2 - 3
FATMAP difficulty grade
This 6.6-mile loop through McKinney Falls State Park is designed to maximize the best trails found in the park.
The singletrack at McKinney Falls is almost all buttery-smooth trail that follows narrow strips of dark black dirt, interrupted by the occasional block of limestone.
At this length, and with such smooth trails, this is a beautiful yet mostly-flat hike within Austin's city limits. The hike begins by dropping down to Lower McKinney Falls.
To reach the bulk of the trails, you'll have to traverse a rippled slickrock slab and then cross the stream above the falls.
This is far and away the most difficult part of the entire hike.
At low water, you can easily hop from rock to rock above the falls and reach the other side without getting your feet wet. However, when the water level is high, crossing the stream will require wading, and the slabs of limestone can get very, very slippery when wet.
Exercise extreme caution if you decide to wade the stream or choose instead to return later in the season when the water is lower. Once on the opposite side of Onion Creek, the hike begins on the Homestead Trail, first passing the historic homestead before heading deeper into the forest. To complete this route as mapped, you can simply take left turns the entire time to traverse all of the loops and make the most of these trails.
From the smooth dirt on Homestead, you'll turn left onto the Flint Rock Loop to reach the Williamson Creek Overlook trail.
Flint Rock does have a few more rocks than the other trails in the park, and there can be a few slick, muddy spots along this section.
Most of the wet spots have been rock armored to reduce the environmental impact. The trail on Williamson Creek Overlook goes right back to the smooth black dirt, and it does indeed provide a scenic overlook of a small canyon carved out by the passage of Williamson Creek.
This outermost loop is a true gem that provides a wonderful feeling of being immersed in nature, even though you're still within Austin's city limits! After looping back through Flint Rock Loop, you'll pick up the eastern section of the Homestead trail to return to the falls. If you haven't had enough yet, hike the short stretch of trail to reach the upper falls as well!