In honor of the Texas State Parks centennial, we’re visiting and writing about eight around Austin. And, as the only state park in Travis County, we’re starting with McKinney Falls State Park.
McKinney Falls’ history dates back ~9,000 years, to Native American settlers researchers believe may have been Tonkawa.
A few centuries later, a stretch of the park was once a portion of the El Camino Real de los Tejas, a roadway traveled by missionaries, government officials, traders, and other adventurers journeying between Mexico and Texas in the 1600-1800s.
The name McKinney originated with Thomas McKinney, an early Austin colonist whose firm helped finance as much as 10% of the cost of the Texas Revolution. He began building on the land now home to the state park — using the labor of enslaved people — in the mid-1800s.
McKinney died deeply in debt in 1873. The property passed hands until it was donated to the state 100 years later.
What to see
See the ruins of McKinney’s homestead, plus an early rock shelter, along the park’s trails. You also won’t want to miss Old Baldy, a 500-year-old cypress tree named Austin’s 2012 Tree of the Year.
The real star of the show at McKinney Falls, however, is — you guessed it — the falls. Walk Onion Creek to see the upper and lower falls up close, or take them in from the Visitor’s Center observation deck.
What to do
McKinney Falls has 641 acres worth of activities, including:
- Camping, starting at $20 per night
- Mountain and road biking
If you’re an athlete, take note: the Austin Falls Ultra, a trail race ranging from 5K-50K, takes place Saturday, April 8.
Make a reservation to visit McKinney Falls State Park online here.