If you are trying to decide between getting back to nature or a visit to Austin for your weekend getaway, may we suggest a compromise? McKinney Falls State Park. Bryson residents love it because at less than 20 minutes from Austin, it’s the perfect place to enjoy nature with museums, fine dining and nightlife a short drive away.
McKinney Falls is sometimes called “Austin’s Backyard” because of its location at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks on Scenic Loop Road 13 miles southeast of the city. It is the only state park withing Austin’s city limits. Visitors to the 641-acre park come to admire the shimmering Upper and Lower waterfalls, limestone formations, wooded areas and flowing Onion Creek.
Plan to Camp
Popular for day trips, McKinney Falls is also considered a great place for overnight camping. All 81 campsites have water and electric hookups. Sites have picnic tables and grills. Many of the sites have raised tent pads for easier set up and to protect the environment. Prices range from $20 to $24 a night for up to eight people.
There are also six newly remodeled cabins. Cabins have air conditioning, patios, sinks with prep areas, mini refrigerators, microwaves, two twin bunk beds and fire rings. There are no showers in the cabins, but a restroom/shower is a short distance away. No tents, RVs or trailers are allowed outside the cabins. Pets are not allowed. Cabin rental is $86 per night. There is a two-night minimum rental for weekends (Friday and Saturday) and a three-night minimum during holidays and special events.
So Much to Do
McKinney Falls is a park where you will never lack for something to do. The limestone formations are perfect for bouldering. Geocachers often leave treasures to find. During the summer, visitors swim in Onion or Williamson creeks. Fishing is allowed, and you do not need a license to go out and hook a big one. You can download the McKinney Falls State Park Fishing Tip Sheet for more information.
Hikers enjoy visiting “Old Baldy,” a 100-foot tall, 500-year-old Cypress tree. It is one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas. The ruins of the homestead of the park’s namesake Thomas McKinney can be visited.
Traipsing the Trails
There are nine miles of trails winding through the park. All are considered moderate. The 2.8-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail has a hard surface that is good for strollers and road bikes. The longest trail is the 3.1-mile Homestead Trail, which takes you to the McKinney's homestead. The shortest trail is the half-mile Picnic Trail. This takes you to the Lower Falls. You learn more via the park’s Interactive Trails Map.
Before You Go
McKinney Falls State Park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The park’s office is open from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Saturday through Thursday and until 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The fee for adults is $6 daily; children 12 years old and younger are free. The park is dog-friendly. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails but not in the water.