Hit the Trail!: Parks, Natural Areas, and Green Spaces in San Antonio

One of my favorite things about San Antonio is that while we’re the seventh largest city in the United States, it never feels that way. You constantly run into people you know, or people who know people you know, so our big city really feels more like a small town.  And we’re surrounded by green: trees, parks, and nature are woven into our city, making even downtown San Antonio feel nothing like a concrete jungle.

We love our local parks. The green spaces we enjoy are part of what makes San Antonio so special, and we have some amazing parks to enjoy. As we head into summer, we’re planning to expand our horizons by exploring parks we haven’t hit yet.

On a recent Saturday, we ventured to Eisenhower Park and were amazed at the nature we discovered just minutes from home. While we were exploring, we met Friends of San Antonio Natural Areas and learned more about the fantastic natural areas we’re lucky to have around the Alamo City.

green spaces in san antonio
Some of the native Texas beauties in Eisenhower Park, thriving thanks to spring rains.

Friends of San Antonio Natural Areas, known as FSANA, promotes stewardship of San Antonio’s natural areas and the understanding and appreciation of nature through educational and scientific programs. We’re always encouraging our son to get out and explore (thanks, PBS, “Nature Cat,” and “Dinosaur Train”!). We seek out opportunities to expose him to nature to grow his understanding and appreciation of the world around us. That means I’ve learned more about bugs and reptiles than I ever knew existed. I’ve also lost count of the number of rollie pollies I’ve been asked to hold.

FSANA works to support the City of San Antonio’s natural areas parks system, including Eisenhower Park. San Antonio features six “natural areas”—parks that aren’t landscaped, manicured, and controlled, but that feature the opportunity to explore nature in a more natural state, with trails and other amenities (like restrooms!). The natural areas include Crownridge Canyon, Friedrich Wilderness, Phil Hardberger, Medina River, Walker Ranch Historic Park Landmark, and Eisenhower Parks, each featuring trails to explore while you check out some of South Texas’ native species. You can learn more about the parks on FSANA’s website. Each park offers a variety of educational and active nature programming such as First Saturday Hikes, Second Saturday Programs, and Wild Wednesdays.

I’m ashamed to say we haven’t explored any of San Antonio’s natural areas. We had such a great time in Eisenhower Park that we’re determined to visit all of them and enjoy some of FSANA’s activities this summer. If you want to add the parks to your adventure agenda, check out FSANA’s map to see which parks are close to you or check out one in another part of town. There’s also a great calendar of activities they offer, including a First Saturday Hikes. The next one will be July 2nd at Friedrich Wilderness Park, where you’ll learn how Native Americans found everything they needed from the plants and animals around them.

green spaces in san antonio
I like nature, but a few of these friends need to keep their distance! Be safe when you hit the trails. According to my son, dinosaurs need to be added to this list.To participate in the First Saturday Hikes, you must RSVP, so visit the calendar for more information. All FSANA events require RSVPs, by the way, so make sure you sign up before you head out. Reservation details can be found on the calendar. You can call (210) 207-3782 or email [email protected] to make your reservations. Please note: all programs also have a suggested donation of $3 per person, or $6 per family, to help support FSANA and keep these sorts of programs going.

An event that sounds right up our alley is “Pipes!”, a Second Saturday event on June 11th at Friedrich Wilderness Park. San Antonio Water System will present a hands-on, wet experience to demonstrate the complexity of operating a water system. The event is recommended for kids seven and up.

green spaces in san antonio
Dinosaur George speaking at one of FSANA’s programs. He never fails to captivate kids with his stories and artifacts.

We definitely enjoyed May’s Second Saturday, a session with Dinosaur George, and can now tell you that woolly mammoths once roamed Eisenhower Park. Isn’t that a great excuse to get out and explore?!? It certainly sparked my son’s interest in checking out the trails and looking for evidence of mammoths and dinos. (Note: He sees evidence of dinos ALL. THE. TIME. No, I do not live with Dino Dan or Trek, and if you get that reference, you’re definitely a fellow dino mom.)

Wild Wednesdays are programs offered on Wednesday mornings designed for ages three to seven that expose children to nature through stories, song, and hands-on activities. Check out FSANA’s calendar to see what programs might be a good fit for your little ones. Friday mornings often feature Starting Out Wild, programs for the true little ones, ages one to three. June features “Batty Bats,” which is something my guy would have loved at that age (and now).

With everything there is to do, see, and experience in our parks, our summer is off to a great start. We’ll be taking some hikes, looking for interesting plants, rocks, and creatures, and enjoying a picnic or two. We’ll also be taking some pictures as one thing my son enjoys is looking back at what we saw together. And I’m pretty sure a rock or two will be pocketed as what we find is often declared a treasure by the budding, five-year-old archaeologist I chauffeur around town. (By the way, those rocks will inevitably end up banging around my washer and dryer when they’re left in said pockets.)

If you want to see more of San Antonio’s parks, ACMB has some great info on where to start, like Inga’s post on some of the exploring she did with her kids last summer.  We’re going to be following in their footsteps this summer, as I’ve put those spots on our own nature bucket list this year.

Here’s a great list of a few local parks you might enjoy, including a good overview of Eisenhower Park. And of course, Yanaguana Garden is a terrific spot downtown that captures kids’ imaginations and allows them to play in the heart of San Antonio. CHRISpark is a beautiful, touching spot to explore, and the Japanese Tea Garden is unlike anything else in the Alamo City.

green spaces in san antonio
Hit the trails and explore!

So what are you waiting for?? There are dinos to discover—or at least some great trails, beautiful plants, and perhaps a creature or two. If you have a favorite local park you like to explore, please let me know—we’d love to grow our adventure list.

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food