Austin State Park has beautiful, easy trails with access to the creek


While I haven’t wandered through enough Austin parks to say which is my favorite, McKinney Falls State Park has quickly become a contender with its peaceful views of Onion Creek and majestic bald cypress trees. Aside from the views, the park also appeals to Texas history buffs.

After planning a spontaneous trip to Austin, I convinced my friends to hike the city on Sunday, November 21. I have been trying to walk around McKinney Falls State Park for quite some time to get the chance to see the famous waterfalls. flowing over limestone ledges. Plus, it’s only about 13 miles from the state capital of Austin and about an hour and a half from San Antonio.

Unfortunately, since it hadn’t rained for a while, we didn’t experience those heavy waterfalls that I saw in photos and videos online. However, the nice and easy trails still provided some relaxing sounds along Onion Creek. It is not a very busy park either. We made a reservation online a week ago, but people were buying day passes the same day with no issues.

Instead, here’s what Lower Falls looked like on Sunday, November 21.

Priscilla Aguirre,

This rich history of the park

Thomas McKinney lived on the property along Onion Creek in 1850, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. A native of Kentucky, McKinney had settled in San Felipe de Austin in 1830 as one of Stephen F. Austin’s first 300 settlers before moving to Galveston.

Voters elected McKinney a senator to Austin’s first legislature after he started business with Samuel May Williams, which had a profound impact on Texas history. During the Texas Revolution, the McKinney-Williams Partnership Company was the primary source of men, money, and supplies for the Texas Army. He funded more than $ 150,000, or more than 10% of the total cost of the revolution. The McKinney-Williams ships were part of the quickly assembled Texan Navy.

Before McKinney, from the late 1600s to the early 1800s, part of El Camino Real de Los Tejas ran through what is now the park, according to TPWD. Missionaries, brothers, government officials, soldiers, and traders traveled along various routes from Spanish-controlled Mexico to Texas and Louisiana during this time.

After McKinney’s death in 1873, his widow, Anna, sold the property to James Woods Smith. Members of the Smith family owned and operated the land for several generations before giving it to the state in 1973. The park officially opened to the public in 1976, according to TWPD.

The trails along Onion Creek really make you feel like you're escaping the city, even though the park is only 13 miles from the state capital.

The trails along Onion Creek really give you a feeling of escaping the city, even though the park is only 13 miles from the state capital.

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Trails

The seven trails in the 641-acre park are all moderately easy for anyone looking for a windy walk or jog. The longest trail is the 3.1 Homestead Trail, where you can visit the ruins of McKinney’s estate. The only way to get to the McKinney property is to cross a stream, so be prepared to get your shoes wet.

The shortest is the 0.5 mile picnic trail. We parked in the picnic trail parking lot so we could take a short walk to Lower Falls. It flows over limestone ledges to a pool you can swim in below. I didn’t get into the water because it was a windy day. No one else was swimming at the time, but be prepared for it to get cold during the winter season.

“Old Baldy” is one of the oldest bald cypress trees on Texas public land. Estimated to be over 500 years old, the tree is 103 feet tall. Its trunk measures 195 inches in diameter and its diameter is 60.5 inches.

McKinney Falls State Park

After listening to the sounds of the water hitting the pool, we hiked the Onion Creek hiking and biking trail (2.8 miles) to escape the creek and take trails that wind through the forest around the grounds of camping. The tall cypresses towered over us, leaving us feeling like we were immersed in nature. It also loops to another point of interest in the park, Upper Falls – similar to the Lower Falls, but water cascades through natural channels in a massive bed of exposed limestone and volcanic ash.

We missed the opportunity to visit “Old Baldy” – one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public lands in Texas. Estimated to be over 500 years old, the tree is 103 feet tall. Its trunk measures 195 inches in diameter and its diameter is 60.5 inches. It can be found on Rock Shelter Trail (0.6 miles).

While the Onion Creek Walking and Biking Trail is a loop trail, my friends and I got a bit lost on the way trying to regain our parking lot. The park is not as well marked as I would have liked, but we ended the day by walking almost six miles.

I would recommend this park if you are looking for a beautiful state park for jogging in central Texas. Do not come here if you are looking for a strenuous or difficult hike. It’s a great family park to relax in before heading back to San Antonio.


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