McKinney Falls State Park
Located about 10 miles south of Downtown Austin, McKinney Falls State Park offers travelers a relaxing respite for day-hikes, mountain biking, or weekend camping trips. Nine miles of trails wind through cypress trees and red oaks, and secluded waterfalls and pools run down from Onion Creek. It’s easy to spend a few hours or a couple days killing time in this park, especially during fall when the temperatures are cooler and trees brighten the sky with their changing colors.
When to go: Late October through early November
McKinney Falls State Park is a little oasis a mere 16 miles from downtown Austin, offering nine miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, some very difficult bouldering walls, an ancient rock shelter, and two waterfalls where (weather permitting) you'll be doing your splashing. Upper Falls and Lower Falls both sport nice swimming holes, but Upper Falls has deeper water—a very important factor if you're planning to dive in. That said, Lower Falls still offers a great alternative when Upper Falls gets too crowded. You can also fish and swim in Onion Creek for a change of pace.
Know before you go: The park is open daily from 8 am to 10 pm. Reservations must be made online or by calling 512-389-8900 and run $6 per adult (children under 12 go free). Check the website before setting out to read up on any planned closures.
Where to eat/drink: Outside food and drink is welcome, so you’ll see plenty of YETI coolers and tumblers throughout the park. Tasty libations nearby include St. Elmo Brewery, which currently offers pan-Asian fried chicken sandwiches from the Spicy Boys food truck out front. There’s also Still Austin for all your whiskey needs (sipped in the garden or taken to-go), Trudy's for Tex-Mex and Margs, and Little Darlin, a hipster biker haunt that’s dog-friendly.