From downtown Austin, take Interstate 35 south to exit 230 for Texas 71 East toward Bastrop. Merge with E Ben White Boulevard then turn right onto Chapman Lane with a left onto Burleson Road not much further. Turn right onto McKinney Falls Parkway and the entrance to McKinney Falls State Park is on the right.
Onion Creek is the main trail encircling the southern part of the park with all the camping sites. I parked near the showers in the Big Cedar Camping area which is always beneficial after a hike. It was also near an unmarked entry to the trail that could easily be overlooked and leads to and from the loop connecting the campers to the trail. Here are the coordinates of N 30 10.613' W 097 43.509'. Besides my Garmin Montana, I had the trail map given to me at the entrance that listed very good trail etiquette:
- Stay on designated trails
- Lease your pets
- Trash your trash
- Take only memories and pictures
- Respect fellow trail users
First impressions gave a narrow concrete trail which is good on a cloudy possible rainy day. Once I connected to the loop, I decided on going counter clockwise and learned early how narrow the trail can be with bikers. Nevertheless, there weren't any crashes that day.
Most of the attractions in the park are along the second quarter of my hike leading up to the Smith Visitor Center with hands-on exhibits and educational exhibits. But before arriving there, I passed the Horse Trainer's Cabin, remains of the former residence of John Von Hagen. It is a two-room structure build in the 1850s and the center of McKinney horse training operations. I imagine back then the air was cleaner and being outdoors was pleasant, thus no need for a living room and all the structure was used for was shelter. How times have changed.
The main attraction of this trail however is the Upper Falls. The map states that 'water cascades through natural channels within a massive bed of exposed limestone.' However, today the falls was more like a drip which allowed us to see the limestone and what causes the effect of the falls. More interesting is the over-hang. Luckily, it is relatively strong and didn't crack as I sat for a moment and let my feet dangle. A few cautions to consider: there are no lifeguards on duty, swimming only allowed during daylight hours, and no pets in the water all leading up to swim at your own risk.
After leaving the Upper Falls, the trail followed Onion Creek full of picnic tables with side routes to restrooms and the amphitheater. A little further and there is a row of primitive camping sites mostly occupied with weekenders. It was a beautiful quiet day until the row of cub scouts rode by on blazing bicycles from the youth camping area. They looked happy and I wish I was both their age and riding with them. Especially down the steep hill that curved to make things just a little more interesting.
The last part of my hike, it was pretty much and the cactus and the two geocaches. For one, I was on the wrong side of the trail until I noticed something just a little off and found it. The next one was my favorite kind, an ammo can full of happiness. Then it all came to an end when I finished the loop. Soon, I was in the showers, cleaning up, and headed to San Antonio for the UTSA Roadrunner game with my McKinney Falls State Park pathtag.
Find this walk on everytrail.com.
Duration: 1:33:47 minutes
Distance: 3.31 miles
Pace per mile: 28:18
Total blogged miles: 244.26 miles.