If I had to describe my family’s relationship with Mother Nature in one word, it’d be outdoorsy-ish. We’ve gone camping without any children being eaten by wild animals or being left in caves (a success in my book). Let’s be real though: the extensive preparations for family camping are stressful, and I often crave a simpler way to achieve family time in the great outdoors. Family hiking is a great alternative—you get a big dose of nature without the big minivan full of camping gear. Luckily, there are many excellent places to go hiking close to San Antonio. I’m sharing a few of my favorites so you, too, can enjoy being outdoorsy-ish more often.
North of Fredericksburg, you’ll find Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This popular hiking spot offers 11 miles of trails. Summit Trail takes you to the top of the famous, 425-foot granite dome. While challenging, the beautiful view is worth it! The terrain can be tricky for young children, so be sure to take appropriate safety measures. The park requires reservations on weekends and holidays and recommends them every day because they often reach capacity.
If you want somewhere to cool off after hiking, Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City is the perfect place. With a backdrop of limestone and waterfalls, you’re certain to enjoy the stunning scenery. My kids loved exploring across the slabs of limestone themselves, but there are many trails for hiking as well. Be advised that there is a designated portion of the river where swimming and tubing are allowed. With visitors coming from San Antonio and Austin regularly, Pedernales Falls recommends reserving your day pass online to ensure entry.
When it comes to swimming in rivers, it doesn’t get much better than Guadalupe River State Park. Many families visit solely to swim in the river, but did you know that Guadalupe also offers 13 miles of hiking trails? You can even take a guided hike of the Honey Creek State Natural Area on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:00 a.m. (This area is only accessible by guided tour, and all ages are welcome.) The Bauer Unit entrance to the park provides access to several trails on the other side of the river. Keep in mind that this portion of the park offers a more primitive experience with no bathrooms or water. As with the other state parks listed, it often reaches capacity and online reservations are encouraged.
The Cibolo Center for Conservation, located in Boerne, is one of my favorite places to take my kids for outdoor time. There are a variety of trails to choose from. The Marshland Trail is actually a boardwalk and is perfect for strollers. My favorite thing about this area is the giant trees towering over the Cibolo Creek Trail. They’re magical. When it’s warm enough, wading in the creek is super fun. There’s also a nature-based play area and dinosaur tracks that my littles love to check out. Cibolo Center for Conservation trails are open for hiking seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to dusk. There’s no entrance fee but donations are appreciated.
On the northwest outskirts of San Antonio, you’ll find the 12,000 acres of wilderness known as Government Canyon State Natural Area. Over 40 miles of hiking trails offer lots of options for an outdoor adventure. The Discovery Trail is short and ideal for beginning hikers. There’s also a playscape and dinosaur tracks that date back 110 million years! Government Canyon is only open Friday through Monday and, you guessed it, often reaches capacity. So don’t forget to make your online reservation!
For more on these and other family-friendly hiking opportunities near San Antonio, check out these posts: