It was the brilliant red chest of the painted bunting that caught Monte’s eye. The morning was young, the air cool, and the trail still quiet. We’d already been rewarded.
All we have to do after a quick breakfast is throw our bikes in the back of the pickup and we are at the front gate of McKinney Falls State Park (park map) when they open for the day. Just a short drive from the heart of Austin, this park offers a great getaway for visitors, including a fun paved trail for an easy bike ride through the forest and along the falls. We opt for the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail, a 2.8 mile paved journey through the park. Since we are up early and the park is still quiet, we take our binoculars along for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
It was our second consecutive Saturday morning on the trail. We love the easy ride through the forest, the chance to meet friendly people, and see some wildlife.The big reward? The trail runs alongside Upper Falls, where Onion Creek circles into tiny pools and then cascades over the limestone ledges. Shade is provided by the bald cypresses along the bank.
This is a quiet place to sit and reflect if you’d like, or take a moment’s rest before heading back on the trail. There was plenty to see: the bald knobby “knees” of the cypress, the turtles catching sun on the limestone.
Our two Saturday mornings offer us sightings of deer, raptors, turtles, boy scouts fishing, friendly bulldogs on leashes and their human friends, the green of the forest, the sounds of running water, wildflowers, QUIET, and an easy restorative ride.
Our assessment: this is a great trail for beginners and families, or those wanting a leisurely morning on a bike. The surface is uneven, but easy to navigate, except for one (very) well-marked section where you really do have to dismount and walk your bike for a short while. Shade is plentiful, but it will get hot in the summer. Best come early in the day as we did. We will be back, hopefully many times.