November 28, 2014

Wild Texas Parks: McKinney Falls State Park - Austin, TX

McKinney Falls State Park
Austin, Texas (Travis County)


Get Campsite & Facility Reservations   Download a Park Map from TPWD

About the State Park

McKinney Falls
McKinney Falls
Copyright © Justin W. Moore
McKinney Falls is a popular and inviting respite from Texas' bustling state capital. The 641-acre park features over 80 campsites, including developed (RV) and hike-in sites. Screened shelters, group shelters and a group dining hall are also available.

Outdoor recreation opportunities include hiking, mountain biking, bicycling, swimming, birding and wildlife observation. Onion Creek, which flows 1.7 miles through the park, offers both swimming and fishing opportunities. Fish species in the creek include perch, catfish and bass. Wildlife observation opportunities exist for armadillos, rock squirrels, white-tail deer and many bird species. During the fall, winter and spring, shorebirds and ducks are fairly common.

The park's more than seven miles of trails are each unique and worthy of exploration (Trail Map.) The leisurely 3/4 mile Smith Rock Shelter interpretive trail begins at the park's Visitor Center, taking visitors past one of Travis County's oldest bald cypress trees and through a natural rock shelter. The 3.5-mile Hike and Bike Trail is paved and wheelchair-accessible, while the 4-mile unpaved Homestead Trail is superb for mountain biking and hiking enthusiasts as well as those interested in the park's history.

Park Ratings

Explanation of Symbols
Campsites/Overnight Facilities*** 3 star
Leashed Pets Permitted?Animated Running Dog YES
Picnic Areas/Playgrounds*** 3 star
Solitude** 2 star
Trail System** 2 star
Water Recreation* 1 star
Wildlife** 2 star
Ratings are based on a scale of 0 (low) to 4 (high).

Wild Texas Notebook

Justin and I have hiked the Hike and Bike Trail, the River Trail and the Smith Rock Shelter Trail. The latter features the remnants of a natural rock shelter first used by humans over 1,400 years ago. Accessible via the Homestead Trail, the ruins of Thomas F. McKinney's 1850s homestead provide an interesting glimpse into the past. McKinney was of one of the original three hundred colonists in Stephen F. Austin's settlement. The expansive picnic area along Onion Creek, shaded by large live oaks, is an especially peaceful retreat after a hike or bike ride.

While results vary from year to year, I recommend a visit to McKinney during peak bluebonnet viewing season in South Texas. There are usually some beautiful expanses of wildflowers (including bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and morning glory) on the drive from San Antonio to Austin. The park itself often has bluebonnets scattered throughout, particularly around the Smith Visitor Center.

To continue your wildflower viewing, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, located in southwest Austin. The center is a beautifully designed facility, featuring year-round wildflower and native plant displays. The combination of a visit to McKinney Falls State Park and the Wildflower Center makes for a terrific day trip.

For more information, read our trip reports:

  • Wildflower Weekend
  • Location

    Located in Austin, 13 miles southeast of the State Capitol off U.S. Highway 183. Take McKinney Falls Parkway, off US 183 South, straight to the park entrance.

    The nearest major Texas cities are: Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas

    Maps for McKinney Falls State Park

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    Coordinates for GPS Users:

    30.1808102° Latitude    -97.7219027° Longitude (WGS84/NAD83; decimal degrees)
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    Hours

    Open 7 days a week year-round from 8 AM to 10 PM for day use activities.

    Check for restricted park access before any trip. When controlled public hunts are in progress, general access is not permitted.

    Fees

    A park entrance fee is charged per day -- $4 per person for adults 13 years of age and older. (Texas residents age 65 or older pay only $2 per person.) NOTE: Listed fees may not be accurate year-round due to seasonal changes. Contact the park directly to confirm fees.

    Campsite and other facility fees are in addition to the park entrance fee.

    Note: Learn about the $60 Texas State Parks Pass which exempts passholders, and the passengers in their vehicle, from the entrance fees at all Texas State Parks.

    Reservations

    Reserve Now for campsites or other park facilities.

    Reservations can also be made by calling TPWD's Central Reservation System at (512)389-8900 from 9 AM to 8 PM Monday through Friday, 9 AM to noon on Saturdays.

    Austin, Texas Weather

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    Volunteer Opportunities

    Contact the Friends of McKinney Falls State Park, the officially recognized non-profit support group of McKinney Falls State Park, at 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744.

    Official Contact Information

    The State Park is managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

    Texas Parks & Wildlife Department McKinney Falls State Park
    5808 McKinney Falls Parkway
    Austin, TX 78744

    Telephone: (512)243-1643
    TPWD Park Info: 1-800-792-1112

    Related Links