MEDINA RIVER NATURAL AREA
Address: 15890 Hwy. 16 South, San Antonio TX, 78264
Open: Sunrise to Sunset every day (except Christmas & New Year’s Day)
Trail Length: 10 miles of trails of hike and bike trails.
(more than one trail head but this is the main one)
Recommended Hike: Rio Medina Trail along the river and through the riparian forest, Chaparral Trail through the upland and along the river for 6 miles, tracing part of the historic El Camino Real. How about a virtual bike ride? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiK-ldG32Cs . The Chaparral Trail IS NOT A LOOP, so be prepared to hike your way back to where you parked!
MEDINA RIVER NATURAL AREA is a 511 acre nature preserve with recreation, education, & volunteer opportunities for visitors. 10 miles of hike & bike trails wind through a variety of landscapes, from riverside trails with towering pecan & bald cypress trees, to upland trails lined with cactus and honey mesquite. The hike & bike trails have varying levels of accessibility, ranging from concrete to natural surfaces. Dogs are welcome on the trails, but leashes are required. Drinking fountains are located at the Medina River Natural Area trail head and at the Applewhite Trailhead, but no other drinking water is available along this section.
Birding – Enjoy world class birding in this popular birding spot. Specialties include green kingfisher, painted bunting, Audubon’s oriole. You can check out up to the minute sightings here online at ebird.org.
Fishing – Fishing is allowed in designated areas only (you must must have a license and follow all State laws). There are 8 or so spots to fish, clearly marked with signage and mono-filament recycle container. The fishing is peaceful, but casting can be a challenge with lots of branches and roots to catch.
Picnic – The Natural Area has one large pavilion with 6 picnic tables, a drinking fountain, and pretty big BBQ grill. Reservations are made at Parks and Recreation Ron Darner headquarters located at 5800 Old Highway 90 West, San Antonio. You need to bring your own firewood or charcoal as gathering firewood in the park is prohibited. Electricity is available upon request, but bring your own extension cord and power strip. No smoking, loud music, jumping castles, skateboards, or piñatas are allowed in the pavilion/park.
Boating – Canoeing and kayaking is also allowed, but you must use the single designated launch/recovery site provided in the park. This means you must either find a take-out site outside of the park OR paddle back upstream and take-out in the same designated spot. For paddling, just know that we have seen very large trees all the way across the water that can block through passage.
NO horseback riding, skateboarding, or motorized vehicles (except wheelchairs) allowed on trails. NO Swimming or water contact allowed.
Camping – The Cottonwood Campsite with large covered pavilion, six tent pads, barbecue grill, potable water, & composting toilets that may be reserved at the Parks and Recreation Ron Darner headquarters building located at 5800 Old Highway 90 West, San Antonio. Phone: 210-207-3000
Hiking/Biking/Running – The trails of Medina River Natural Area offer a wide range of hiking and biking experiences. Trails range from Level One to Level Four Access. Level One Access trails are paved and handicap accessible. Level Two Access trails are also paved but have a steeper slope and are not handicap accessible. Level Three and Level Four Access trails are soil (natural surface) with Level Four being the most difficult. Plants of interest are marked with low wooden markers corresponding to the plants listed under the Plant Key (located at the top of this webpage). There is an additional 3 miles stretching from the Pleasanton Road Trail head, around the south and east perimeter of Mitchell Lake, to the Mission del Lago Golf Course. Half way, there is another trail head with parking off of Hwy 281. See trail descriptions below:
El Chaparral (Greenway) Trail – A paved, 6.64 mile one-way (non-looping) trail that winds through both upland habitat and riparian forests along the Medina River. Areas of the trail range from flat, Level One Access to steep and windy, Level Three Access. The trail includes 2.91 miles in the Medina River Natural Area and 3.73 miles on the Land Heritage Institute’s property (a non-profit conservation organization).
Rio Medina Trail – 1.47 miles of Level Three Access natural surface trail winding through riparian forests along the Medina River.
Nogales Trail – 0.30 miles of natural surface trail connecting the riparian forests of the Rio Medina Trail with the upland areas of the El Chaparral Trail. Rated Level Three Access.
El Camino Trail – 0.23 mile paved trail that passes by the covered pavilion and ends at the Medina River. Connects with the Rio Medina Trail and is rated Level One Access.
Olmos Spur Trail – 0.15 miles of Level Four Access, natural surface trail connecting the Rio Medina Trail with the El Chaparral Trail.
South Drive – 0.27 mile driveway leading to a group campground. Campground includes 6 tent pads, composting toilets, covered pavilion, potable water, and outdoor grill. Use is restricted to groups. There is no designated trail from the campground to the Medina River. Camping is by reservation only. Reservations may be made at any City of San Antonio Community Link Center.
Overlook Trails – Consists of six short trails leading to scenic overlooks of the Medina River. All overlooks are rated Level One Access but the trails leading to them range from Level One to Level Three Access. The El Chaparral (Greenway) and Rio Medina trails have a combined total of six overlooks encompassing 0.62 miles.
Trail Map: Medina River Natural Area Trails
Trail Conditions: Medina River Trail Conditions
Calendar of Events: San Antonio Natural Area Events
Camping Information: Medina River Cottonwood Campsite: Cottonwood Campsite
Scout Project Information: http://hikesa.org/scout-projects/
Map & Directions:
Medina River Natural Area is located at 15890 Highway 16 South. It is approximately 4.5 miles south of Loop 410 on Highway 16 South (Poteet Highway). When heading south on Hwy 16, after you cross the intersection of Watson Rd/Lone Star Pass (with a stop light) the park entrance will be on your left.