Medina River Natural Area is the Best Park Down South

Medina River Natural Area is a 500 acre park on the far south side of San Antonio, Texas. 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.

A dog friendly shot of the entrance to Medina River Natural Area in San Antonio, TX.
Medina River Natural Area is 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.

Things to Do at Medina River Natural Area in San Antonio, TX

  • Walk your dog along the well-shaded Medina River
  • Eat a snack at the pavilion
  • Fish for catfish or bass in the river
  • Camp on the south side of the park
  • Hike or Bike for five miles around the park
  • Access the Medina River Greenway
  • See wildflowers in the spring

Address: 15890 TX-16, San Antonio, TX 78264

Fees: None for day use. Camping is $20 per night.

Hours of operation: Medina River Natural Area may be open all day.

You can access this natural area from HWY 16 (Palo Alto Road). The park is on the east side of the highway. The Medina River Greenway has a few other trailheads to the east. You can also follow any of those west to reach the river.

Medina River from the west.
The Medina River

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.

Abbey get a good look at the Medina River, but swimming is not allowed here.
Fishing only on this stretch of the river

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.

Beware of snakes while fishing the Medina River.
Designated fishing area

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.

Hiking Trails at Medina River Natural Area

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 Rio Medina Trail
Rio Medina Trail

The trails contain some small changes in elevation, 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. The trails are few and you will probably not need the Medina River Natural Area Trail Map.

Wildflowers can be seen in multitudes in San Antonio, Texas.
Best place to find wildflowers in the spring?

The greenway continues through the park, and ends east of Mitchell Lake. Eventually, the Medina River Greenway will be connected to the San Antonio Riverwalk.

This will help form 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 at Medina River Natural Area

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.

The Medina River flowing west
Rio Medina

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 by 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 may cause severe burning after 15-30 minutes. It may also lead to swelling, bruising, labored breathing, or weakness.

The Medina River Greenway
A pond along the Medina River Greenway

Beware Venomous Snakes

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, but did not notice any mosquitoes. It may be a good idea to bring bug spray, or epinephrine if you are allergic.

An old residence inside Medina River Natural Area in San Antonio, TX.
An old residence can be found along the greenway

The South Side of San Antonio, Texas

We were surprised to learn this park 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 here.

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, man-made lakes 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.

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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