McKinney Falls State Park is one of the best places to go in the Austin area when outdoor recreation is the agenda. Found in South Austin, this 744-acre park is within relatively easy reach of the Downtown District, though it seems worlds away once you get here. Both the Onion and Williamson creeks flow through the park, with the two picturesque waterfalls along Onion Creek contributing to the park's name. Bald cypress trees mix with pecan trees and sycamores along the riverbanks, and in the upland regions, mesquites, junipers, and live oaks reign supreme. While there is never a bad time to visit this enticing state park in Austin, spring is arguably the best time to drop by for a look, as that's when the wildflowers are blooming.
McKinney Falls State Park is named after Thomas F. McKinney, who made his way to Texas in the 1820s. After arriving in the Austin area around the year 1850, McKinney made a small fortune breeding horses. After purchasing a large plot of land, he built barns, a gristmill, and a stone house. Ruins of the stone house and a trainer's cabin can be found at what is now McKinney Falls State Park, and visitors can learn more about them at the Smith Visitor Center. In addition to checking out the ruins of McKinney's old estate on a trip to this state park in Austin, visitors who are interested in the history of the land can also make it a point to check out the Smith Rock Shelter. This natural limestone overhang is believed to have been used by Native Americans up until the 1700s, and there is an easy-to-manage hiking trail that leads to it.
Hiking reveals a number of wonders in McKinney Falls State Park, as limestone formations abound in this hilly land. While hiking along Onion Creek, visitors will see some of the park's most impressive limestone formations. Wider than they are high, the limestone waterfalls along Onion Creek are very picturesque, and the views can be enjoyed from any number of vantage points. Some visitors take to walking out over the rocky formations. On hot days, it's not uncommon to see people swimming in the cooling waters at the bases of the falls. Average temperatures in the 90s are typical during the summer months in Austin, so swimming understandably figures among the most popular summer activities at McKinney Falls State Park.
The trails at this state park in Austin aren't only used for hiking, and when it comes to water-based activities, swimming isn't the only option. Mountain biking trails wind their way through the park, and for fishing enthusiasts, the creeks yield bass, crappie, catfish, and sunfish in good number. For those who want to enjoy some McKinney Falls State Park fishing, no license is needed if you are only planning on fishing from the shoreline. There are bag limit rules that you will need to familiarize yourself with, however. In turn, a license is needed for anyone who wishes to do their McKinney Falls State Park fishing from a boat.
McKinney Falls State Park is open daily, and the gates open at 8 a.m. Closing time is 10 p.m. McKinney Falls State Park camping is an option for those who don't want to leave when the park closes, and there are two camping options to consider. It is possible to secure one of the sites that have water and electricity, or opt instead for one of the walk-in sites near the water. The walk-in sites feature picnic tables, fire rings, and barbecue grills. Should you have any luck when it comes to your McKinney Falls State Park fishing excursion and you are planning on camping at the park, grilling up your catch can make for a wonderful dinner idea.