John James Park and the Battle That Saved Austin

On the east side of San Antonio lies a park where a battle once took place which prevented the capture of Austin. You’re welcome! We visited John James Park this summer for another adventure on one of our many San Antonio hikes. As always, we learned some fascinating history and saw some unusual things. The amenities are few, but it’s a good park to play, bike, or walk with your dog.

Abbey pushes through the wildflowers and weeds which are tall indeed at John James Park.
Bike trails at John James Park

Things to Do at John James Park in San Antonio, TX

  • Bring your kids to the playground
  • Play softball on one of two different fields
  • Walk your dog on a short paved trail
  • Arrive in the evening to play in the nighttime lighting
  • Head into the woods for biking trails
  • Access the Salado Creek Greenway
Benches and tables can be seen near the playground.
The playground at John James Park

How to Get to John James Park

Address: 3910 Rittiman Rd, San Antonio, TX 78234

Hours of operation: 5am – 11pm

John James Park is located between Fort Sam Houston and I-35. If heading west from I-35, you will find the entrance to the park just beyond Salado Creek, on the south side of the street. The parking lot is not large, but there was plenty of space in the morning. Even though there was plenty of space, others were using the street for parking. It may be more difficult to find a spot in the evening or during sporting events.

Abbey poses on the hiking trail with her new colorful gear at John James Park.
The paved trail at John James Park

John James Park History

The park is named after John James, who was involved in the Battle of Salado. According to the history, Texas lost only one man in the battle which prevented the capture of Austin. That is one pretty spectacular defense. John James also helped establish the city of Bandera, as well as the first lumberyard in San Antonio.

Originally known as Fort Sam Houston Park, it was gifted to San Antonio and named after John James. A good example of how important events also took place at some of our more basic parks. Learning the histories becomes easier, but no less thrilling as we journey into more and more parks.

Walk, Bike, or Play

John James Park contains a small playground near the parking lot. The playground is not shaded and very hot in the summer. Nearby you will find a water fountain, picnic tables and a few trees for shade. Beyond the playground are two softball fields and a gravel track. The fields were not in use on a weekday morning, but the case may be different in the evening.

John James Park has about a mile of walking trails, which include the unconnected asphalt and gravel paths. From the parking lot you will find access to the asphalt pathway, which is handicap accessible and leads into the woods. This is an out-and-back trail with a loop at the end. However, you will notice a few natural trails which lead deeper into the woods.

Bike trails leading through the woods near Salado Creek containing overgrown brush.

Bike Trails in the Woods

We decided to take one of the trails which off-shoots from the loop. These trails seemed more like bike trails than walking trails. Most of the time the direction was clear, but the weeds came up knee-high.

Bikes would have no problem getting through the weeds, but there are spiders. Clearing them out while riding might be difficult if you do not plan on using your face. I used a large stick which someone left lying around.

An A-frame ladder in the middle of the woods.
A silver A-frame ladder can be seen in the woods (zoom in)

I’m not sure how long we followed the bike trail, but it twisted and turned seemingly taking us back toward the asphalt trail. Eventually we were walking parallel with Salado Creek and lost our way. The trail did not appear to continue, and may have been blocked by brush.

I did not intend to push through with shorts on being allergic to poison ivy, poison oak, and plants in general. I would have liked to adventure onward, but it would have to wait until I wore more skin cover.  I’d recommend wearing pants and being prepared to fight through the woods.

A tree swing in the woods at John James Park in San Antonio.
A swing in the woods

Interesting Sights in the Woods

We turned around to head back out the way we came, but the journey back was not a total loss. Near the creek I saw a silver a-frame ladder, set up as if someone were going to work out here. I couldn’t see anything else nearby, but it was a short distance from the bike trail.

We continued back passing a very old and large tree which held a swing. I easily noticed the swing on the way in, but had not noticed the face at the bottom of the tree. Who carved this masterpiece? There’s always something to see on an adventure.

An interesting carving of a face in a tree inside John James Park.
A masterpiece on a tree at John James Park

Upon exiting the woods we stopped for a drink and I made a mental note to wear pants next time. I believe there is much more to see at a dog friendly park which contains such history. The asphalt trail is short, but the additional bike trails are an exciting opportunity.

Don’t pay too much attention to the undetailed, contradictory reviews online. Sometimes you need to see a place for yourself. John James Park might just be one of those places.

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.

We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.

Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.


David Earley


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