Turn off the TV and go for a walk…

One more week before school’s back in session, and you might be looking for ways to stave off the post-holiday stupor brought on by too much activity, too much eating and too much family time (oh, did I really say that?). If so, take a hike.

Walking hand in hand

Hiking is especially great this time of year when the weather is mild – and extra holiday calories are just waiting to be burned. Here are my top 5 picks for family hiking in San Antonio. If one piques your interest, go online and get more information and/or maps.

Comanche Lookout Park

  • Judson @ Nacogdoches (1 mile inside Loop 1604 on Nacogdoches)

fork in the road

Our family took a leisurely stroll at Lookout Park on Christmas afternoon. The park offers some of the most relaxing hiking in the city and it’s perfect for younger children. All the main trails are either paved or leveled smooth – and they’re well-marked. The unmarked side trails get a little rocky (and steep), but older kids will like the challenge. The trails crisscross frequently so, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, kids get many chances to decide which way to go next. No printed map is available, but the park is small enough that it doesn’t matter. I heard one 8-year-old boy enthusiastically declare, “This place is like a maze!” The trail system connects to the Semmes Branch Library (on Judson) so bring your library card. Parking is available both at the library and at the Nacogdoches entrance.

Facilities: Port-a-Potties and playground; picnic tables are scattered along the trails. Dogs and bikes are allowed.

Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park

  • 12603 West Avenue

Walker Ranch Playscape

This is one of the smaller trail systems in the city, but for beauty and scenic variety, it’s a top contender.  Grassy meadows (overflowing with wildflowers in the spring), wooded areas, rocky creek beds – it’s all here. The landscape really changes with the seasons. Don’t be surprised if you see deer along the meandering paths. Begin on the Panther Spring Trail near the entrance. This leads to the most scenic areas. Wear long pants – a few of the narrower trails become somewhat overgrown with grassy vegetation, but all the trails are kid-friendly. No printed map is available, but you won’t get lost. A paved path in middle of the park is great for strollers, wheelchairs, and joggers. Kids enjoy discovering the park’s interesting features, such as the mini amphitheater, windmill, and footbridge that takes you over Salado Creek to the park’s rear entrance. My family had a great time geo-caching at Walker Ranch last Christmas (we found all but one!). On busy weekends, parking can be a problem; go earlier in the day, if possible. A few additional parking spaces are available near the park’s rear entrance off W. Rhapsody (behind Panchitos). Thanks to San Antonio Parks and Rec for the great photo of the playscape!

Facilities: Port-a-Potties, playground, picnic areas, pavilions for rent. Dogs and bikes allowed.

Eisenhower Park

  • 19339 NW Military Highway, outside Loop 1604 right before Camp Bullis

This is favorite park among San Antonio hikers. Trails range from paved/easy to rocky/steep/definitely challenging. Pick up a printed map as you begin so you can keep track of where you are and which trails you want to take. Not all trails are kid-friendly. The main paved trail (Cedar Flats) leads to the park’s summit and a tower that offers great views.

Facilities: Playscape, climbing wall, restrooms, picnic areas, BBQ grills, pavilions for rent, ample parking. Dogs are allowed, but not bikes.

Friedrich Wilderness Park

  • 21395 Milsa Road: Travel on 1-10 West about half a mile past Loop 1604. Take Exit  #552 (Dominion Drive) and drive about 1.5 miles, taking the turn-around under IH-10. Next, take the second right turn onto Milsa. Milsa makes a left turn. Friedrich Park will be on your right within 600 yards.

Here’s a nearby park where you can get away from it all and escape civilization. Even when the parking lot is full, you never seem to run into many people. More than 600 acres of undisturbed wilderness offer shaded trails of all lengths and difficulty levels. The Forest Range trails are paved and well-suited for toddlers, strollers and wheelchairs.  For huffing and puffing, try the Fern Del Loop – it’s a killer (and not for young children or the fitness-challenged). Friedrich is a great destination whether you have half an hour or half a day. Pick up a map on the way in. Go early; parking can be a problem on weekends.

Facilities: Restrooms. No bikes or dogs allowed.

Government Canyon State Natural Area

  • 12861 Galm Road: From Loop 1604, take Culebra Road (away from town) for 3.5 miles. Turn right onto Galm Road and go 1.6 miles to the park entrance on the left.

Government Canyon

This place is huge . . . more than 8,500 acres and 36 miles of trails. The area is divided into three sections: Front Country, Back Country, and Protected Habitat Area. Boy Genius and I recently took the shorter Front Country trails, but the much larger Back Country offers more spectacular scenery. Our Back Country hike a couple of years ago ended up being 10 miles, the last two of which we had to run (Boy Genius wanted to get back to the gift shop before it closed to buy a souvenir pencil; my feet have never been the same). Our advice: Eat a hearty breakfast, arrive early, and make a day of it. You definitely don’t want to forget water and trail mix for these extended hikes. Entrance fee: $6; children under 12 free. Open Friday through Monday only; closed Tuesday through Thursday. Trails may be closed after heavy rains, so call ahead to check status (688-9055). Photo source: Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Facilities: Restrooms, picnic areas, ample parking, a small gift shop. Bikes allowed; pets allowed on the Front Country trails only.

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  1. Great summary of these parks. I never realized there was a back entrance to the Walker Ranch Park, will have to look for that.

    One caution I would make about the Government Canyon area – if you have them wear sturdy hiking boots! Last time we went I forgot and wore sneakers. The trail we went on was incredibly rocky and my feet were killing me by the end of the day. Also with a Texas State Park Pass ($65 annual fee) Government Canyon is free admission for anyone in your vehicle. The rangers in the office were great at recommending family/kid friendly routes depending on the ages of the children/youth in your group.

    At Friedrich if you take the Fern Del loop watch out for the cactus that are just off the trail, one trip can lead to a very painful fall! Yes, there’s a story behind that one :-)

    Happy hiking everyone.

    • Great tips, Susan! Thanks. We have a few of those stories ourselves..and an upper lip scar to match. But not from any of these parks :-)

  2. Fantastic write up guys!! Bookmarking this one so I can make sure we check them all out soon .. or as age limits allow. Happy Holidays!

  3. Such a great resource for families! Wish I was experiencing winter there instead of DC! :-)



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