Before classes begin, take a hike
in the beautiful Texas Hill Country
San Marcos is bathed in sunshine about 275 days a year — and today is one of them. Before the spring semester begins, take advantage of the great weather and get lost on one of the many trails near the Texas State University campus.
These are our top hiking destinations, arranged by distance (nearest to furthest) from campus and including total mileage of trails, so you can plan an hour or a full afternoon of outdoor fun.
Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos — 5 miles of trails
At 463 acres, San Marcos’ largest parkland tract includes upland meadows, canyon bluffs, juniper thickets and winding shady paths under live oaks. Start from the Prospect Park trailhead near campus or the ADA-accessible Purgatory Creek trailhead. Click here to download a map of the San Marcos Parks System.
Ringtail Ridge Trails in San Marcos — 2 miles of trails
This 40-acre natural area, located off Ranch Road 12 in San Marcos, features a half-mile accessible trail and about 2 miles of unmarked loop trail through oak groves, flowering meadows, cactus stands and the ruins of a slaughterhouse that formerly occupied part of the site.
University Camp in Wimberley — 3.5 miles of trails
Texas State’s U-Camp, 15 miles up Ranch Road 12 in Wimberley, contains 3.5 miles of hike-and-bike trails providing scenic views and access to the Blanco River. Access is limited to the Texas State community and friends, so the park’s natural areas see minimal traffic. Picnic, snorkel, float or fish after a day on the trail.
Canyon Park at Canyon Lake — 7 miles of trails
Canyon Lake, located 20 miles west of San Marcos, is rimmed by trails maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 7-mile out-and-back Old Hancock Trail follows the north shore of Canyon Lake from Canyon Park. Other parks on the lake feature hiking trails of various lengths with views of the lake.
Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in Austin — 10 miles of trails
Austin’s most popular footpath runs beside Lady Bird Lake through the heart of the city. The mostly paved, flat trail offers great views of the lake, the Austin skyline and eclectic, outdoorsy Austinites. Many hiking trails connect to the Town Lake Trail, allowing for a long day of outdoor exploring if you’re up to it.
McKinney Falls State Park in Austin — 6 miles of trails
This scenic park, located in southeast Austin, features shady hikes and swimming beneath towering bald cypresses. The entirely paved Onion Creek Trail loop is an easy 3-mile stroll. The Homestead Trail winds through oak thickets and stands of prickly pear, with a spur to Lower McKinney Falls over exposed limestone bedrock.
McKinney Roughs Nature Park in Cedar Creek — 18 miles of trails
Located about 20 miles east of Austin, McKinney Roughs is situated on 1,100 acres of steep box canyons, shady pine forests and wildflower meadows sculpted around the meandering Colorado River. The park’s 18 miles of scenic trails accommodate hikers and horseback riders.
Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City — 20 miles of trails
Pedernales Falls State Park is a hiker’s dream with 19.8 miles of diverse trails. Ramble through scrub and dense woodlands to reach panoramic Hill Country vistas. Stop by the boyhood home of Texas State alum Lyndon B. Johnson at the LBJ National Historic Site, also in Johnson City, after your hike.
Guadalupe River State Park in Spring Branch — 5 miles of trails
With a huge riverside picnic area facing limestone cliffs, Guadalupe River State Park is a popular weekend getaway for San Antonians. The park’s well-maintained trails crisscross through shady oak groves and juniper thickets to create loops ranging from 1 to 5 miles in length.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg — 4 miles of trails
Enchanted Rock — a huge batholith of pink granite rising 425 feet above the Hill Country floor north of Fredericksburg — is excellent site for hiking and rock climbing. Scramble to the top of the rock or explore the trails that wind through the surrounding granite formations and woodlands.