Of all of the campgrounds near Austin, McKinney Falls State Park tops the list of FamilyKamping’s list of favorite campsites in Texas.
Just 13 miles from the center of downtown Austin and from the pink granite of Texas state Capitol Building, the 641-acre park state park feels like it’s thousands of miles away from everything.
How to Make Reservations at McKinney Falls State Park
You can make reservations for campsites, screened shelters and cabins at Texas State Parks Online Reservations. You must use a credit card to confirm reservations.
Or call (512) 389-8900 Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Use a credit card to confirm your reservation, or send payment within five business days. Note: The call center is busiest on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
Table of Contents
1. The Campsite Near Austin was a Gift to the State
The park was acquired by Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1970 from private donation and opened to the public in 1976. The headquarters of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are near this location.
2. Even the Austin Natives Love McKinney Falls State Park
If you live in Austin, or in Central Texas for that matter, you know McKinney Falls State Park is a must-see campground that showcases the Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges.
Even if you just go for a day trip, you can follow trails through the Hill Country woods and recharge your soul. This Texas state park is a true gem that can make you forget that Austin is right around the corner.
3. McKinney Falls is Still Open in COVID Pandemic
As of Sept. 23 most state parks in Texas are open. Some limitations and guidelines are in place for safety during the pandemic – read through them before you visit.
We strongly encourage reservations for day visits and camping. The Dining Hall as of this post was not open.
Is Alcohol Allowed at McKinney Falls State Park?
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, is against park rules to drink or display an alcoholic beverage in a public place at any time. All outdoor areas are public in a state park. Also, alcohol can not be sold within the state park.
5. There are a Ton of Activities to Do at McKinney Falls
- mountain or road bike
- go bouldering
Let’s look at a few of these activities in-depth
6. Hiking is For Everyone at McKinney Falls
The park has more than 7 miles of trails. Austin residents love the The Onion Creek Hike & Bike Trail and for good reason. It is a paved 2.8-mile loop that passes the scenic Onion Creek waterfall and swimming hole
There’s also a 3.1-mile Homestead Trail that takes you past remnants of historic 19th-century buildings and lower McKinney Falls. These are hike-and-bike trails.
The Rock Shelter Trail, Picnic Trail, Flint Rock Loop Trail, and Williamson Creek Overlook Trail are all hiking-only trails. For those of you who want to do a day hike, combine all of the trails in McKinney Falls. Don’t forget the water, sunscreen and comfortable hiking shoes.
7. You Can Cool off By Swimming at McKinney Falls State Park
Onion Creek is a great place to swim and cool off from the legendary Texas heat. The limestone ledges and refreshing water are one of a kind. You can also relax near the falls, in the pools of water. No alcohol, glass, food, coolers, speakers/music, or pets are allowed in the water.
8. No License Needed to Fish at McKinney Falls
A fishing license isn’t required to fish at McKinney Falls State Park. We recommend checking out the McKinney Falls State Park Fishing Guide before you go.
Large-mouthed bass, catfish and sunfish are likely catches in this area a reason why Mckinney Falls State Park is a Family Kamping favorite.
9. Marvel at the Historic Sites at McKinney Falls State Park
The park is also home to one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas, named “Old Baldy.” The 100-foot tall tree is believed to be more than 500 years old.
There’s so much to explore including a rock shelter that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Get to Know Thomas McKinney one of the 300 pioneers of Texas
You can also check out the homestead of Thomas McKinney, the park’s namesake and original member of Stephen F Austin’s settlers.
The park is also part of the 300-year-old El Camino Real de los Tejas, which is a trail that was once traversed by French, American, and Spanish pioneers.
See all the points of interest at McKinney Falls State Park
11. Camping at McKinney Falls Has Cabins
Ok now we are going to dig into what makes McKinney Falls State Park such as great place to camp. First of all it has 81 campsites and 6 newly remodeled cabins. The campsites have water and electric hookups.
The Cabins At McKinney Falls State Park
The cabins sleep 4 and have no restroom. A restroom-shower house is a short distance away. You will have to bring your own sheets, towels and any other linens you need.
Staying in a Cabin like this doesn’t require bringing a bunch of items but make sure you have the essentials
No pets of any type allowed in or near the cabins.
No tents, RVs or trailers allowed outside the cabin. No pets are allowed in any Texas state park building, including the cabins. In addition there is a
Two-night minimum rental on Friday and Saturday
Three-night minimum on holiday and special event weekends;
Also be sure to check dates when making reservations.
- A/C unit
- Picnic tables
- No pets
- Sink with prep area
- Two twin bunk beds
- Chair or couch
- Desk with chair
- Duplex electric outlet
- Ceiling fans
- Fire ring with grill
12. Campsites at McKinney Falls State Park Are for Tents and RVs
The campsites have water and electricity hookups.
Any tents set up must fit entirely on the 16’ by 16 foot tent pad at the site. This means that in most cases only one large tent may be set up per campsite. Multiple small tents can be set up as long as they all fit on the tent pad surface.
Campfires at McKinney Falls
You can build a campfire in most state parks, unless a county burn ban is in place. However, you must follow these fire safety rules:
- Fires may be built only in campsite grills, fire rings, or fireplaces. Most developed campsites have fire rings, and some have waist-high grills as well.
- Some parks allow only containerized fuel fires (i.e. camp stoves).
- Campfires are not allowed at most primitive campsites. Be sure to ask at park headquarters.
- Some beach sites allow ground fires on sandy areas, if approved by the park superintendent.
- You can only gather firewood if the park superintendent allows it.
- Do not leave your fire unattended!
13. Costs to Camp at McKinney Falls State Park are Nominal
There are 69 campsites with water and 30 amp electric that will cost $20 a night, and 12 premium sites with water and a 50 amp hookup that are $24 a night. The daily entry fee to McKinney Falls State Park is $6.
But, it’s free for kids 12 and under. The Texas State Parks Pass costs $70 and provides unlimited free entry to 89 state parks for you and your guests. Or, you may qualify for a Texas Parklands Passport; this pass grants free or reduced rate access to seniors, disabled veterans, and those who are medically disabled.
14. People Love McKinney Falls State Park
The park has 222 reviews on Yelp and has gotten a four start rating overall. The people at the park are friendly and it truly feels like you are in the middle of nature, not just a few miles from a big city. There’s little traffic noise or Hipsters. We would have to agree that when you enter the park, it’s like crossing over into a whole new world where you can truly relax.
The good news is, that the Austin winters are so mild, you can visit the park most of the year. Sure it’s a great bonus to splash in the swimming holes or see all of the trees green and lush, but you can also escape the everyday anytime you want.
15. You Can Bring Your Dog to McKinney Falls State Park
Dogs are allowed at the park, but must stay on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. Dogs are not allowed in the water or the cabins.