McKinney Roughs Nature Park – Austin, Texas

Trail: Multiple hiking trails.Mckinney Roughs Nature Park Austin Texas

Directions: Take Texas 71 East from the Austin airport.  Go 13.2 miles and the entrance is on the Left.  There is a windmill and stone work at the entrance along with a sign.  Take the road into the park and there is great signage to get to the parking lot.

General Information:

Terrain: Moderate; Mostly flat, some switchbacks and small amount of steep areas. From ridge top to river side.

Family Oriented: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes, except on the Ridge Trail.

Times: Open all year round except on major holidays.  8 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday, Noon to 5 pm on Sundays

Hiking Fees: $4.00 adults, children 12 and under are free, $2.00 persons 65 and older

McKinney Roughs Nature Park - TrailOverall: The trails are well-maintained and marked.  In fact, if you have a map, it would be very hard to get lost.  The map has numbers that correspond to markers alongside the trail.  Another nice feature on the map is the locations and descriptions of scenic points.  Lastly, the trails have signs that show the way back to the park headquarters.

About: I know that there are a lot of Hiking Trails in Austin, Texas, so it was hard to narrow it down to just one when I was visiting.  I narrowed my search and decided to check out a local Nature Park.  The McKinney Roughs Nature Park is located about 13 miles east of the Austin airport just off of highway 71.  It is managed and owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).  The LCRA is a nonprofit public service agency that provides energy, water and community services for communities in Texas.

The Nature Park encompasses 1,100 acres and rests on the bank of the Texas Colorado River.  Its unique setting includes four different ecosystems; Riparian, Oak Savannah, Blackland Prairie and Piney Woods.  LCRA provides land and flood management services.  They promote conservation, ensure a reliable water source and electricity.

The Park has an amphitheater, a visitor’s center, gift shop, classroom building, dining hall and dormitories.  There are multiple exhibits throughout the park.  These exhibits reveal conservation techniques, sustainable energy and the names of native plant species.  They also have a summer camp program for kids.

They have 21 trails totaling almost 18 miles.  A lot of the trails can be used by hikers and equestrian riders.  The trails that I hiked only allow hikers.  I should mention that dogs on leashes are welcome and allowed on all trails except for the Ridge Trail.  Bicycles are not allowed in the Park.

There are a variety of trails to choose from.  Some travel along the ridge line, like Ridge and Pine Ridge.  While other trails travel near the river’s edge like Cypress and Riverside.  I guess you noticed that, in most cases, the names give the type of trail terrain.

History: HumaMcKinney Roughs Nature Park - Flowerns have lived in this area for as much as 8,000 years. The original inhabitants being aboriginal Texans.  They survived until Europeans arrived in the 1500s.  Sometime in the 1820s a group of settlers which included Stephen F. Austin and Thomas F. Mckinney arrived.  The area was named after Mckinney, although he lived a distance away.  In the 1850s, John Calhoun Wise settled in the area and his family continued to live here for 100 years until the LCRA acquired the land in 1995 and built a “conservation center”.

The Hike: I arrived at 8:00 am, to get on the trail before it got too hot.  It was the end of July and about 74 when I started.  They have an ample parking lot and all the buildings are well signed.  The park headquarters is the first building you arrive at from the parking lot.  You can go right inside and check in and get a color map.  They do have a gift shop and some exhibits inside.

After given a map and some direction, I was off.  The trail heads are behind the classroom building.  A great way to go is around the large silver silo and pass the beautiful flower garden.

My original plan was to go up Riverside, down Pine Ridge to Cypress and then back up Riverside to the main entrance.  But, I didn’t follow my own advice and forgot to bring an extra battery for my camera that I had left it in the car.  Everything was going along fine until I got to the Pine Ridge Overlook, a spectacular view of the valley below, and the battery died.  I was devastated and mortified.  Here I am giving other people advice on what to pack and I forgot my extra battery.McKinney Roughs Nature Park - Flower 3

Let me talk to you about the Pine Ridge Trail and then I will get back to the battery part of the story.  The trail was extremely well-maintained.  There are portions of it, almost the entire first 2 miles that two can walk side-by-side.  I will have to say to watch out for spider webs, I know they have them on every trail, but this Nature Park includes wooden post gates to walk through at every trail crossing.  The spiders really loved hanging out at these.  I almost ran into two or three of them before I got the clue.  The birds were very vocal and I did see a lot of Cardinals darting out of the brush and across the trail.  Butterflies and grasshoppers were abundant as well.  I was also glad that I had on sunscreen and bug spray.  The bugs really left me alone, although they would buzz around me.  There is a portion of the Pine Ridge Trail where they had a fire around 2008, so if you do take this trail, there are areas that do not provide any shade.  For the most part, the trail does have a lot of coverage.  The trees are spectacular.  They are twisted and full of character.  Cacti were strewn about here and there letting me know that I was in Texas.  The trail was basically level with just a few minor switchbacks up until the overlook.  Along the trail there were remnants of the old homestead including a chimney and a barn.

And now back to that dead battery.  I decided to take a shorter route back to the car, get the battery and then try a different set of trails.  I followed Pine Ridge back to a short portion of Bobcat Ridge and then Riverside back to the parking lot.  There was almost no shade on Riverside and it is rather straight and flat.  There were nice meadows off to the side with tall grass.

So, back I went onto the trail with a fresh battery.  The trail now would be the Ridge Trail.  Very well shaded and winding.  There are a few spots on the trail with benches to sit and enjoy the view or just rest.  The park map states that this is a Self-Guided (ADA) trail.  On the advice from the host at the park headquarters, I decided to take the Bluff Trail Loop and go to the Overlook.  The Bluff Trail loop is a bit steeper than the other trails going up and down off the ridge line and then up to Bluff overlooking the Texas Colorado River.  I will have to say that the view was spectacular.  It was worth it to take this trail.

I then followed the Bluff Trail Loop back to the Ridge Trail and back to the parking lot.

Total time on the trails was about 3 hours, although I did rush it back to the parking lot to get the spare battery.  I do recommend that anyone living in or visiting Austin take some time out of their schedule to visit this nature park.  This park has just a few of the wonderful Austin hiking trails.

If you would like more information about this hike as well as other Austin Hiking Trails,

Here is a great reference guide that I recommend:

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