McKinney Falls State Park Review & Rating
McKinney Falls State Park Overview:
Review & Rating of McKinney Falls State Park in Austin
McKinney Falls is about 13 miles from downtown Austin, but once you're in the park you would never know you are so close to suburbia. This is a very nice park with sites that are spacious and set under the trees.
One of the most popular attractions at McKinney Falls are the pools and swimming created by Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges and splashing into pools. Some of the other reasons to visit McKinney Falls State Park is to enjoy camping under the trees, biking (mountain or street biking), or hiking the trails, fishing, bouldering, or just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Amenities and Fun Things To Do:
McKinney Falls State Park has 81 sites with water and electricity, 8 walk-in sites with water only, and 6 screened shelters. The campsites are in five different loops and all of the sites have a parking pad, 20 and 30 amp service (11 sites also have 50 AMP service), water, a picnic table, lantern pole, and fire pit. A lot of sites also have a tent pad. The vast majority of the sites are back-in but there are several pull through sites for bigger rigs. Most of the sites are level, heavily treed, and very spacious. The roads are paved as are the parking pads.
Some of the other amenities at McKinney Falls State Park include:
- group dining hall with a full kitchen
- picnic area with 120 picnic sites with tables and a barbecue grill
- visitor center and historic ruins
- dump station
- 5 screened shelters
- showers and restrooms
- Park store with ice, firewood, caps, T-shirts, and more
The biggest attraction of McKinney Falls State Park are Upper and Lower Falls. Upper Falls is created from Onion Creek flowing through natural limestone channels which cascade into a beautiful pool which is excellent for swimming and it's surrounded by huge cypress trees and a natural gravel beach. Lower Falls is similar with water flowing across a gently dipping limestone shelf before it plunges eight feet into a fantastic swimming hole complete with a gravel beach.
There are three different hiking and biking trails: Onion Creek is a 3 mile paved trail that circles the campsites and has a section that is excellent for bird watching; the quarter mile Smith Rock Shelter trail is an interpretive trail with a 500 year old cypress tree and lots of birds; and the 3 mile Homestead Trail is more strenuous and good for mountain biking. There is a designated rock climbing area between the upper and lower McKinney Falls. For more information on climbing in the park. Swimming is good below each of the falls.
When you enter, pick up a list of the Ranger programs and enjoy the night hikes, birding, geocaching, or atlatls (ancient weapons used by the Aztec Indians) programs.
A Typical Texas Outsider Day:
Start the day by hiking or biking one or all (if you are really ambitious) of the three trails. Homestead Trail is 3 miles of uneven terrain, very pretty, and moderately strenuous. Cool off in Onion Creek after biking.
Fishing is good in the creek and if you bring the bait the Park will supply the rods, reels, and basic tackle for FREE and no fishing license is required. Texas State Parks have started a fishing program that does not require a fishing license to fish in any of the State Parks - check with the park office for more information.
You'll find some good swimming below either upper or lower McKinney Falls.
After hiking, biking, and swimming, chill out and go visit the Smith Visitor Center which has exhibits on wildlife and cultural history, a, museum, a slide show, and a touch table for the kids.
Cool Nearby Activities:
Austin offers most everything you could ever want to do: great music, excellent restaurants, a wide variety of bike/hike trails, excellent golf courses, kayaking on the lake, zip lines, museums, the State Capital, fun bars, lots for kids to do, and much more. Visit our Guide To Austin and Things To Do Page to learn more.
You can golf at either Roy Kizer or Jimmy Clay, both are very close to McKinney Falls State Park and are owned by the City of Austin. Use this Austin Golf Map to find other golf courses nearby.
- Overall Rating:
- Scenic Beauty:
- Things To Do:
Additional Pictures of McKinney Falls State Park
Texas Outside uses a tough rating scale and it’s difficult for a campground to get a “10”. Each park is rated on:
- Scenic Beauty: a campground that is flat with no trees or character gets a “1” and hills, lots of trees, beautiful lake site, and lush ground cover gets a “10”
- Park Condition: the cleaner, well kept, and maintained campgrounds receive high scores
- Amenities: we are looking for lots of amenities like restrooms, dump stations, playgrounds, boat ramps, shelters, concession stand, rental toys, and more.
- Campsites: low scores are given for sites that are right next to each other (good for getting to know your neighbors, but not what we’re looking for when we’re camping); have no lantern holder, no water or electricity, no fire pit, no grill, or no picnic table (or it’s rotten wood); have no trees and no view; the ground cover is crushed rock (my bare feet hate that stuff!); and they require a lot of work to get your rig level.
- Things To Do: Bonus points are given for campgrounds that offer lots of fun things to do at the park or very nearby – this includes: biking, hiking, climbing, boating, entertainment, golf, swimming, fishing, volleyball, horseshoes, and more