If you suffer from Chiroptophobia you might want to give Old Tunnel State Park a wide berth. But if you don’t mind bats then you should definitely head there.
Most of these creatures live in an abandoned railroad tunnel that previously lay on the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway line. But soon after ceasing its operation in 1942, the bats moved in.
At 16.1 acres, this is the smallest of all Texas state parks. However, despite its tiny size there is enough to keep the visitor entertained.
Aside from the bats there is some nice hiking to be done, while birding and stargazing are also very popular activities.
Unfortunately there is no camping available at the park, mainly for reasons of protection and conservation to the bats.
But if you would need to stay overnight somewhere specifically to visit the park, there is plenty of accommodation available in either Fredericksburg or Comfort.
Getting to Old Tunnel State Park
Old Tunnel State Park can be easily reached from several destinations.
From Dallas the best way to get there is via I-35. This should take you almost 4.5 hours to drive there. If you are visiting there from Austin it should take you about 90 minutes on the US-290.
Those visiting the park from San Antonio should take the hour long drive along the I-10, while the journey from Houston along that same route will take around 4 hours.
A big drawcard of this park is the bat watching. However, visitors can enjoy other outdoor recreational pursuits whilst they are there too.
Here is some further information about all the best things to do at Old Tunnel State Park.
Bat Watching at Old Tunnel State Park
Between May and October it is estimated that Old Tunnel State Park is home to over 3 million myotis and Mexican free-tailed bats. Most of these reside in the tunnel in which the park is named after.
Every night whilst they are there, the park stays open for bat viewings and various ranger led programs.
One of the main events is the bat emergency, when they all stream out of the tunnel high in the sky.
Watching a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge is a mesmerizing experience. Ascending in a counter clockwise spiral, they can reach heights of up to 10,000 feet in the air and can cover a distance of 60 miles.
During this time they eat a hell of a lot! Often feasting on their own body weight in agricultural pests like webworm moths, corn earworms and cutworms.
It’s not all plain sailing – or rather flying – though, the bats themselves are fodder for the likes of red-tailed hawks which often catch them as they emerge. Similarly, raccoons polish off bats that get injured in the melee and fall to the ground.
The emergence of the bats is best seen from a couple of ADA accessible viewing areas.
The upper viewing area provides a stunning view of this against the backdrop of the Hill Country. While the lower vantage point showcases a much more close-up view of this fantastic spectacle.
In fact, you are so close to the action from the lower level, the combined flapping of the bats wings creates quite a breeze! (You may need to bring a jumper with you, even in the summer. Seriously)
Hiking at Old Tunnel State Park
For those who enjoy hiking the park has a lovely trail to explore.
Generally considered an easy route, the 1.1 km out-and-back trail showcases some of the park’s delightful terrain, which includes scenic trees and wildflowers.
This trail takes about 20 minutes to complete. The best times to tackle it are between February and November, as rain often renders it quite muddy in December and January.
If you come during the off-peak season you are highly likely to have it all to yourself.
Stargazing at Old Tunnel State Park
When not looking at the bats be sure to keep an eye on the night sky.
The light pollution at Old Tunnel State Park is virtually non-existent. So this results in a clarity which makes stargazing a very attractive proposition.
If you have a telescope you would be well advised to bring it with you as you should be able to see several wonderful constellations in the cosmos.
Birding at Old Tunnel State Park
As well as the bats, birdlife is abundant at the park too, so you’ll definitely want to bring your binoculars with you.
Several different species reside at the park, either permanently or during their spring or summer migrations.
Depending on when you visit the park you might be able to see the likes of Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Eastern Screech Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk and more.
Nature & Wildlife
As well as the bats and the birds, armadillos roam freely at Old Tunnel State Park.
When you see them, remember this is their natural habitat, So please be respectful and give them a wide berth.
Pets at Old Tunnel State Park
To protect the bats in their natural environment, pets are not allowed at the park.
Please note, smoking is not permitted either.
Camping at Old Tunnel State Park
There are no camping facilities available at the park. However just a 20 minute drive away from it is Fredericksburg or Comfort.
If you base yourself at either, you will find plenty of accommodation options including hotels, motels and Vrbo’s.
Old Tunnel State Park
10619 Old San Antonio Rd,
Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Old Tunnel State Park: