The Alamo City may not be known for its natural areas, but it has many parks with unique qualities and opportunities for adventure. Whether you want to be surrounded by trees, rivers, hills, or walk along a wide open side walk, there are several great places to hike in San Antonio, Texas. You may choose from more than 200 parks, but the best parks in San Antonio have special amenities. However, even the best parks may be unsuitable to meet your needs.
Some of you are looking for the best hiking trails, biking trails, or dog parks. Others would rather fish, swim, or play with their kids (and by kids I mean dogs). The popular websites do not adequately discuss why you might want to visit specific parks, but we all have different reasons. In this article we will present the best parks in San Antonio with eight different purposes in mind.
David EarleyCPT, CES
San Antonio Parks With Long Hiking Trails
This is one of the largest parks in San Antonio with more than 15 miles of potential hiking trails. McAllister is just north of the San Antonio Airport. Yes, it’s underneath the flight path of airplanes leaving the city, but the noise pollution is bearable. Most of the trails are well shaded and easy to hike. The trails are split between natural and paved. Any elevation changes throughout the park are minor.
Friedrich Wilderness Park
This park has more than 10 miles of potential hiking trails. Some of the trails are more difficult than others and provide moderate changes in elevation. It is located on the far northwest side of San Antonio on the southern edge of Texas Hill Country. This is one of the only parks in San Antonio where dogs are not allowed. The natural area and its species of endangered bird seems to be the reason it is not dog friendly.
Medina River Natural Area
Address: 15890 TX-16, San Antonio, TX 78264
This is the largest natural area on the south side of San Antonio. There are five miles of potential hiking trails, as well as a stretch of greenway. Some of the natural trails follow the Medina River. There are small elevation changes, but they are fairly easy to manage. Be on the lookout for venomous snakes and wild animals that may be in the area. No swimming, but it may be a good place to catch bass, catfish, or bluegill.
Best Parks to Bring Your Kids
Kids will love this park because of the epic splash pad. It is on the southwest side of San Antonio near Lackland Air Force Base. There is also a large playground, pavilion, zip line and skatepark. If that isn’t enough to tire them out there are several hills to climb, and a stretch of greenway nearby. If only I were a kid again!
Walker Ranch Historic Park
The Salado Creek Greenway runs through this park on the north side of the city. It contains educational displays, an outdoor classroom, nature trails, playground, and a very long bridge over the creek. During most seasons the creek bed is dry. If you wander through it you may hear awesome reverberations as planes approach the landing strip at the airport. You might also catch a glimpse of deer, armadillos, friendly squirrels, or other animals.
This famous park in the heart of the city once hosted the Worlds Fair. Today many tourists come here to visit attractions, museums and the Tower of the Americas. However, there is a section on the southwest side of the park which is great for kids. There is a giant sandbox, splash pad, changing area and playground. You can also visit The Magik Theatre to see a children’s show.
There are many things to do at this park just north of downtown. In fact, there are too many to list here. Take a walk through the Japanese Tea Garden, through the woods, or along the river. There is a children’s amusement park in the area, as well as the San Antonio Zoo. A miniature train runs through the park so you can enjoy a unique view of the surroundings. If that is not enough, the Witte Museum and Doseum are also nearby. Picnic tables and open areas also provide the opportunity to eat, or play in the grass.
Places to Hike in San Antonio with More Shade
Mud Creek Park
This park may not seem like much at first glance, but it has the most unmarked, natural trails in San Antonio. Many trails run through wooded areas and a few can be found in open areas. There is not much elevation change along the hiking trails. The map lists only 1.4 miles, but we have found there to be at least five miles of potential distance. The park is on the northeast side of the city and is dog friendly. Some of the trails may have been created by bikes, animals, or water runoff.
Olmos Basin Park
Address: 651 Devine Rd, San Antonio, TX 78209
This park is between the Alamo Quarry and Brackenridge Park. Some have likened the area to a giant shower drain, but it has a very interesting history. There is a concrete trail which loops around some sports fields, and runs along Olmos Creek. It also has “hidden” bike trails throughout the woods, west of US-281. There are more than a few miles of well shaded trails in this park, but it may be littered with garbage due to its position.
This park is capable of meeting a lot of different needs, and shaded trails are another one of them. In fact, it may have the most shaded trails in San Antonio. You will notice sun peaking through in certain areas depending on which trail you hike (I’m looking at you Blue Loop). However, it is one of the best parks in San Antonio if you want to avoid direct sunlight.
Best Dog Friendly Parks in San Antonio
This park is a short distance west of McAllister Park, and is split in half by Wurzbach Parkway. It is the only park with two dog parks in San Antonio, making it a great place for dogs. Wag your tails and get your bark on, my furry friends! There are also miles of trails and various animals to see along the way. The park has an east side and west side, but will soon be connected by a land bridge over Wurzbach Parkway. What a sight it will be…
Tom Slick Park
This park is on the west side of San Antonio and contains a dog park, pond and concrete loop. Walking around the pond is quick and easy. Most dogs seem to prefer playing in the water near the ramp. There is also a wash tub near the center of the dog park, which makes it one of the best parks for dogs who love getting wet.
Panther Springs Park
This park is on the far north side in the area of Stone Oak. It has a dog park and 2.5 mile concrete trail with a loop in the middle. The path is wide and will be exposed to sunlight during midday. However, the scenery is fantastic, and people passing by are very welcoming.
San Antonio Parks With Lakes or Pools
Elmendorf Lake Park
This beautiful park is a short distance west of downtown, on Commerce Street. It has a small lake which is overlooked by Our Lady of the Lake. There are concrete pathways throughout the park which travel over, and around the lake. It also has a public swimming pool, splash pad, island and mosaic benches. This park is a “must see”, but beware the stench coming from bird island.
Southside Lions Park East
You will find this popular fishing spot on the southeastern side of the city. A concrete loop wraps around the lake, and the Salado Creek Greenway attaches to it. There are short natural trails running along the creek in the woods. Shade is sporadic around Southside Lions Lake as people attempt to catch bass, or catfish. Unfortunately, all I caught was a mussel!
Woodlawn Lake Park
This park is a short drive north of Elmendorf Lake Park, west of downtown. A very popular concrete loop wraps around the lake. The dog friendly loop covers a distance of 1.5 miles, but is not well shaded. There are also exercise stations, tennis courts and an outdoor basketball court at the park.
San Pedro Springs Park
Address: 2200 N Flores, San Antonio, TX 78212
This was the first park in Texas, and it’s still a beauty today. The springs at this park are flowing, but were probably much more captivating back in the day. The parks crowning jewel is its spring-fed community pool. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone using it. I’ve played sports here many times and it is never crowded, but litter bugs do come out at night.
Denman Estate Park
This unique park is like an oasis near the medical district. A pagoda overlooks a pond, and they are surrounded by a paved trail. There is not much hiking to be done here, but it is worth at least one visit. You might find it to be a labyrinth of peace.
Best San Antonio Parks for Scenic Views
This park is next to Camp Bullis on the far north side. It is a local favorite offering Hill Country views, and views of downtown. A single paved trail leads to a lookout tower (currently closed) on the north side of the park. From here you can see San Antonio to the south, and Hill Country in the opposite direction. Other views are also noticeable along the outer loop on the north side of the park. There are some moderate elevation changes along the loop. The most difficult section is on the northeast side.
Comanche Lookout Park
This dog friendly park is on the northeast side of the city. It contains the fourth highest point in Bexar County. There are trails, exercise stations, and multiple scenic views. The trails here are paved, and getting to the viewpoints is incredibly easy for the average person. There is an old tower at the highest point, but don’t plan on using it. Unfortunately, it has been blocked off and forgotten.
Friedrich Wilderness Park
This park is fairly close to Eisenhower, and they have very similar qualities. Friedrich does have more opportunities in terms of distance, but it is NOT dog friendly. I noticed less than a handful of scenic views along the outer trails. Some trails are well shaded and moderately challenging to hike.
Lesser Known Parks in San Antonio
Madla Natural Area
Address: 9788 Menchaca Rd, Helotes, TX 78023
This park was not exactly easy to find. It is near Friedrich Wilderness, but is surrounded by hills and private properties. This dog friendly park only offers a few shorter trails, but it has a great overlook, and it’s incredibly secluded. Unfortunately, someone lost their dog here and we had to help them search. Use proper gear such as a leash and harness while visiting the best parks in San Antonio.
Cathedral Rock Park
This park deserves more recognition because of its rocky features. It is on the west side of the city, in the Leon Valley area. It has a playground, natural trails and some decent elevation changes. You can hike through the rocky areas as well for more of an adventure. The rock formations are not very high, but they add to the uniqueness of the park. The Leon Creek Greenway provides access to this park as well.
John James Park
This is a small park next to Fort Sam Houston, on the east side of San Antonio. There is a playground, a short paved trail with a loop, and biking trails in the woods. It may not look like much, but a battle once took place here which saved Austin. That makes it worthy of visiting in my book, and you’re welcome Austin!
Address: San Antonio, TX 78209 (University of the Incarnate Word)
Most people will not recognize this place unless they have attended the University of the Incarnate Word. This natural area is located within, and guards the spring feeding the San Antonio River. It is between Brackenridge Park and the Olmos Dam. The park also has several short nature trails. During the summer, the dark and web-ridden trails gave me the creeps in the middle of the day.
Best Parks for Biking in San Antonio
OP Schnabel Park
This park on the northwest side probably has the most challenging biking trails in San Antonio. There are several miles of trails through the woods which twist, turn and force you to climb steep, rocky areas. The park is dog friendly, but watch out for poop on the trails. It seems many people believe in the dog poop fairy at this park.
Bamberger Nature Park
This park is just north of OP Schnabel, along the Leon Creek Greenway. Although it is smaller, you will find many trails winding through the woods. Some appeared more difficult than others. Watch out for low branches and prickly pear.
This park is very useful for multiple situations, and another is biking. The natural trails here will be easier to bike than the previous two. Many areas in the woods are less congested, and there are far fewer changes in elevation. The Salado Creek Greenway is accessible from this park as well.
Olmos Basin Park
As I mentioned already, this park has miles of unmarked biking trails on the southwest side. The woods get congested, increasing the risk of collision. Elevation changes are not very significant. The trails appeared relatively easy to bike if you do not take the makeshift bridges into account.
The Best Places to Hike in San Antonio, Texas, and Why
As you can see, many San Antonio parks have some relevance here, but it all comes down to purpose. These are some of the best places to hike in San Antonio, or do other fun stuff based on your goals. However, we have much more to discuss, and other park adventures to share with you. All of these San Antonio parks are free to visit. You will find them open from dusk until dawn, or 5am – 11pm in some cases.
We haven’t included the missions, the greenways, nor any stretch of the entire 15-mile San Antonio Riverwalk in this list. These popular areas account for nearly 100 miles of additional trails. That’s a lot of room to move! Moving is living, and living is wandering.
Are you anxious to find more great parks in the area? View our Indisputable Guide to learn everything you need to know about hiking in San Antonio, Texas. We have visited all of these parks, and many more. Each has been a unique adventure, providing photos and memories which will not be easy to forget. You can find any of these parks by following the link underneath the map we created. It’s around here somewhere.
Did we include your purpose in this article, or help you find a new favorite park? Let us know by leaving a comment below. These are the best parks in San Antonio. Let’s take advantage of our natural areas by staying active. Which will you choose?