Nestled deep in the heart of South Central Texas lies San Antonio, home to the Spurs, the Alamo and countless scrumptious taco joints. This city of 1.4 million people enjoys boundless sunshine and 140 miles of trails, making it a great place to get outdoors and get moving. You’ll probably want to take a nap after eating all those tacos, but instead, lace up your sneakers and try one of these scenic walks.
A flat, paved path winds through tall stands of trees in Phil Hardberger Park. Named for a former San Antonio mayor, this 311-acre wilderness area offers a welcome respite from the busy streets forming its borders. The trail attracts runners, dog walkers, bicyclists and what my grandmother fondly calls “the buggy brigade,” aka parents and sitters pushing babies in strollers. In certain sections of the park, the paved path runs parallel to a dirt trail, offering a rugged option for those who like rougher terrain. Regardless of which route you choose, keep a lookout for packs of deer delicately traversing the grounds. Scarlet-hued cardinals, hawks and even wild turkey are also hidden among the woods.
Address: 8400 NW Military Highway (West entrance), 13203 Blanco Road (East entrance)
Get ready to scramble up (and down) rocky hills at this wedge-shaped park abutting Camp Bullis. Soaring hilltop views reveal the distant downtown skyline and further tree-lined summits. In the middle of the park, a wooden viewing deck extends the birds-eye perspective of the surrounding terrain. The trail features various examples of Texas hill country vegetation, including stands of cacti, so watch your step!
Address: 19399 NW Military Highway
This urban gem extends far beyond the well-known loop of restaurants, hotels and tourist traps in downtown. I like to start at the Pearl Brewery and wend my way south, taking in the art installations under the bridges (piped in bird songs, glittery flying fish) and looking for “tiny art,” the miniature paintings hidden on walls and pillars. Take a shopping break at La Villita, a collection of 30 shops selling artisan items ranging from jewelry to paintings to folk art. A little further on, stop in at the Blue Star Arts Complex to check out its assortment of galleries and studios, restaurants, bars and retail offerings. Grab a coffee at Halcyon and continue on to the King William District to explore a neighborhood of grand historic homes dating to the 1840s.
Address: Varied starting points. Parking is available at the Pearl Brewery complex at the junction of Isleta Street and Emma Koehler.
Additional recommended walking and hiking options:
Friedrich Wilderness Park, 21395 Milsa Road. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city in this 232-acre park offering trails for both novice and experienced hikers.
Mission Hike and Bike Trail, starting points vary. History comes alive on this eight-mile paved path connecting four missions from the 1700s.
McAllister Park, 13102 Jones Maltsberger. Trails range from .17 to 6 miles at this neighborhood hub offering soccer and baseball fields, a playground and a picnic area.