Looking for a new outdoor place to play the next time there’s a good break in the weather? Have you been to Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park yet? It’s one of our family’s favorite spots, but I hardly ever hear anyone else talking about it.
At the risk of spoiling my family’s semi-secret hangout, here are some of the great things this park has to offer:
- Hill Country vistas
- Wide open space beside the Colorado River — a great spot to picnic, toss a Frisbee, or play volleyball
- Boat house and ramp
- Wide trails under mature trees
- Fishing dock
- Historic log cabin
- Shady riverside trail
- Barbecue pit
- Bird watching — volunteers have been working hard in recent years to restore the prairie grasslands, in order to attract more and more species
- Beautiful sunsets — the setting sun makes the trees on the other side of the river glow orange, which makes a great backdrop for photos
Never mind that there isn’t a playscape. My kids could spend hours running in the open area and balancing on the wooden lake barrier. They are also big fans of the swans that sometimes come around, and of watching the boats go by on the river.
Know that there may be lots of off-leash dogs in the park. Every time I’ve been, there have been at least four or five running around. Our family likes having dogs around to pet and play with, but if off-leash animals make you nervous, you might want to be aware.
All of the features mentioned above are to be found by walking downhill from the main parking area. If you walk uphill, there are some rough trails among cedar trees leading to a series of short waterfalls. There is also a cratered, rocky area there, where my kids enjoy splashing in puddles and hopping from stone to stone. It is not a terribly well-marked trail, but we found it manageable, even with small children, because it was short — a little over a mile.
The official park hours are Tuesday to Sunday, from 1-6 p.m.
For more information, visit the Austin Parks Foundation website, Austin Explorer, or the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization website.
Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park
614 Commons Ford Rd.
Austin, Texas 78733