Test your way-finding skills on this diverse hike at McKinney Roughs Nature Park—not to be confused with McKinney Falls State Park—and pass through a variety of terrain including alluvial gravels, sugar sand, and “black gumbo” clay. The elevation of the trail changes often, meaning you’ll hike up and down rolling hills through post oak savannah, loblolly piney woods, blackland prairie and riparian (riverbank) ecosystems.
This well-marked route connects several pieces of the McKinney Roughs trail system to make a 4-mile loop. Start from the main entrance of the park, marked by a roadside windmill. Grab a trail map and begin your hike along the Riverside trail. Keep right to get on the Foxtail trail, which eventually turns into the Pine Ridge trail. In less than an hour, you will arrive at Pine Ridge Overlook. Enjoy expansive, undulating valley views of the Colorado River below. Pull out your binoculars and listen for the red-tailed hawk. If you’re lucky, you might spot one high in the treetops. As you continue along Pine Ridge trail, be careful and watch your step. The trail drops steeply as you make your way onto the Cypress trail, toward a series of switchbacks with loose gravel steps. Soon you’ll be standing at the river’s edge.
Stop at the picnic table for a rest break before starting your climb up and out of the river bottom.
To return, follow the Bluestem trail to the Bluff Trail Loop. At the top, you’ll be rewarded for all your uphill hiking effort with several scenic overlook spots. Continue along the Ridge trail to arrive back in the parking area.
Expect the hike to take about 2 hours. This route is most suitable for hikers, although there are many options in the park for equestrians.
McKinney Roughs Nature Park is located 20 miles east of Austin on Highway 71. Allot 30 minutes of driving time from central Austin. Park day use fee for adults is $5, but free for children under 12. Open Monday through Saturday.
*Thanks to Regina Kubelka, owner of Hill Country Outdoors for recommending this month’s trail. HCO is a meetup group focused on fulfilling the outdoor, sporting, and social needs of Austin natives and newcomers alike. Learn more about them at hillcountryoutdoors.com. Got a route to share?
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