Absolutely Everything You Need to Know About McKinney Falls

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For our next swimming hole, we’re taking the short drive to McKinney Falls State Park to relax in the waters of Onion Creek. As the water flows over beautiful limestone ledges and splashes into pools, enjoy the trees and hill country of Texas.

McKinney Falls State Park

Before we get started, we want to remind you that with the rise of Covid-19, it’s best to stay home. We encourage you to consider the safety of yourself and your neighbors. Our swimming hole features will remain online as a reference that you can access when you are able to safely experience the location.



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Free Fun In Austin continues to highlight Austin area locations and activities that may not be available at this time. We encourage you to take all safety measures to keep yourself and your neighbors safe. It is our hope that the stories and features on this site will help inform your plans in the future.
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Here’s absolutely everything you need to know about McKinney Falls!

Location and Hours:

McKinney Falls is located within McKinney Falls State Park, just about 25 minutes outside of Austin, at McKinney Falls Parkway. There are two spots to swim, the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and you must have reservations to enter. Reservations can be made in advance here.

Admission Cost:

To enter the park, you must make a reservation for a day pass. Day passes are $6 per day for everyone 13 and older. The pass grants you entrance to the state park which includes biking, bird watching fishing, hiking, and more.

History:

From the 1600s to the early 1800s, the land that is now McKinney Falls State Park was travelled by missionaries, friars, soldiers, and traders, into Spanish-controlled Mexico. In 1850, Kentucky-born Thomas McKinney was living on the land and entered into a business partnership with Samuel May Williams. Williams was a politician and businessman of Texas who was the primary source of men, money and supplies for the Texan army. After McKinney and Williams financed more than 10 percent of the revolution, McKinney was elected as a senator in Austin. The senator lived on the state park land with his wife, Anna, in their two-story home. The ruins of the limestone home can still be found on the park’s property today. In 1873, McKinney passed and Anna sold the property to James Woods Smith. After the Smith family lived on the property, he donated it to the state in 1973. The park officially opened to the public in 1976 for visitors to enjoy fishing, hiking, and more.

Size:

McKinney Falls State Park is a sweeping 641-acre park featuring 9 hiking trails, over 80 campsites, and two large swimming holes.

Water Temperature:

Because the water at the park is flowing from Onion Creek, the water temperature will depend on the season. During the summer months, the water will be a little warmer. However, if you go after it rains, the water will be nice and refreshing.

Parking and Amenities:

McKinney State Falls Park not only includes the two swimming holes, but also camp sites, picnic areas, playground, hiking, fishing, and more. There is parking close to the Upper Falls, though the Lower Falls is a bit more of a hike. Here is a handy park map to show you the campgrounds, swimming holes, parking, and more. Parking is included in your entrance fee.

Kid-Friendly:

Swimming at McKinney Falls is kid-friendly! The Upper Falls has deeper water, so for younger children, we recommend the Lower Falls. Please keep in mind there are no lifeguards on duty, so the kiddos need to be comfortable with swimming! With the playground and picnic area, this state park is a great place to bring the family for the day. If you have younger kids that aren’t ready for the swimming holes, there are still plenty of great spots around the park to hike and fish.

Prohibited Items:

The following items are not allowed in the swimming areas, the Upper and Lower Falls: food, alcohol, glass, coolers, ice chests, pets, music speakers, Frisbees, footballs, or any other hard sports ball. If you’re wanting to enjoy a picnic lunch, leave the cooler in your car until your hungry.

Pro Tips:

If you’re looking for deeper water to swim in, we recommend heading to the Upper Falls with a floatie. There are still plenty of spots where you can wade in the water in addition to the (short) cliff jumping. Definitely bring water shoes as the rocks aren’t level. If you can plan your trip to McKinney Falls State Park about a day after it rains, the water will be perfect. On the weekends, the swimming areas can get crowded.

Check out all of the swimming holes in the area here.

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About the Author

Maggie Pace
A born and raised Midwesterner, Maggie made the move to Austin after falling in love with the natural parks, trails, friendly people and, of course, tacos. Maggie specializes in events and marketing, while having a strong passion for writing. Offline and off paper, beer drinking, soccer, and her dog, are her top priorities.
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