Just 13 miles from the Texas State Capitol, visitors can slip away from Austin’s hustle and bustle to McKinney Falls State Park. The park’s 641 acres offer hiking, swimming, picnicking, and mountain bike opportunities.
My husband and I visited the park in December and were fortunate that the weather was beautiful for our exploration, but a little cold for swimming. We did, however, enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of the water at both the Upper and Lower Falls.
The seven miles of hikes brought interesting surprises and history. The ruins of the Thomas F. McKinney home stand majestically on the site, a remnant of one of Stephen F. Austin’s original 300 colonists. McKinney also built the first grist mill in the area. Only the ruins exist now, but the location at the confluence of Onion and Williamson Creeks the flour mill’s dependence on water.
The park also contains a portion of the 2,500 mile El Camino Real de los Tejas. As the Spanish colonized what is now Texas and Louisiana, roads to Mexico City, called “royal roads” connected the areas to Mexico City. “Tejas” refers to the Caddo Indians whom the Spanish called, “friends.” The road ran from Mexico City to Los Adaes, Louisiana. Even though the road is over 400 years old, the park contains older pieces of history. The Prehistoric Rock Shelter, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, provided shelter for Native Americans for more than 8,000 years. Natural history is not lacking either. Old Baldy, a 100’ tall bald cypress is over 500 years old.
We enjoyed the beautiful hikes and were fortunate that the water level was low enough that we could cross the river at the Lower Falls without getting wet. In addition to the falls, the Williamson Creek Overlook Trail was a highlight of the day as we hiked much of the seven miles of the interlocking trails.
Onion Creek is a beautiful setting for picnics and fishing. Visitors are not required to have a fishing license inside the park. Visitors can stay at one of 81 campsites or rent one of the cabins. (There are not showers or restrooms in the cabins and linens are not provided. We purchased a Texas State Parks pass that is good for one year and have more than paid for it during the pandemic when we chose to get outside and enjoy nature. The pass can be bought online or at any of the state parks. For more information about McKinney Falls State Park go to https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls.
Have you visited McKinney Falls State Park? If so, what was your favorite—the falls, the hikes, the ruins?
– Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers.