Old Tunnel State Park provides a unique venue to watch millions of bats emerge from a limestone tunnel tucked away in the Texas Hill Country.
Pulling into the 10-space parking lot of Old Tunnel State Park is a little underwhelming six months out of the year. During the day most of these spots remain empty. However, between the months of May and October, that all changes. As the sun lowers, these spots and the spots in the overflow parking lot will fill. And if you arrive late, you might be hard-pressed to find a spot at all.
So what’s so special about May through October? Bats! Throughout the warmer months, Old Tunnel State Park hosts between a million and three million Mexican free-tailed bats and a few thousand of their relatives. During these months, the park is open later and you have the opportunity to watch as they swirl out of the 920-foot abandoned tunnel of the Fredericksburg & Northern Railroad.
From the limestone slab-lined parking lot, there’s a short dirt path with a historical marker on the right. It makes for a quick read about the history of the tunnel. Just past the marker a volunteer or park attendant will greet you and offer you two options to watch. The first is the upper viewing area, a wooden deck with stadium seating and the only option open seven days a week. The second is the lower viewing area which is open Thursday – Sunday and offers bench seating.
The upper deck is only a short distance from the parking lot and offers scenic views from the top of the hill. It is completely free and the only option if you have someone less than four with you. It is further away from the tunnel opening, so make sure you arrive early to grab seats at the front.
The lower deck is a small hike down the hill. It has a small fee ($5) but it is located right next to the tunnel opening. The seats on the left are the ones to grab. Show up early for these, too, as seating is first come, first serve and limited.
Once you have your seats, sit back and relax. Take in your surroundings and get ready for the show to start.
If you want to do Old Tunnel State Park right, listen up. Whether you’re coming from Fredericksburg or Comfort, take Old San Antonio Rd (AKA Old No. 9 or Old Fred Rd.), it has the best views. Arrive early enough for dinner because just up the road is Alamo Springs Cafe. They serve great burgers and on Sundays, they have chicken fried steak, too. Then get to the park to grab a seat at the lower viewing area, the left side is the best side. Both of these places are really popular so give yourself plenty of time for each.