My favorite thing about living in Texas is that it really is a country of its own. Not so much with its people but more so with its geography. You have beaches, the Plains, mountains, swamps, Piney Woods, deserts and hidden gems like Chalk Ridge Falls Park – all in one state. You just don’t get that in the Northeast, where I’m originally from. In fact, you don’t get that anywhere on the Northern coast.
Texas is really a unicorn state when it comes to holding all of the country’s geography in one place. I ran out of gas in Texas about 13 years ago when I sold all of my belongings, turned a Honda Element into a bed on wheels and traveled the country for four months exploring the lower 48 states. I ran out of gas in College Station, Texas.
College Station is an amazing place that is dear to my heart. I lived there for 10 years before moving to Austin. I don’t get to explore as much as I used to when I was a full-time landscape photographer. I recently opened a studio in Austin that takes 99% of my time now. However, I do still have clients who send me out on assignments to photograph landscapes occasionally.
Shooting Chalk Ridge Falls for Salado Tourism
I found out about Chalk Ridge Falls when I was on assignment for the tourism bureau of Salado, Texas (located in the rolling hills of Bell County). I was commissioned to shoot there for eight months and do a catalog of images for the village to advertise on social media – to attract tourism.
I was in my last couple of months on the assignment when the director and I were looking at a map and wanted to find a park to shoot local nature hikes. Chalk Ridge was only 10 minutes away from the village. So we committed an entire day to photographing it for advertising purposes.
Neither of us had really explored the area at all previous to arriving there for our day shoot. Like much of the hill country in Central Texas, the park is composed of dense, brushy trails that lead you to surprising openings.
Highlights of Chalk Ridge Falls Park
Our first discovery was an isolated pond that was glowing emerald green. It was like a cenote in Mexico but in the middle of Texas. A beautiful little oasis that again, like many things in Texas, hardly anyone ever talked about or knew anything about. I immediately saw the shot, so to speak, and put a drone in the air to capture two people floating in the green pond.
Obviously the park is named after a waterfall, and there is a waterfall that the majority of people swim. It can be crowded on the weekends but it’s a beautiful spot. Five minutes away, on a short hiking trail, there is also an opening to the Llano River that runs alongside the park – with many places to swim and fish.
My lasting memory of Chalk Ridge Falls Park is certainly the emerald green pond. Surprisingly, no one was there. It seems like it’s overlooked. You have this beautiful little oasis where you can swim or float by yourself in the middle of nowhere – with no one to interrupt you.
Where to Stay when Visiting Chalk Ridge Falls
The best place to stay when visiting Chalk Ridge is Salado, Texas. Salado is situated about 10 minutes away, and there are a number of Airbnb‘s and hotels. One in particular that’s fantastic is Shady Villa Hotel.
Shady Villa Hotel is a wonderful place to stay. It’s been around since 1861. If travelers are looking for a posh stay that’s affordable, with a nice pool and a fine dining restaurant, then it’s the ultimate place for a weekend getaway.
Need to Know Before you Go
Parking is free at Chalk Ridge Falls. However, there are limited spaces and on the weekends it may be hard to find a spot. If travelers visit the park during the week, they should have no trouble finding a spot.
When visiting the park, you can wear an ID card or phone with a custom lanyard, which is easy to take out and not easy to lose. The park is also free. Explorers can just walk right in and access all that it has to offer. There aren’t many places like that anymore – and hopefully this place stays that way for a long time.