Experience Austin's Hidden Gem: McKinney Falls State Park
With summer rapidly approaching for Texas I wanted to cruise down to Austin before the heat waves made it a bit unbearable. In doing so I elected to check out McKinney Falls Park. I will say that going into my stay I had only seen a couple of videos about the park which were less than descriptive as to what to expect from the park. Typically I would pine over reviews in advance but this time I decided to instead let the park surprise me and report the full initial reaction.
I did not book in advance, something I would not advise you to do unless it is winter season at the park. When I arrived there were only 2 campsites left on a Thursday just after noon. Needless to say this park fills quickly when the weather is pleasant. These two sites were literally only available for a single night as the campground was fully booked for the weekend.
I can see why quickly from pulling into the park why it is so popular, the grounds are well maintained, the wildflowers are in bloom making for a wonderful retreat for some amazing hiking and a scenic area for family photos and being only 15 minutes from downtown Austin easily makes this the best retreat away from the city for those wanting a quick weekend get away.
When selecting a campsite I often times like to find an area near the restroom without being directly across from them, having access to this amenity can be useful however proximity to avoid cross traffic is key when using a large campground. This location has restrooms scattered through the various loops with a centralized shower house. Our site was site 69, it backed up to one of the restrooms on our loop and actually had a small private path to the facility which made it unique from other sites and very convenient.
While the spring has brought in recent rains, the site was a it more overgrown than I would have liked considering this area is noted for a variety of snakes, however the tent pad and picnic area itself was cleared so with hesitation we went ahead and set up our overnight home.
The tent pad was a right pebble base, this made sleeping in just a sleeping bag impossible. We had to pad the base with several layers due to the sharp texture of the rocks below. I noticed later when packing the tent we also ended with a small tear at the lip of the tent because of these rocks. I would advise on this surface potentially laying a tarp barrier before placing your tent fo this reason.
Sites were standardly equipped with a picnic table and fire ring. Our site had both water and electricity, which actually were quite handy considering we were having some charging issues with my in car charger. This particular site was located directly beside the camp host.
We used the site as a basecamp for exploring the city in the evening and the following morning before checking out of the park we took a drive to the showers and explored the park fully. The showers had pretty hard water and lower pressure than some but definitely got the job done for bringing us back to life from the muggy day, nearly 75% humidity.
We visited both the upper and lower falls areas as well as the wildflower field. I can easily see after visiting these just why the park stays so busy! The beauty is astounding, but more so the water offers a retreat for those looking to take a dip in the cool flowing pools. While both were down from normal account, we still saw many people diving in and enjoying the day. Others fished along the banks, hiked the many trails surrounding the waters and enjoyed picnics in the designated areas.
My friend wade into the water to see what it felt like and it was still a bit cool for her liking at this time of April, but give it a couple months and that cool temp would be more than welcomed!
All in All despite the few small areas for improvement I couldn't see this park being anything less than a 5! The quality of experience when we visited with not impaired by the numerous guests and though it could change later in the season, for early April when the wildflowers bloomed wild, the waters flowed cool and the camping was not in intolerable heat it was a win!
Book in advance any time other than Winter.
Bring sunscreen there is little shade near the falls so you will want to protect yourself. In the brief time I was out there I got a little burned on my neck and shoulders.
Bring drinks, we stopped in the Check In Station and there were only a handful of drinks and supplies. I would suggest bringing a water filter or bringing a cooler of drinks for your visit.
Beware of snakes and spiders. On our stay we noticed an influx of spiders, while we personally did not see a snake some others were saying they had seen them basking near the banks and on some of the trails. Always be aware!!
Remember do not pull vehicles into the grass, keep all cars in designated drive areas. Each campsite has a parking area for you to use, if you need additional parking there is more parking near restrooms.