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Our resident trying-to-be-a-hiker, Katie, is checking out all the great hiking spots and marvelous views in Austin. McKinney Falls was her first stop. Let’s do this.
This post was first published in 2016 and updated in February 2021.
There is nothing I love more than beautiful nature and no bugs. A close second is beautiful nature and a few bugs and that is exactly what McKinney Falls provided. I chose McKinney for my first adventure since it’s the only state park in Austin. “If the state thinks it’s great, I’m sure I will, too!” Go Texas.
I ventured off midmorning on a Wednesday and was pleased with how close this state park turned out to be. Since it wasn’t a peak day, there were few people, lots of parking and no lines to pay the six dollars (children 12 and under are free). Friendly employees tipped in the good first impression and I was off! Taking the first right and heading towards the lower falls, I packed up my things (after taking a picture of them for you fine folks), and went on my way.
Walking down towards the lower falls for the first time, I was surprised to see ALL the holes in these rocks. I’m from Illinois, you guys. I’m not privy to rock holes and waterfalls. If you head straight towards the first body of water you see, you’ll end up going a few hundred feet upstream from the falls. If your goal is to jump right in that water, veer right towards a patch of trees and there you’ll find the lower falls. I didn’t know this, so I got a good first view of calmer waters and two sons helping their mom cross the river.
Again, since it was a Wednesday, the falls weren’t crowded in the least. The water was perfectly cold (not bitingly cold like some spots around town) and refreshing along with the needed shade and breeze in the 87 degree heat.
So! You want to eat and work up a sweat now that you’re all refreshed? GREAT! I have your next step. Head back towards your car and before you get to the parking lot, walk up to the right towards the picnic area. That’s right – eat your picnic lunch! I recommend something lighter than fried chicken only because you’re about to go on a hike. But if you still want the fried chicken, by all means, go for it.
Now that you’re full and ready to work out a bit, head to the trail right by the picnic area by the lower falls. This was my favorite part of my day at McKinney. All the rock formations, roots growing out of the ground, shade and my cooling SPF 70 made for a great hike. Just look at what you’re in store for!
This hike would be even better if the bridge wasn’t out, causing me to take a left and head to my car. Probably could have made more of an effort, but I feel fine with my choices.
Finally, I drove up the road a bit to the upper falls. By this time I was exhausted and sweatier than any person should be from not doing a whole lot, so it was a short walk around to see what I could experience next time I came to McKinney. But here are some pictures to make it look like I enjoyed my many hours there:
McKinney was a dream, you guys. A few friends I’ve made here so far have asked where I went for my first Anytime Adventure and I replied with McKinney Falls. It surprised me, but most every person has told me that they haven’t been, despite their years of living here. So, here’s my pitch: Go to McKinney. You’ll love it. I can see swimming early, grabbing a picnic table to eat lunch, hiking and swimming again any day of the week. If you get there early and make a day of it, this is the perfect spot.
McKinney Falls Quick Facts
- Address: 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway
- Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Daily Fees: $6 for adults, children 12 and younger are free
- Indoor bathrooms throughout park by parking lots
- Picnic areas
- Fires OK
- Hiking, swimming, camping. Check, check, check.
- More info here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls