Listen to Austin 360 Radio

What you need to know before making a trip to beautiful McKinney Falls

Brooke Park
Austin American-Statesman
Fall puts on a show at  McKinney Falls State Park on Nov. 11, 2020. Austin's only state park is a beautiful one.

McKinney Falls has been an Austin hotspot for hiking, swimming and camping needs since opening to the public nearly fifty years ago. However, the park has evolved over the years in response to natural disasters and development. As fall brings crisp, cool hiking and camping weather, here are five tips to know before heading out to Austin's closest state park.

Take a hike. No, really. 10 of Austin's best hiking trails to take in the beauty of the Hill Country.

1. Smiths Visitor Center at McKinney Falls State Park

After opening in October following nearly eight years of closure, McKinney Falls updated the center with new interpretive exhibits of bat caves and the El Camino Real trail that missionaries and soldiers traveled along in the 1800s.

The park closed the visitors center after nearly 40 inches of water flooded the building on Halloween 2013. The building flooded again in 2015, further delaying the center's reopening. 

McKinney Falls has remodeled the center to resist future flooding by creating new exhibits with waterproof materials and raising heating, ventilation and cooling systems above flood lines.

The new interactive educational display "a walk through time" at the Smith Visitors Center at McKinney Falls State Park on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. Visitors can learn about the formation of the falls, environments and wildlife as they walk through the display. The visitors center opened for the first time since 2013 due to extensive damage from the Halloween flood.

2. Night hikes

Come out some Saturdays at 8 p.m. and hike an easy and family-friend 3/4 mile hike. Hikers can try their luck at catching a glimpse of wolf spiders, scorpions and nocturnal wildlife.

A display of stars light up in the "bat room" as a part of the new interactive educational display at the Smith Visitors Center at McKinney Falls State Park on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. The visitors center opened for the first time since 2013 due to extensive damage from the Halloween flood.

3. Camping at McKinney Falls

Bring up to 8 people to enjoy one of 81 campsites equipped with electricity, a picnic table and grill. Prices range from $20-$24 a night, however, these prices are subject to change. 

If tents are not your thing, try booking one of the six cabins located at the park. While the park does not allow pets in or around the cabin area, the lodges provide accommodations such as a microwave, mini-refrigerator, two twin bunk beds and air conditioning. Rates currently go for $86 a night, and a two-night minimum rental is required on weekends. 

4. Geocaching

Search for modern-day buried treasure at McKinney Falls. Many people hide items at state parks such as McKinney. Park-goers need to download coordinates to different hidden items from geocaching.com to begin the hunt. 

5. Old Baldy

At 103 feet tall, Old Baldy towers over visitors. The park estimates the tree is 500-years-old and is one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land.