Adventure in Austin: McKinney Falls State Park

Katie is new here and will be finding every hiking spot, swimming hole and outdoor adventure imaginable in Austin. (Have some recommendations? Comment them below!) McKinney Falls was her first stop. Let’s do this.

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.

FFIN_1125

Basically you could read this sign and I’d be out of a job.

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*. 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.

FFIN_9188

Everyone poses with their almonds, right?

FFIN_1141

FFIN_1142

Seems important.

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.

FFIN_9192

FFIN_36500007

FFIN_9227

FFIN_36500009

FFIN_36500010

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.

FFIN_9313

FFIN_1176

Where you eat your fried chicken, I mean, carrots and green beans?

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!
FFIN_9347

Practicing not twisting my ankle. Doing an alright job.

Practicing not twisting my ankle. Doing an alright job.

FFIN_9319

FFIN_9359

FFIN_9380

This is also a great alternate for lunch! I sat down, relaxed and ate those almonds you saw earlier right here.

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:

FFIN_1191

FFIN_36490004

FFIN_36490005

FFIN_36490007

FFIN_36490017

FFIN_36490018

There are plenty more picnic tables on this pathway right past the upper falls.

FFIN_36490024

FFIN_36490026

The path up to the bathroom and your car.

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.

Quick Facts

  • Address: 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway
    Austin, TX 78744
  • Hours: 8am – 10pm
  • *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.

Recommended Playlist 

On my way to McKinney, I realized quickly that my ecstatic mood had just as much to do with the music playing in my car as it did with the sunshine and my destination. Here are some jams you can listen to on your own 15 minute drive southeast.

  1. Another Day in Paradise by Quinn XCII
  2. You Send Me by Sam Cooke
  3. Tokyo Sunrise by LP
  4. Call Off Your Dogs by Lake Street Dive
  5. Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill
  6. Restless by Alison Krauss & Union Station
  7. Cry to Me by Solomon Burke
  8. Elsie by Nickel Creek
  9. Waterfalls by TLC because let’s stay on theme
  10. Your favorite song right now.

For more information on McKinney Falls, check out the State Parks website.

Remember to recommend your favorite adventurous spot for Katie to explore next. She’ll give you a shout out when it comes time to post!

About the Author

Katie Trayser
Katie is a photographer with an affinity for star gazing, clouds and jet streams. (Apparently the sky in general.) Want to get on her good side? Provide a breakfast taco or three. And she doesn't mean to brag, but she loves Abraham Lincoln more than you. You can check out her photography at www.katietrayser.com