ledges later, my Jeep and I were celebrating at the top of the trail.
After that initial test, we didn’t stop. Overall, we traveled about 15-miles worth of trails that day, most of them rough, rugged, pitted with rocks and boulders, steep hills and almost-impossible inclines ... and definitely a lot of mud pits. (Those, of course, I made a point of going through!)
When we had finally had enough for the day, we headed back to camp. Our bunker was a basic-necessities type of cabin: enclosed roof, heater and four sets of bunk beds with thin sleeping pads. There was a fire pit and picnic table in front of the cabin; and we were in very close proximity to the public bathrooms, which offered surprisingly clean and warm restrooms and showers.
We decided to have dinner at American Girl Grill, which is a food truck behind the general store that has been permanently parked at Hidden Falls for two years. Advertised as “Traditional Favorites with a Twist,” they serve numerous options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My family and friends all agreed on one thing: the food was simply amazing. With fresh, made-to-order entrees like the Green Goddess Grilled Cheese or Chipotle-Popper Cheeseburger, and sides including spinach balls and Freedom Fries — a mixture of sweet potato and regular fries, BBQ sauce, honey, chipotle and parmesan — it was a very satisfying meal at the end of an exciting day of off-roading.
We ended the night as one typically does while camping: around a campfire. With s’mores for the children (although I think the adults ate more than the kids), comfortable lounge chairs and a couple of brewskis, we spent the evening discussing our adventures and planning the next day.
The next day was just as thrilling. We started it off with amazing breakfast choices from American Girl Grill, and then spent the day back on the trails. More rock-climbing, some easier trails for the kids to have fun with, and a thorough exploration of the off-roading paths offered by Hidden Falls kept us busy for hours. Lunch was snacks on the trail; and dinner was (of course) trying other items at the grill. More off-roading (total we traveled about 40 miles of trails); another evening around the campfire, and then back into the bunker for our final night’s stay.
Hidden Falls was definitely one of the most memorable adventures my family and I will have for years to come, and we have already made plans to go back and make it a regular outing for our family. We came back feeling rested and energized; enjoyed being able to bond together as a family, and have a social experience without having to worry about our health or safety.
Hidden Falls Adventure Park is a family (and dog!) friendly adventure that is perfect for the upcoming season. The Park even offers a 20% military discount for active and retired military and family, making Hidden Falls an excellent outdoor-adventure choice for our Fort Hood Soldiers, families and supporters!
Prices, camping rental and availability, and general information can be found at https://hiddenfallsadventurepark.com.