Word has it, San Antonio does not experience all four seasons. At least, that’s what some people say who have moved here from areas with very cold seasons. However, my experience along the hiking trails in San Antonio, Texas, are proof that four seasons do exist.
San Antonio is filled with parks, and hundreds of trails which can easily be hiked, or biked. Many of these trails will appear completely different from spring to winter. Most residents know the popular parks, but fail to share the more important details.
Have you ever wondered which are the best trails in San Antonio in each season? I have wondered because some look as different as night and day from one season to the next. A few trails are off-limits during certain months. After wandering as many trails as my feet could find, four trails stood out above the rest. These are the best trails and the season in which you can find them.
Rio Medina Trail
15890 TX-16, San Antonio, TX 78264
The Rio Medina Trail runs alongside the Medina River, and it’s beautiful in the spring. It’s a short hike, or bike ride, through a well shaded riparian forest. There are only a few slight changes in elevation along the 1.5 mile trail within the forest. If it’s warm, the shade and water will be a welcome sight, but it probably won’t be very hot outside.
Throughout the year, the Rio Medina Trail is open from sunrise to sunset. However, the evening may be the best time to visit this natural area in the middle of April. Follow Rio Medina to the Medina River Greenway Trail to see colorful fields of wildflowers as the sun sets in the evening.
If you follow the greenway during spring, you will see more than a few colors. You will also see ranches filled with livestock. The Medina River Greenway is peaceful, and not polluted with noise like many of the other greenways in San Antonio, Texas. It may be on the far south side of San Antonio, but this is one trail that is worth the trip.
Trail tips – Once you leave the Medina River, the greenway becomes an out-and-back trail. Rio Medina may not be long, but the greenway will lead you to another river several miles east. It leads all the way to the San Antonio Riverwalk, south of Mission Espada. Watch out for snakes and wild animals inside Medina River Natural Area. It is a natural habitat for snakes, and animals such as wild hogs, bobcats, or coyotes could be within.
8500 Mission Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78223
As you might know, summer is not the best time to be on the trails in San Antonio. However, well shaded trails are bearable, especially if you hit them closer to sunrise, or sunset. The Acequia Trail is one of the best you can hike during summer, and it’s not like other trails in San Antonio, Texas.
The Spanish built acequias 300 years ago to bring the San Antonio River to the missions. The water was used for basic needs, as well as irrigation of the farmland. Water still flows through the irrigation ditches today, and you will see them along the Acequia Trail.
This trail stretches five miles through the south side of San Antonio, in the area known as Mission Reach. It connects Missions San Jose, San Juan and Espada. Several parks are near the Acequia Trail, including Padre Park, Espada Park, Acequia Park and Hot Wells. Bike along the acequias and see the sparkling San Antonio River in the summer. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset.
I chose the Acequia Trail early in the summer because it’s after the trees have flowered, but well before everything has dried out. The lushness of the vegetation will be at its best, providing much needed shade. If temperatures are uncomfortable, sprinkle yourself with water from the fountains along the trail, or take cover at the missions. The visitors center, shops and churches will provide refreshing air conditioning.
Trail tips – The missions in San Antonio will have shorter hours, but should be accessible during the heat of the day (excluding major holidays). The Acequia Trail and missions are dog friendly, but it’s a one-way trip. Carry your own water in case the fountains are not operational. If you do not have a bike, one can be rented near Mission San Jose.
Black Hill Loop
12861 Galm Rd, San Antonio, TX 78254
The Black Hill Loop is the most challenging trail on this list. However, it’s only a moderate challenge for the experienced hiker. The trail wraps around Black Hill on the north side of Government Canyon. It’s five miles long, making it the longest trail in the park.
In order to reach the Black Hill Loop, you must hike, or bike, four miles (at least) from the HQ. The views are worth the trip, but prepare to spend most of the day at the park. Autumn is a fantastic time to make the journey to Black Hill. Temperatures are dropping, and the scenic views are more colorful. The Hill Country can be seen to the north, or you may notice downtown San Antonio to the south.
The Black Hill Loop is open from 7am – 10pm, Friday through Monday. Do not visit Government Canyon Tuesday through Thursday because it will not be open. Some residents of San Antonio love to recommend Government Canyon because it is large, but fail to share essential details. In fact, its size is not one of its best qualities, unless you are simply going for as much distance as possible. The natural habitat is probably the best reason to visit, but it has limitations.
Essential details – The Black Hill Loop is within a natural habitat on the north side of Government Canyon. The park only opens the natural habitat from September to February, which is another great reason to visit in autumn. Dogs and bikes are NOT allowed in the natural area. The trails are for hiking only, and are more difficult to see because they receive less traffic. It is possible to get lost in this area without locating the colored ribbons around the branches. There are many paths which lead to Black Hill, and the trail map may be necessary. When I hiked the Black Hill Loop, I did not see another soul for hours.
The San Antonio Riverwalk
849 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205
San Antonio is known for its incredible riverwalk. Let’s be honest, it looks great year-round. It’s the most popular “trail” in San Antonio. There’s no bad season to see the San Antonio Riverwalk. However, it looks its best during winter, when colorful lights illuminate the river.
Temperatures are cool and comfortable in the winter, but you may need a jacket. Colorful lights can be seen in the trees, or underwater from Southtown to the Pearl. I’ve hiked the entire riverwalk, but this five mile stretch looks the best. It leads through downtown San Antonio, and it’s the best place to hike when they turn on the Christmas lights in San Antonio.
The riverwalk experience is completely different from Thanksgiving to mid January. You haven’t seen how spectacular the riverwalk can be until you’ve hiked through the Christmas lights along the San Antonio River. The San Antonio Riverwalk does not close. Restaurants are open late, and you can hike as late as you like.
Parking tip – There are many places to park along the San Antonio Riverwalk. Parking garages downtown will cost you $10 – $20. Street parking will be much cheaper if you can find it. I like to park on top of the river at Convent Street. Four hours costs three quarters during the daytime, but street parking may be free at night, and on Sundays. Free parking areas can be found at the Pearl and Southtown.
The word “best”, is thrown around all over the place these days and it can be fairly subjective. One persons best, can be the worst for another. Which trails in San Antonio, Texas, are your favorites? Do you visit particular trails during specific seasons?
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.