Kickapoo Cavern State Park is an Amazing Sight

Kickapoo Cavern State Park is within the western edge of Texas Hill Country as it transitions into Big Bend Country.  It’s hours away from San Antonio, but we decided to stop in for a hike on the way to Big Bend National Park.  There are few hiking trails or camps, but the park is an amazing experience.  Inside the park you can see across the hills for miles.  Along the trails you can find hilltop views, a canyon, a sinkhole and a cave full of Mexican free-tailed bats.  

The Barbado Ridge Trail is the best hike with most exciting views at Kickapoo Cavern State Park.
Barbado Ridge Trail at Kickapoo Cavern

How to Get to Kickapoo Cavern State Park

Address:  20939 Ranch to Market Road 674, Brackettville, TX 78832

Hours of operation:  8am – 5pm, Friday through Monday.  The park is closed Tuesday – Thursday.  

Fees:  The cost is only $3 without a Texas State Parks Pass

Kickapoo Cavern State Park is approximately 150 miles from San Antonio – a three hour drive.  The nearest major city is Del Rio, which is 56 miles away.  Kickapoo Cavern is truly in the middle of nowhere.  However, it contains unique views as Texas Hill Country transitions into Big Bend Country.  From the hills you can see for miles as the woodlands begin to diminish in favor of shrubs and rocks.  

US-377 and US-90 are the closest major roadways on either side of the park.  Route 674 will lead you to Kickapoo Cavern from either highway.  You can take US-377 and Route 674 from Rocksprings, or US-90 and Route 674 from Brackettville.  You may pass through a border patrol checkpoint as you approach this park. If you do not live on a nearby ranch, it may be a long drive to the park, but the views are worth it.  

The Bee Cave, or sinkhole, can be find slightly off of the Barbado Ridge Trail.
Bee Cave/sinkhole

Things to Do at Kickapoo Cavern State Park

  • Hike or bike for 13 miles
  • Walk your dog
  • Camp near the HQ
  • Watch the bat emergence
  • Find the Bee Cave/sinkhole
  • Bird watching 
  • Visit the overlook 

The location isn’t the only thing making Kickapoo Cavern unique.  The park also contains a population of Mexican free-tailed bats, a sinkhole full of bees and an armadillo lookout.  There are several caves, but they are inaccessible without supervision.  Moreover, the bat caves may be off limits due to toxic gases.  

The longest cave is Kickapoo Cavern, which is roughly 1,400 feet long, but you will not find it on the map.  The cavern lies on the east side of the park where there are no mapped trails. Unfortunately, no tours were taking place during our visit. This cavern is named after the Kickapoo Indians and is the most popular in the area. Lifeforms may no longer be thriving as much, but you may notice Big-eared bats or dark scorpions on the cavern walls. Call the park ahead of time at (830) 563-2342 to schedule a tour.

Kickapoo Cavern State Park has 15 campsites and one group camp. Five campsites are full hookup and 10 are water only.  The full hookup sites cost $20 per night, and the rest are $12 per night.  It’s worth camping at this park because of its secluded location.  There will be dark skies and the sounds of wildlife.  Be prepared to pack out all trash when you leave the park.

Hill Country appears to fade as you hike along the Barbado Ridge Trail.

Hiking Trails

There are a variety of trails at Kickapoo Cavern State Park, but only one is longer than three miles. Six points of interest are scattered along different trails. Each trail is dog friendly, and the total potential distance is about 13 miles. Like most Texas State Parks in Hill Country, you can travel through canyons, or get a better view from the top of the hills. Most of the views are not disappointing.

Seargeant Memorial Trail

This short loop is directly behind the HQ. It is dedicated to the family who ran a ranch on the property. You will see relics of the ranch as you hike to the campground overlook. This trail is hardly more than half a mile, and you can quickly investigate it after you check in.

Stuart Bat Cave Cut-Off

This short trail will take you to the Long Way Home Trail from the bat cave. It’s about half a mile one direction from the sixth point of interest. You can make several different loops by starting at this trail, or take it out-and-back for a quick one mile hike.

Watch the bat emergence from Stuart Bat Cave at Kickapoo Cavern State Park.
Stuart Bat Cave at Kickapoo Cavern

Pine Canyon Loop

Hit this trail when you are in need of shade. It’s a fairly easy two mile hike through a canyon on the south side of the park. Technically, you will need to use the park roads, or two other trails to make this a loop, and the total distance will be closer to three miles.

Vireo Vista

Point of interest four is simply a small parking area at the intersection of two trailheads – Barbado Ridge and Vireo Vista. Technically, Vireo Vista is a connector. It will get you to Pine Canyon Loop from Barbado Ridge, or to the Armadillo Lookout. You may spot armadillos around any of these trails.

Armadillo Lookout Trail

This is the shortest trail inside Kickapoo Cavern State Park. The roundtrip hike is hardly more than half a mile, but the elevation gain is equivalent to 10 floors. You will get a good view from this overlook as the butterflies flutter about.

The Long Way Home Trail

The majority of this trail provides park access around the northwest side of the park. The wide path will be an easy hike, but there is some elevation gain in certain areas. Hiking about one mile along the park road is necessary to complete a full loop.

However, you can make a figure-eight by taking Barbado Ridge Trail and Pine Canyon Loop. Start the figure-eight from the bird blind at point of interest two, or use point of interest four. This route will lead you seven miles over the hills and through the canyons.

This sinkhole can be spotted off of Barbado Ridge Trail while hiking south.
Find this sinkhole near Barbado Ridge Trail

Barbado Ridge Trail

This is our favorite trail at Kickapoo Cavern State Park. It’s the most challenging trail, but it’s not very hard for the average hiker. Plus, there is a sinkhole somewhere near the middle, at point of interest five. It’s called Bee Cave for good reason. You will hear bees flying to and from the sinkhole along this trail.

Barbado Ridge Trail connects with The Long Way Home Trail on two sides. You can hike 4.5 miles out-and-back, or follow The Long Way Home Trail to other parts of the park. The trail is very rocky, but has amazing views as you hike up, down and around the hills. It almost feels as if you are leaving Hill Country and entering Big Bend Country on Barbado Ridge Trail.

Pro Tip – The sinkhole will be difficult to spot while heading north along Barbado Ridge Trail. It’s much easier to see heading south before the trail curves to the right. The trail does not run directly into the sinkhole. You must spot it from a distance. Listen for the bees.

Hiking Barbado Ridge Trail (Video)

You don’t have to take our word for it. Watch the video below and see everything we have described. Hiking the Barbado Ridge Trail is a great experience, especially if you can locate the sinkhole. There is so much to see along the secluded trails at Kickapoo Cavern State Park.

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it. We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site. Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

David Earley


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