Even the proudest Texican would grudgingly admit that, west of San Antonio, there is not much to see. Kickapoo Cavern State Park is one of the very notable exceptions to this general rule. Both above ground and below ground, wonders are waiting there for your family to explore. The park technically opened in 1991, but it did not open full-time until 2010.
So far, scientists and explorers have found about twenty underground caverns here. Two of them are large enough to explore. The park also contains 14 miles of marked hiking trails, and about 18 miles of undesignated side trails. Visitors also enjoy birding and a number of other daytime activities. A bit later, the stars at night really are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.
This combination of peaceful serenity and exciting new worlds is just a short drive from the major population centers in Texas. And, the RV campground is nice, but also rather small. So, make your reservations, pack your rig, and hit the road.
Ordinarily, there are two or three different routes to take to pretty much any Texas state park. But if you want to reach Kickapoo Cavern State Park, it is pretty much Highway 90 or nothing. True, you could take the circuitous route up Interstate 10 and then come into the park the back way. But when we say circuitous, we mean really circuitous. Moreover, as mentioned, this part of Texas is not in any scenic travel brochures.
Highway 90 is a mostly straight and mostly well-maintained two-lane road that has a broad shoulder on either side. So, there is plenty of room for your rig. Furthermore, once you get past Uvalde if you are heading west from San Antonio, the people in your RV may be the only carbon-based life forms in the immediate area.
Inside the park, there is lots of RV parking available near Stuart Bat Cave and also the main park picnic pavilions. You can walk pretty much everywhere else. The park headquarters has a small store, but if you need RV camping supplies, it’s best to get them in San Antonio.
The small RV campground only has 12 sites, but there are lots of amenities. About half these sites are full-hookup sites with electrical, water, and sewer lines. Each site also has a picturesque lantern post, which comes in handy on these dark West Texas nights, a fire ring or barbecue grill, and a picnic table. So, visitors can bask in the lamplight as they enjoy the meals they just cooked over an open fire. The other half of these RV sites basically look the same, except they only have water line hookups. A dump station is nearby, as are some brand-new restroom and shower facilities.
Of all the caverns in this park, Kickapoo Cavern is the only one that’s both big enough to explore and open for visitors. To reach it, many people park at the Stuart Bat Cave then hike the mile or so to Kickapoo Cavern. Or, you can take your rig directly to the Cavern, but as there is no parking there, that’s a risky move. Guided tours of this 1,400-foot long cavern are available every Saturday. Or, you can do a self-guided tour during regular park hours. Highlights include an eight-story high stalactite (or maybe it’s a stalagmite) column. That’s the largest rock formation of its kind in Texas. Also, the cavern is almost entirely undeveloped. Park rangers require all cave visitors to wear sturdy shoes and carry at least two light sources.
Although the slightly-smaller Stuart Bat Cave is off-limits on the inside, as it is a protected breeding ground, the flying Mexican Free-Tail bats are quite a spectacle every dusk between March and October. Think about one of those flying bats scenes from Batman Begins, multiply it by about ten, and you’ll have some idea what to expect. Most visitors say the ascending bats look like a solid black tornado. These animals hunt mosquitoes, moths, and other flying insects. Bats are hungry little critters. The bats in Stuart Bat Cave eat about ten tons of insects each night.
One of the highest points in the park is at the end of the 0.6-mile Armadillo Lookout Trail. The trail ascends almost 140 feet to a scenic overlook. There’s a bench there, so you can enjoy the scenery. Have your camera handy, because the panoramic views are incredible.
Back in the day, the Seargeants were a prominent ranching family in these here parts. To reach the overlook, take the .08-mile Seargeant Memorial Loop Trail. It starts and ends near the RV campground. In addition to a compelling view of the surroundings, there are relics from the ranching past, such as a windmill, old sheep pen, and a dipping area. We’re not exactly sure what, or who, they dipped.
A very short path leads from the main campsite parking area to the bird blind. This spot is one of the best places in the park to view the over 200 species of birds that call this area home. That’s roughly half of the bird species in Texas. Highlights of the birding tour include endangered golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. Visitors can also expect to see gray vireos, various buntings, Montezuma quails, flycatchers, swallows, tanagers, woodpeckers, and orioles.
If you want to see a cool nighttime display and you don’t want to drive all the way to Big Bend, the Mountain West, or the Northern Plains, go outside on a clear moonless winter night at Kickapoo Cavern State Park. All the stars really do light up the night. Venus, gas nebulae, Mars, and other nearby celestial bodies are clearly visible with the naked eye. Use a telescope to the the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, and some other one-of-a-kind sights.