Medina River Natural Area is a 500 acre park on the far south side of San Antonio. This natural area is a rarity on the south side, and is one of the largest areas to go hiking with your dog. That’s right! This San Antonio park is both a natural area, and dog friendly.
Medina River Natural Area has more than five miles of trails which are good for hiking, or biking. Entrance to the park is free, and some of the trails follow the path of the river. You may also camp, or fish in designated park areas. Swimming and boating are not allowed in this area.
- Dog friendly
- Public restrooms
- More than five miles of hiking trails
How Long is the Medina River?
The Medina River is approximately 120 miles long. Its origin is the Edwards Plateau, and it eventually flows into the San Antonio River. In Bandera, it flows through a manmade dam from Medina Lake. Several years ago the lake nearly dried up because of a draught, and a jeep was spotted near the bottom. Eventually, nature refilled the lake, which is a source of water for the south side of San Antonio.
What Kinds of Fish are in Medina River?
Residents have been known to catch catfish, and different kinds of bass in the river. I have not tried this personally, but the softer lures with natural colors may work well while fishing Medina River. If you want to try live bait, but do not have any on hand, you might find some crawfish around the rocks.
Can You Float in the Medina River?
Inside Medina River Natural Area you cannot get into the water. However, you can float on the river near Bandera. You may rent tubes, or kayaks from Medina River Company, and float on the river for hours.
Medina River Natural Area contains several miles of dog friendly hiking trails. Near the river you will find several intersecting natural trails. There is also a concrete greenway trail which runs through the park, but it does not interact with the river. If you prefer a river view, or plan to fish, you will need to use the natural trails.
The trails contain some inclines and declines, but we did not find them very challenging. On the east side, near Donkey Lady Bridge, there is a sign warning trail users of hogs, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions. We did not happen to see any of those animals while hiking, but we visited in the middle of the day, and it was a hot one.
The greenway continues through the park, and ends east of Mitchell Lake. Eventually, the Medina River Greenway should connect to the Leon Creek Greenway, and Salado Creek Greenway. This will create a greenway loop nearly 70 miles long within San Antonio! Until that happens you can travel 14 miles across this greenway on the far south side.
Camping inside the natural area is done by reservation only. The camping area is across the river on the southwest side, and costs $20 per night. Remember the wildlife that sign mentioned? You may be more likely to spot some of those animals while camping near the river.
Things You May Need
Most of the natural areas are well shaded, but there were some trails out in the open (especially along the greenway). A hat, or sunscreen may help prevent sunburn. There is a fountain next to the public restrooms near the west entrance. You may not find any other drinking water in the area. Bring water with you and avoid dehydration.
It may be a good idea to have a first aid pack with you, especially if you will be camping. Keep one in your vehicle, or on your person in case of emergencies. There are venomous snakes and other wildlife in the area. A venomous snake bite will usually cause severe burning after 15-30 minutes. It may also lead to swelling, bruising, labored breathing, or weakness.
Call 911 if you believe a snake bite to be venomous because you may need antivenom. Try to get a good look at the snake, but DO NOT try and catch it. Back away from any snake that has fangs. Remain calm and still (but out of reach) in the event of a bite from a venomous snake. DO NOT try to suck out the venom, and do not consume any caffeine or alcohol.
We saw quite a few buzzing insects flying through the air. We did not notice any mosquitoes, but it was terribly hot. It may be a good idea to bring bug spray, or epinephrine if you are allergic.
The South Side
We were surprised to learn that Medina River Natural Area is one-of-a-kind as far as natural areas go on the south side of San Antonio. Although Mission Reach is on the south side, there are far fewer parks and things to do down south.
If you live on the south side, this area is probably a “must do”, even though swimming and floating are not allowed. There are a few golf courses, and also Pearsall Park, but no other large parks in the south. Medina River Natural Area is clearly unique. This is one of three connecting points which will bring that San Antonio Greenway Loop to fruition.
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Even though I discuss places, or things, and emerge from the woods unharmed, I am not at all responsible for you, your family, your friends, or your pets. You are solely responsible for following in my footsteps and trying things described on this site.
I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.