Walker Ranch Park is one of the popular San Antonio parks on the north side of the city. Despite its size, it contains a few miles of dog friendly hiking trails. This historic place is located near the confluence of two creeks, and helped supply the San Antonio Missions when they were active. Today the park appears to be used for educating our younger Texans.
Although Walker Ranch Park does not contain many amenities, it does exhibit several unique qualities. Near the parking lot you will find a playground, a large pavilion, and a portable toilet. The pavilion is much larger than average, and probably serves as a lunch area for school groups. Scattered around the park you can find educational displays which share its history.
I’ve been to this park several times and can confirm that it is family friendly, and dog friendly. The Salado Creek greenway runs through the park and is frequently used by bikers. On the north side of the park there are several natural trails near Wurzbach Pkwy. You will find a very long bridge on the south side of the park leading to another parking area.
Walker Ranch Park has four different surface types for some reason. You will notice concrete, asphalt, natural paving material, and dirt trails. If you include the rocky creek bed, that would make five. We hiked all over the park on our most recent visit and tracked three miles without using the greenway. The park may appear small, but there is plenty of room to roam.
Directly in front of the parking area you will notice a large educational display which is low to the ground. You will find a small amount of information about the plants, waterways, and people who lived here. There are three directions you can take from the display. If you turn left you will find a very large bridge which will take you across the (probably dry) Salado Creek to another parking area. Head straight and you will notice a concrete loop connected to the greenway. If you go to the right you will find two trails leading into the woods.
There are several trails which run parallel to Panther Springs Creek until they intersect with it on the west side of the park. Every time I have been to the park the creeks have been dry. Even if the creek was flowing, you could access the trails via a bridge near the greenway. Today the trails appeared to be in need of some work. A large branch had fallen to the ground nearly blocking the path. We were able to make our way around it, but others reached out into the trail as if to grab us.
Several areas along the trail contain thorny bushes and cactus. Luckily we spotted them as we hiked the trails toward the west side of the woods. We followed the dry creek bed through the woods and spooked several deer. The first time we hiked these trails we encountered an armadillo in the middle of the morning. This time we saw only deer and squirrels. We headed uphill in order to loop back around, and noticed a new trail. This trail is wider than the other nature trails, and gravel had been dumped near it. They must be adding gravel trails through the woods at Walker Ranch Park.
As you exit the woods on the north side of the park you will come out onto the concrete loop. This loop surrounds the windmill, outdoor classroom, and natural area. It also extends out in two directions to help form the Salado Creek greenway. If you follow the short loop around you will find more educational displays about the plant life.
On the south side of the loop there is a small stretch of natural paving material, much like what is on the trails at Hardberger Park. This very short path leads to the outdoor classroom. Walker Ranch Park must host field trips throughout the year. The parallel parking spaces are clearly reserved for buses. However, other vehicles tend to park in those spots on a regular basis. It’s a well known fact that people do not pay much attention to signs, lines on the road, or traffic rules in general.
Each time I visit the park I hope to see a group of students using that outdoor classroom, but it hasn’t happened yet. I often wonder what they teach about the ranch. Abbey and I inspected the classroom, and then followed the path to the dog friendly fountain. From there we followed the loop back toward the parking area. On our right was the long bridge I mentioned earlier, and across from it was the windmill. You do not want to know the cost of the windmill, classroom, or bridge!
The bridge at Walker Ranch Park is so long you cannot see from one side to the other. Furthermore, it turns slightly and is guarded by a few large trees rising up out of Salado Creek. The bridge is made from steel and has a flawless appearance. I counted nearly 200 steps while crossing the bridge, which would give it a ball-park-figure of about 400 feet! We decided to head down into the creek because it was dry, and we wanted to see what else is out there.
A clear trail lies to the right after crossing the bridge from the north. It leads to a well shaded landing which overlooks the creek. I imagine people use it occasionally because it looks like a nice place to relax. We continued down the hill and into the dry creek bed. There are some noticeable trails in the creek which may have been left by bikers. We turned toward the bridge and I captured a shot of it as a plane came in for a landing. Walker Ranch Park is directly underneath a flight path of the San Antonio Airport.
If you spend any time at this park you will most likely hear planes passing through. The noise pollution from the airplanes, and Wurzbach Pkwy is one of the only downsides, but we didn’t mind it too much. In fact, the sound that echoes through parts of the creek is pretty awesome. This is the only park I have heard such a sound because of the landing path.
As I walked through more open areas of the park I noticed the leaves and branches. Some of them were completely still while others waved around frantically as if someone were manipulating them. Several leaves whip around in this way even though I don’t feel any wind blowing. I suppose lizards could cause the leaves to move rapidly, or the wind may be more noticeable in certain sections.
Near the bridge the creek is wide and full of plant life. However, further upstream it is very rocky and narrow. It’s hard to imagine water being beneath the bridge, but it must receive some water during a hard rainfall. I’ll have to remember to return and get a look at it the next time we get a decent amount of rain in San Antonio.
Abbey and I hiked up the creek, and back through the woods. There is a pathway that has been made by a vehicle because of the need for sewer access. By the time we returned to the front of the park we had hiked three miles. This was quite a shock to me because the park is small. Clearly there is a lot of space in which to wander. During a previous visit we saw a young boy feeding squirrels from his hand near the parking area. Abbey, was enthralled.
Walker Ranch History
During the early 20th century, much of the land near Walker Ranch Park was owned by ranchers. Walker Ranch is positioned between two creeks. However, windmills pumped water from the ground so ranches didn’t have to be as close to water. As population and urbanization increased, many ranches were sold to further city growth. The Walker family owned this land for 120 years until it was the final piece to be sold.
Walker Ranch is among the most endangered historic places in Texas. In fact, you cannot even tell it was once a ranch, apart from the name. I expected to find a preserved school house, farm house, or cattle fence somewhere in the park. However, these elements of a ranch are gone. It’s still a great place to go hiking with your dog. It’s also a great place to take your family for some exercise. You may find some interesting things here, but a ranch won’t be one of them.
If you follow the Salado Creek greenway west, you will arrive at Hardberger Park which contains several miles of natural paving material, and two dog parks.
Follow the greenway east, and you will enter the incredibly large McAllister park. That park has roughly 15 miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as a dog park.
The Salado Creek greenway runs through many parks on this side of San Antonio. Following it south from McAllister Park will lead you to Lady Bird Johnson Park, Tobin Park, John James Park, Jack White Park, Pletz Park, Martin Luther King Park, J Street Park, Covington Park, Comanche Park, and South Side Lions Park. Eventually, the greenway may connect to the Medina River greenway on the far south side.
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I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.