If you’re looking for a good hike with kids, St. Edward’s Trail offers hikes of varied terrain, making it good for all seasons and for children of all ages – an easy hike through exposed meadows and prairie grasses; a shaded hike along Bull Creek with small swimming holes, stone dams, and waterfalls (after good rains); and a more challenging hill trail with gorgeous views from atop a bluff. It’s also one of the best places for creek play! So last week, my kids and I donned our swimsuits, grabbed friends, and headed that way.
Located in Northwest Austin a few miles off of Capital of Texas Highway/Loop 360, the drive down a scenic two-lane road with several creek crossings makes it a nice escape without going far. A map and information kiosk can be found in the entrance parking lot and the trails are well-maintained. Although, it’s one of those hiking spots with several twists and side trails that make it more about exploring the area and turning around when you’re ready rather than setting out to complete a hike from start to finish (which makes it a good one for kids).
As we headed down the path from the parking lot, we were amazed to see so many wildflowers still in bloom. You can take a right to hike the meadow trail that cuts through a large field and makes a wide loop over to Bull Creek (be sure to take hats and wear sunscreen as there is little shade), but we opted to head left to the creek.
Passing a stone dam, we stopped to take a look upstream and found turtles sunning on logs and small fish. Water spilled down the dam at our backs to flow downstream. Worrying that one of our kiddos might end up spilling down the creek too, we hopped back on the trail and wandered along the wooded path until we found a clear, knee-deep pool with water dripping slowly from the bluff overhead. (While in drier conditions, this might be a less idyllic spot, I made a mental note to return after a heavy rain to see if this dripping turned into a waterfall!)
The kids collected driftwood, threw sticks to the dog, and practiced skipping rocks. Then we hit the trail again, this time deciding not to continue on (which would have looped us over to the meadows trail) but to follow the creek back the way we had come.
Passing the dam again and continuing on a bit farther towards the road, we found the perfect spot – where stones formed a path across the creek to a trail on the other side. Upstream we could see water spilling over the dam.
As a final venture, we crossed the creek to start up the hill trail. I have hiked this one before and it’s a great workout with beautiful vista views overlooking treetops and Bull Creek below (so not the best hike for toddlers).
When the kids finally decided they had had enough, we headed back, played just a little more in the creek and went home content with nature play that did not involve screen time, feelings of boredom, or overstimulation. Instead, it was that good-old kind of play that evokes wonder, calm, cooperation, and excitement at the surprises around every corner.
What you need to know:
- To get there, take Capital of Texas Highway/Loop 360 to Spicewood Springs Road and head west for 2 miles. You’ll pass a sign for St. Edward’s Trail on the left. You can park in this pullover area and head straight down to the creek, but if you continue less than 1/2 mile up the road, you’ll find a larger parking area with a kiosk and map.
- Watch the trail for the occasional mountain biker and off-leash dog.
- There are no restrooms.
- Pack snacks and drinks!
St. Edward’s Trail
7301 Spicewood Springs Road
Annette Lucksinger is a mom of two and author of the new guidebook and mobile app Exploring Austin with Kids: Over 100 Fun Things to Do with the Family. The guide lists more hikes (plus places to go get ice cream afterwards) along with loads of ideas for kid-friendly adventures in Austin. You can read more about her favorite places, events, and people on the Exploring Austin with Kids blog.