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Visiting McKinney Falls State Park:

Video: McKinney Falls State Park

On the outskirts of Texas capital city of Austin, just a few miles from the Texas Capitol Building, Downtown Austin and the University of Texas, you'll find an oasis state park that feels miles away from the city. This is McKinney Falls State Park!

Our Campsite at McKinney Falls State Park

Our Campsite at McKinney Falls State Park

A destination on its own, McKinney Falls State Park also serves as a great basecamp for anyone visiting the Austin area. You can enjoy all that the city has to offer while staying in nature. McKinney Falls is to Austin what Brazos Bend State Park is to Houston, but its significantly closer to the city.

During our stay, we found the park to be in excellent shape with good roads and reliable utilities at the campsites. We recommend spending enough time here to explore the different areas of the park. The views and scenery change throughout. Hiking on the vast limestone platform that emerges above the Lower Falls feels like you are walking on the moon.

Our Experience at McKinney Falls State Park

In The Rock Shelter at McKinney Falls State Park

In The Rock Shelter at McKinney Falls State Park

We stayed in campsite number 35 in the Big Oak Camping Area. Our back-in site had 30amp electricity and water. It was plenty big enough for our 34' Class A Motorhome and Jeep Gladiator with the Jeep parked across the front of the pavement. We were just a few feet down the street from a bathroom and trash dumpster. A park host was next door.

Space wise, our campsite was huge! We had plenty of space between us and our neighbors. Our fire pit was set quite a ways from our RV which meant we could enjoy a campfire without having to worry about the smoke going into ours or our neighbors' RVs.

We really enjoyed exploring McKinney Falls State Park by hiking. We had a great time at the Upper and Lower Falls. The park was almost completely empty during the week in January.

Our favorite hikes on this visit were the Rock Shelter Trail and the Homestead Trail. Both offered some great views and interesting history. The Rock Shelter served as a campsite for the ancestors of the Tonkawa Indians 2,000 years ago. We visited another of these shelters (Tonkawa Cave) at Mother Neff State Park.

To reach the Homestead Trail, we crossed over the Lower Falls. We also really enjoyed searching for the Smith Family Picnic Table. And I think that's one of the things we really enjoyed about McKinney Falls State Park... as we spent time exploring the park, we felt like we were doing just that... exploring! It was fun, (at times challenging) and interesting all at the same time.

Trail Sign at McKinney Falls State Park

Trail Sign

Hiking Over The Lower Falls at McKinney Falls State Park

Folks Hiking Over The Lower Falls

Our Favorite Thing About McKinney Falls State Park

Location, Location, Location!

We came to McKinney Falls State Park because of its proximity to Austin. The location of this park makes it PERFECT for use as a basecamp while exploring the city. For us, it was the perfect place to stay while we were in town for our newphew's wedding. (Congrats Holden and Abbie! ❤️)

From McKinney Falls State Park you are only 10 miles from the Texas State Capitol Building or the exceptional Bullock Texas State History Museum (a serious Must-Visit by the way).

McKinney Falls State Park is also only 7 miles to the Circuit of the Americas, 10 miles to the Congress Avenue Bridge (for bat watching), 11 miles to the LBJ Presidential Library, 12 miles to Zilker Park and the Elisabet Ney Museum, 13 miles to the Barton Springs Pool, 15 miles to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and 20 miles to the Austin Zoo. If you are visiting kids or grandkids attending the University of Texas, you'll be about 12 miles away from the campus.

So yes, location is what brought us here, but once we arrived we found three of our favorite things: nature, history and hiking!

The McKinney Homestead

The 1850s McKinney Homestead

El Camino Real Passed Through Here

El Camino Real Passed Through Here

The History of McKinney Falls State Park:

Eighty million years ago, this area was covered by water, part of an ancient sea. Just a few miles away, the Pilot Knob Volcano is thought to have last erupted between 79 and 83 million years ago. Geologists believe that the volcano is largely responsible for the soil and limestone rock that make up McKinney Falls today. We've read reports that during this time, large dinosaurs could travel from San Antonio to Fort Worth without submerging completely under the sea.

Fast forward a few million years and you would find more than 300 generations of Native Americans here. They were likely drawn to the area by the rock overhangs that provided shelter along the creeks as well as the abundant wildlife and aquatic life.

Spanish missionaries and settlers began arriving in the area in 1716 traveling the King's Highway otherwise known as El Camino Real (or El Camino Real de los Tejas). The "highway" of trade, commerce and transportation ran between Mexico and Louisiana. We were able to hike another piece of El Camino Real during our visit to Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas.

Historians believe that most of these folks probably just kept passing through. But in 1850 Thomas McKinney decided to build a homestead here. McKinney is said to have been one of Stephen F Austin's Old 300 who came from Kentucky to settle in San Felipe de Austin and Galveston before coming to the Hill Country. He was a wealthy trader, merchant, rancher, and racehorse breeder who history says financed 10% of the Texas Revolution and a large part of the Texas Navy in partnership with Samuel May Williams.

McKinney chose this location for his homestead after being elected to the First Texas Legislature. The limestone McKinney home (which can be seen in ruins today following a fire) was built in the 1850s. His days of prosperity behind him, Thomas McKinney was "deeply in debt" when he passed away in the home in 1873.

Thomas' widow, Anna McKinney, sold the property to James Smith in 1885 who cultivated cotton, produce and livestock on the land. Farming, however, proved challenging due to flash floods and erosion on the rolling hills. The last residents left the property in the 1940s after the homestead burned, and the Smith Family donated the land to Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1973. McKinney Falls State Park opened to the public in 1976.

The remains of the McKinney Homestead can be seen on the appropriately named Homestead Trail. It was built with materials from the property including cypress, cedar and limestone. As we visited the house, we wondered how difficult it must have been for the builders who were charged with the construction. It would have been quite the task today, much less in the 1850s. The remains of the home were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Upper Falls

The Upper Falls

The Lower Falls

The Lower Falls

Things to Do at the McKinney Falls State Park:

Hiking: Don't miss "Old Baldy"! Estimated to be more than 500 years old, this huge bald cypress tree measures 103 feet tall and more than 16' around! It is listed as one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas. You'll find Old Baldy on the Rock Shelter Trail (which is also home to its namesake: a prehistoric limestone rock shelter).

McKinney Falls State Park is home to over 10.5 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty. Some trails require you to cross the creek or on rocks above some of the falls to reach the trailhead.

Things to look for while you hike: the Upper and Lower Falls, Old Baldy, historic ruins of the McKinney homestead and Thomas McKinney's 1852 gristmill. You can also walk on part of the 400 year old El Camino Real and find the old Smith Family Picnic Area.

Bouldering: The most unique activity at McKinney Falls State Park! Experienced rock climbers can test their bouldering skills near the Lower Falls. Bring your own equipment.

Biking: Biking is allowed on 9.5 miles of the park's trails including the Homestead Trail, Williamson Creek Overlook Trail, Flint Rock Loop Trail, Service Road Trail, and the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail. Some of the trails require you to cross a creek to reach the trailhead.

Ranger Programs: Check with the Events Page of McKinney Falls State Park's website or the park headquarters for a list of scheduled Ranger Programs. Ranger programs at this park include guided hikes, birding programs, archery classes, geocaching, history and prehistory presentations, knot tying classes, art projects and more.

Newly Reopened Visitor Center

Newly Reopened Visitor Center

Visiting Old Baldy

Visiting Old Baldy

Fishing: Fishing is available along the shoreline of Onion Creek within McKinney Falls State Park. A fishing license is not required to fish from the banks within a state park. McKinney Falls State Park has put together a Fishing Tip Sheet to help you be prepared. The most common fish inside the park are Sunfish, Largemouth Bass and Catfish.

Birding: Some of the birds you might see at McKinney Falls State Park include painted buntings, yellow-bellied flycatchers, barred owls, green kingfishers, cardinals and several different kinds of warblers. Bring your binoculars.

Wildlife Viewing: Even though McKinney Falls State Park is on the outskirts of Austin, white-tailed deer, armadillos, squirrels, coyote and raccoons call this park home.

Geocaching: Geocaching can be a fun way to explore and learn about McKinney Falls State Park. Texas Parks and Wildlife has a great resource for learning all about geocaching in the state parks.

Swimming: Swimming is available in Onion Creek in the Day Use Area of the park. No lifeguards are on duty.

Other Amenities at McKinney Falls State Park:

Waterfalls: While these aren't the hundreds of feet tall walls of water cascading down the side of a mountain, they are still a sight to see. No visit to McKinney Falls State Park is complete without taking in the Upper and Lower Falls.

Nature Center / Visitor Center: Located next to the parking area for the Upper Falls, be sure to pay a visit to the Visitor Center. Displays tell the story of the geography of the park as well as the people who once lived here. A park volunteer is on hand to answer questions. The Halloween Flood of 2013 brought record flooding to the park putting 4 feet of water in the building. The Visitor Center reopened in late 2021.

Park Store: A small souvenir store is located inside the park headquarters.

Amphitheater: The park's amphitheater is located near the group dining hall. Parking and restrooms are nearby.

Firewood Sales: Firewood is sold via vending machines in the camping loops and cabin loop. Collecting your own wood is not allowed inside Texas State Parks.

Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations: Yes, you read that right. McKinney Falls State Park is the first state park that we have seen with charging stations for electric cars. You'll find them in the parking lot next to the Visitor Center.

Chimney Swift Tower

Chimney Swift Tower

Firewood Vending Machine

Firewood Vending Machine

McKinney Falls State Park Details:

Open Year Round? Yes

Busy Season: March - November

Reservations Available: 6 Months Prior to Camping Date

Check-In Time: 2:00 pm

Check-Out Time: 12:00 pm

Park Gate: Yes

Gate Open Hours: 8am - 10pm

RV Campsite Lengths: 47 - 115 feet

Total RV/Tent Sites: 83

Total Tent Only Sites: 0 (except for youth non-profit group camping)

Total Screened Shelter Sites: 0

Total Cabin Sites: 6

Contact McKinney Falls State Park:

Park Address: 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin TX 78744

Park Phone: 512.243.1643

Reservations Phone: 512.389.8900

Reserve a Campsite at McKinney Falls State Park Online

Visit the McKinney Falls State Park Website

Connect with McKinney Falls State Park on Facebook and Instagram

Big Oak Campsite at McKinney Falls State Park

Big Oak Campsite

Big Cedar Campsite at McKinney Falls State Park

Big Cedar Campsite

RV and Tent Camping at McKinney Falls State Park:

Big Oak Camping Area

Total Sites: 31

Site Numbers: 1-8, 18-40

30 Amp Electricity

Electric and Water Hookups

Back-In and Pull-Thru Sites

Site Lengths: 49-112'*

Little Oak Camping Area

Total Sites: 9

Site Numbers: 9-17

50 Amp Electricity

Electric and Water Hookups

Back-In and Pull-Thru Sites

Site Lengths: 55-115'*

Campsites include a picnic table, lantern hook, fire ring and tent pad. Sites are paved. Some sites are shaded, others are more sunny. The Little Oak Camping Area comes off of the Big Oak Camping Area. There are two restrooms in the Big Oak Camping Loop. The bathhouse nearest the Little Oak Camping Loop also has showers.

Grapevine Loop Camping Area

Total Sites: 9

Site Numbers: 41-49

30 Amp Electricity

Electric and Water Hookups

Back-In Sites

Site Lengths: 54-60'*

Big Cedar Camping Area

Total Sites: 29

Site Numbers: 50-61, 67-85

30 Amp Electricity

Electric and Water Hookups

Back-In and Pull-Thru Sites

Site Lengths: 47-91'*

Moss Loop Camping Area

Total Sites: 5

Site Numbers: 62-66

30 Amp Electricity

Electric and Water Hookups

Back-In and Pull-Thru Sites

Site Lengths: 53-104'*

Campsites include a picnic table, lantern hook, fire ring and tent pad. Sites are paved. Some are shaded, some are sunny. The Grapevine Loop and Moss Loop come off of the Big Cedar Camping Loop. This camping loop has two restrooms. The one nearest the Grapevine Loop also has showers.

* Bigger rigs should check with park rangers for recommendations regarding sites easier to get into. While the lengths on all of the sites are long compared to alot of state parks, the trees over the roads within the camping loops might be a challenge for some taller rigs.

Trash dumpsters and overflow parking spaces are located near each restroom/bathhouse.

A nice two-sided dump station is located on your way in and out of the camping area on the main park road. Big Oak Camping Area is the camping loop closest to the dump station.

Cabin at McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls Cabin

Bathhouse at McKinney Falls State Park


Cabins at McKinney Falls State Park:


Total Sites: 6

Site Numbers: 1-6

Air Conditioned and Heated

Water and Electricity

Kitchen Inside Cabin

Parking at Cabin

These cabins include a patio with picnic table and fire ring / grill. Inside is another picnic table, a kitchen sink, microwave, mini-refrigerator, living room seating, desk, two twin bunk beds (sleeps 4), dresser and ceiling fans. Bring your own linens and kitchenware.

No tents, RVs or pets allowed. No bathrooms in the cabins. A bathhouse with showers and restrooms is located in the cabin loop.

Cabins at McKinney Falls State Park require a two-night minimum rental on weekends and a three-night minimum rental on holidays and special events weekends.

Visiting McKinney Falls State Park For a Day:

Day Use Areas

McKinney Falls State Park's location makes it a perfect, easy getaway from Austin. Bring a picnic and spend the day hiking, biking, exploring or even bouldering!

Day Passes can be reserved up to one month in advance. Day Pass Reservation information for McKinney Falls State Park is available through Reserve America.

For answers to frequently asked questions about Texas State Park Day Pass Reservations, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife's Save the Day Pass FAQs page.

Looking Down On The Falls

Looking Down On The Falls

The Smith Family Picnic Table

Smith Family Picnic Table

McKinney Falls State Park Information:

Year Opened: 1976

Discount Passes Accepted: Texas State Parks Pass

Friends Group: Friends of McKinney Falls State Park

CCC Park? No

Park Store? Yes

Pet Policy: Pets are allowed throughout the park and on the trails, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Pets are not allowed in buildings.

Lodging Options at McKinney Falls State Park: RV Camping, Tent Camping, Cabins

McKinney Falls State Park Reviews: Campendium, Campground Reviews, RV Parky, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews

Amenities: nature center, hiking, biking, bouldering, bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, swimming, camping, geocaching, picnicking, amphitheater, playground, historic ruins

Hiking The Rock Shelter Trail

Hiking the Rock Shelter Trail

McKinney Falls State Park Amphitheater


Operated By: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Region: Texas Hill Country

County: Travis

Nearest Towns: Colton TX (4 miles), Bluff Springs TX (5 miles), Del Valle TX (7 miles), Creedmoor (8 miles), Austin TX (10 miles)

View the McKinney Falls State Park Map

See the Hiking Trails Map for McKinney Falls State Park

Weather at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin TX

Tags: Texas State Parks, Texas Hill Country, State Parks

Nearing the Falls

Nearing the Falls

Rock Formations at McKinney Falls State Park

Carved Rock

Where is McKinney Falls State Park?

Where is McKinney Falls State Park?

Approx. Distance to McKinney Falls State Park:

Austin: 10 miles

San Antonio: 75 miles

Waco: 110 miles

Houston: 160 miles

Dallas: 200 miles

Fort Worth: 200 miles

Corpus Christi: 215 miles

Beaumont: 245 miles

Texarkana: 380 miles

Lubbock: 380 miles

Amarillo: 500 miles

El Paso: 580 miles

McKinney Falls State Park Fees

Camping Fees: $20 - $24 / night

Cabins: $86 / night

Day Use Fees (Ages 13+): $6 / day

McKinney Falls State Park, Austin TX |

If You Like McKinney Falls State Park, You Might Also Like:

Lake Bastrop South Shore Park

Martin Creek Lake State Park

Cooper Lake State Park - South Sulphur

Brazos Bend State Park

Lake Corpus Christi State Park

Rocky Creek Park

Other Texas Hill Country Parks:

Garner State Park

Mountain Breeze Campground

Our Other Texas Campground Reviews

Discover the Texas Hill Country

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Safe Travels and Happy Camping!

Please Note: These details are accurate to to the best of our knowledge. We try our best to provide accurate information, but we are human and sometimes details change. Please check with the park directly to confirm current information.