From 100-mile trail runs to bicycling the Missions Trail, the Alamo City is more active than you think
When to come?:
San Antonio is a great all-year destination, as the weather never really gets too cold to be outdoors, but even in the summer there are green, leafy areas to hike or ride your bike in. As the temperatures rise, head to the rivers and lakes to spend a lazy afternoon.
What to do if you have a sunny Saturday?:
A great way to spend a sunny saturday in summer is to wake up early in the morning and go for a run or mountain bike ride at Canyon Lake, about 30 miles north of the city. As the temps get high, head down to New Braunfels for barbecue at either Rudy's or Cooper's (can't go wrong with either) and then spend the afternoon tubing the Comal or the Guadalupe (out of Gruene, Texas). After tubing, if you have any energy left, go for an evening walk along the new stretch of the Riverwalk downtown.
On Sunday, sleep in late, get a Tex-Mex breakfast, and then bike the Mission Trail south from downtown through San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. There isn't a lot to see in the surrounding areas, but the missions themselves are some of the oldest buildings in the Southwest.
Where can I go to get out away from the city, without driving too far?:
The New Braunfels/Gruene area is crowded and busy in summer, with tubing, kayaking, and the best water park in the world, Schlitterbahn, but it's for a reason - the spring fed rivers are beautiful and clear.
Government Canyon State Natural Area on the northwest side is undeveloped but has rocky, tough hiking, trail running and mountain biking.
Close to the airport, and much more mellow, is McAllister Park, with about 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. You'll need a map, because the trail system is a maze. Most of it is shaded, but the stretch up and over the dam is hot and exposed.
What are some great weekend getaways?:
Fredericksburg is a great getaway from San Antonio. Look through the tourist shops, get something to eat at Rather Sweet Bakery, and then head up to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
What mountains/hills can I hike nearby?:
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is the best place to go for a quick hike up and down the mountain.
In the Hill Country State Natural Area, pretty much every trail ends up at an amazing overlook. Highly recommended is parking at the Equestrian Parking area and taking the trail to the right up to Sky Island. Take the trail all the way around Sky Island, being sure to stop at the bench.
Just northwest of town, the hike/run at Eisenhower is pretty nice - the trails are short, but they are steep! Friedrich Wilderness Park is also a great place for hills
What outdoorsy stuff is way overrated in this town?:
The Riverwalk right downtown near the Alamo and the RiverCenter mall is not exactly a bucolic destination, especially past early morning. Head to the new part of the Riverwalk (Museum Reach, north of downtown) for a much more relaxed experience.
Brackenridge Park is San Antonio's central park - the San Antonio Zoo and the Japanese Tea Gardens are here, as are several trails, picnic areas, and a miniature railroad for kids. The golf course in the park is one of the oldest in Texas.
For runners, Brackenridge Park is one of the top places to run away from traffic in San Antonio. There are about 3 miles of paved trail to explore, and a few unpaved trails that offshoot the main paved trails.
The Riverwalk is being extended north into Breckenridge Park - once the extensions from downtown north and south are complete, there will be a path from Breckenridge Park onto the Missions Hike and Bike trail - making a 25 mile round trip possible.
McAllister Park is next to the San Antonio airport, in north San Antonio. The park has over 15 miles of singletrack and paved trails that wind in and around eachother in a maze. There are colored trails, such as, red, blue, and orange that you can follow, although intersections are not always clearly marked. McAllister's terrain is pretty tame - trails go from buttery smooth singletrack under trees to pebbly limestone trails to jeep roads on top of a dam.
The city provides a confusing map of the colored loops at http://www.sanantonio.gov/sapar/pdf/McAllister_Overall.pdf - but that doesn't show all of the side trails inside the park.
Also within McAllister Park is the Salado Creek Greenway - an asphalt paved, 6 foot wide trail suitable for bikes, strollers, inline skates, or just walking. The McAllister Park section heading to the airport has just been built.
Friedrich Wilderness Park is one of the better places to hike and run in San Antonio. There are about 4.5 miles of improved and natural surface trails (mostly natural surface) within the park. Elevation within the park ranges from 1150 feet to 1400 feet, so there are some decent climbs on the main loop trail.
All of the other trails come off of the main loop trail (except for the short Forest Range ADA nature trails at the park entrance).
You can find more information at the Friends of Friedrich Park
The Hill Country State Natural Area outside Bandera, Texas is a rugged, wild place that isn't like most state parks - there aren't any real toilets, paved roads, swimming pools, showers, or even drinking water. If you want any of that, you have to go into town. Out at the HCSNA, they have 35 miles of rocky trails made out of old ranch roads, fall line trails, nice singletrack, and bushwhacking expeditions.
The trails are open for mountain biking, but it's really not a good place to bring a bike because of all the loose goathead rock. It's much better for hiking or horseback riding.