McKinney Falls State Park is a beautiful park offering various opportunities for outdoor recreation, including pretty beaches for swimming near the Upper and Lower Falls. The park is close to Austin but it feels like you’re far away from civilization. It’s a quiet and relaxing place to escape from the big city stresses and commune with nature while strolling, hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, swimming, fishing, and listening to the falls’ soothing splashes. There is a lot of space for outdoor games and plenty of trees, which create nice shaded areas. You can easily spend a whole day here and get plenty of joy and relaxation.
Location and Access
McKinney Falls State Park is located at 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway. It’s about a half an hour drive from downtown Austin with all its attractions, including museums, restaurants, cinema, live music, etc. There is a convenient spacious parking lot near the park. Once you park your vehicle, be ready for a walk through an uneven terrain to reach one of the park beaches. The park admission fee is $6 per person. Children twelve years and under can enter for free. The Texas State Parks Pass is valid.
Good news for dog owners – your pets are welcome in McKinney Falls State Park! It’s a great place for outdoor recreation with your four-legged friend. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that dogs are not allowed in the water.
McKinney Falls State Park is well-maintained and clean. There are public restrooms with showers. There is also a beautiful and convenient picnic area right next to Onion Creek. If you’re planning a group gathering you can rent the group hall with a full kitchen and an outdoor grill and seating area (the prices start from $200 per day plus the daily entrance fees).
You can stay overnight at one of more than 80 campsites with electric and water hookups. There are also several renovated cabins for rent and a camping area for nonprofit youth groups. Please call the park to check the prices and availability.
McKinney Falls State Park boasts about nine miles of hike and bike trails through a picturesque natural landscape. The Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail features a hard surface, which is good for road bikes and strollers. You can engage in some fishing in Onion and Williamson creeks. Having no fishing license is not a problem since you don’t need one for fishing in Texas state parks.
During the warmer months, it’s a good idea to swim and sunbathe (don’t forget to bring a bug spray and some sunscreen). The beach areas are rocky and their size can change depending on weather conditions. The Upper Falls and Lower Falls are both really pretty but with some slight differences.
The Lower Falls is better for fishing and just relaxing. It offers a shallow swimming area, which is better for small children. Some older boys and girls have a blast leaping from rock to rock or jumping off the rocks into the water (but please be careful, since the rocks may be slippery).
There are turtles and fish to watch – you can even see entire schools of trout. The water is very clear and its temperature is enjoyable in summer, especially in the evening. Overall, the place is beautiful and family-friendly, but be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty. The water levels depend on the rainfall.
The Upper Falls is more popular and more appropriate for swimming and diving. It features a small swimming area as well, but the water is deeper, offering more comfortable swimming conditions for teens and adults. Here, you can also see some fish and turtles and even swim with them! There are no lifeguards either.
The river water is incredibly clear and refreshing, and the water level depends on the rainfall. Some visitors enjoy floating from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls – the scenery is beautiful and peaceful. There is also a picnic trail connecting the falls.
- 20 minutes from Austin, TX
- 1 hour 20 minutes from San Antonio, TX
- 2 hours 30 minutes from Houston, TX