Austin Easy Hikes | Central Texas Parks | Just Add Water

McKinney Falls State Park

July 13, 2021

McKinney Falls State Park is one of our favorite places in Austin. Here, you can hike, swim, float, camp, and more, all within Austin city limits!

The best part about Austin is that you don’t have to go far to see some incredibly beautiful places. Case in point: McKinney Falls! The Onion Creek and Williamson Creek flow into rushing waterfalls where you can swim and float around, or just hike and listen to the soothing sounds of running water.


You can also camp at McKinney Falls, which makes it one of the best places to try camping for the first time if you are bringing kids. Things happen, and if you decide you need to return home for the night instead of roughing it inside a tent, you’re already in Austin and home is a short drive away!


The Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail is under 3 miles and is paved, making it perfect for hiking with a wheelchair or stroller. You can also hike the Rock Shelter Trail (not paved) if you prefer something more rugged.


We brought floats to chill in the water at the Upper Falls. You can swim in both the upper and lower falls. People also love to jump in from the big rocks up by where the waterfalls starts, but please use caution!

Old Baldy

“Old Baldy” is one of the oldest bald cypress trees in Texas. Roughly 500 years old, 103 feet tall with a trunk that’s 195 inches around, Old Baldy is a fascinating sight to see at the park!

Upper Falls

The hike to the falls is very short, but you have to be careful while crossing over the top of the waterfall area to get across the water to the “beach-like” areas. It’s very slippery and the water is rushing very fast.

Upper Falls

This section looks like you’re walking over craters on the moon!

Upper Falls

We made it past the slippery, dangerous area and hiked down to the other side. There was poison ivy along the trail, so be careful!

Swimming at McKinney Falls

We made it to a shallow entry point to the water. The boys swam out to the big rocks over by the waterfalls, climbed up, and then jumped off the rocks into the water. We made them jump in feet first, but we saw one guy dive in and one guy do a back flip into the water! Please you caution and your best judgement when jumping in.

Lower Falls

We love to hike along the creek over by the Homestead Trail near the Lower Falls. The trees are perfect for climbing and are so beautiful the way they grow right out of the water.

We also like to swim over in the Lower Falls. There is a bigger “beachy” section over here as well. Perfect for setting up chairs and relaxing while the kids swim and float.

Beach-like section at McKinney Falls
Lower Falls

Austin Active Kids Opinion

We love this park so much! We have been here 4 times and there are still parts of the park we haven’t seen yet.

Outing Time

This varies greatly depending on what you do. Camping? Hiking? Swimming? Fishing? You are still in Austin, so popping over for an hour or two is very doable, as you’re not driving for hours to get here.


Bring tubes to float in the water! Bring fishing gear of you plan to fish. Food, alcohol, glass, and coolers are not allowed at the Upper or Lower Falls areas. Pets are allowed but not in the water. Speakers (music), frisbees, or any balls are not allowed at the falls. Bring towels and swimsuits if you plan to swim. Make reservations before you go.


5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin


8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

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