Hiking Trails near Texas Creeks, Rivers, and Lakes
Texas offers a wide variety of hiking experiences, from coastal meadows to rocky mountains. Hiking near streams or lakes can be especially pleasant in warm months. Here are five options.
Lake Somerville State Park Trailway
The Birch Creek and Nails Creek units of Lake Somerville State Park lie on opposite shores of Lake Somerville, connected by a 13-mile hiking trail (mountain bikes also allowed). The gently rolling, open terrain is dotted with stands of yaupon, oak, and hickory. The route crosses a large meadow, goes over Yegua Creek, and along the shore of Flag Pond, a water impoundment in the creek’s watershed.
A large bird blind overlooks the pond, which is frequented by great blue herons, canvas backs, wood ducks and other waterfowl. Bird checklists are available at park headquarters. Covered shelters at regular intervals along the trail offer places to rest, and include maps and a graphic showing where you are on the trail. The two ends of this trail are about a 30-minute drive apart. Camping is available at the Birch Creek unit.
Lost Maples State Natural Area, East Trail
This Texas park is famous for the large stand of Uvalde Bigtooth Maples, uncommon in this part of the country. East Trail goes along the Sabinal River, down a canyon whose slopes are covered in the trees. This section gets quite crowded in fall, but is nearly deserted the rest of the year, thanks to the park’s remote location. The trail continues up onto a high, rocky plateau covered in juniper and cactus. Where the trail follows the edge, there are breathtaking views. After crossing the plateau, the trail descends steeply to Can Creek. This shady stream has a swimming hole and waterfalls, and another stand of maples.
Homestead Trail, McKinney Falls
Hiking this three-mile trail requires crossing Onion Creek’s Lower Falls, so call ahead if there has been rain recently. Once across the creek, the trail head is on the right, marked with a large sign. It passes the ruins of Thomas McKinney’s homestead. McKinney, one of Stephen F. Austin’s first 300 colonists, settled here sometime around 1850. The trail winds through trees, brush, and open areas, with a few small hills. Toward the end is an old Grist Mill. There is a swimming hole below the falls, and restrooms next to the parking area for the trail head. Dogs must be on leash and are not allowed to swim in the creek.
This park, which also has camping, is in southeast Austin not far from the junction of Highways 71 and 183. Turn right on McKinney Falls Parkway off Hwy 183 south and the park entrance is 3 miles down on the right.
Cibolo Nature Park Woodland Trail
This nature center near Boerne, just outside San Antonio, contains four types of habitat: marsh, prairie, creek and woodlands. This route passes through all of them. The shady Woodland Trail starts just north of the Visitor Center and follows a high bluff over Cibolo Creek before descending to its bank, which is lined with large cypress trees.
After crossing a small stream, the trail enters more open landscape and passes a playground and picnic tables. Continuing straight ahead, the Cypress Trail runs along the creek through a meadow, then heads away from the water, past tennis courts and parking lot and back toward the visitor center area. A half-mile Marsh Loop, mostly boardwalk, circles over restored marsh. After that loop detour, the trail follows the creek to the Shortcut crossing, which returns to the visitors center. There are restrooms there.
McKinney Roughs Nature Park
This Lower Colorado River Authority nature park contains four unique ecosystems and nearly 20 miles of trails. This route combines portions of the Bobcat Ridge, Coyote Road, Riverside, Cypress and Pine Ridge trails for a 5.5 mile loop.
From the headquarters (maps available here), start across the parking lot on a trail to Bobcat Ridge and turn right. The sandy trail zig zags down a ridge to Coyote Road (turn right), which rises and falls to the Colorado River. Take the turn-off to Riverside Trail, a narrower dirt track into thicker trees. Past the Bluestem trail, Riverside crests a rise then parallels the river for about a half mile.
Then take Cypress Trail, which becomes hiking only (horses allowed on other trails), narrows, then ascends to the intersection with Pine Ridge. Turn right, climbing a steep slope into pine trees to the top of the ridge with spectacular views. The now-rocky trail traces the ridge, then leaves it to head through trees, then open areas, to the other side of a small valley. The trail goes down into this valley, then back up, passing the Pond Spur trail, Whitetail trail (twice), to where Pine Ridge, Riverside and Fox Tail trails all intersect. Go straight, following signs to the park headquarters. There are restrooms and exhibits here.
Hiking is a pleasant outdoor activity almost anyone can enjoy. Even in developed parks, though, it pays to be prepared, especially in summer. Check in with park staff, pick up a map, and carry water, first aid supplies, food and other essentials.