| 4.40 Miles
Getting there: We suggest starting from the northern end of
the trail. The parking is easier and some of the nicer portions of the trail are
in the northern half. We parked in the Randall's supermarket parking lot on 35th
Street, right next to Shoal Creek. There was plenty of parking and the section
of the parking lot closest to the creek was completely empty.
The Hike: Shoal Creek offers some interesting contrasts in
the heart of Austin. At times the creek resembles little more than a drainage
ditch. At other times it's hard to believe that you're in the center of the city.
Our hike started at the waypoint marked "Trailhead" next to Randall's supermarket
on 35th street. You need not go far in order to see the first interesting section
of trail. This section is known as Seiders Springs Park. Almost immediately you
will see a stand of Oak trees called Seiders Oaks. In 1839 Gideon White built a
home here only to die in an Indian massacre in 1842. White's daughter, Louisa,
wed Edward Seiders in 1846.
Edward was an enterprising fellow and saw an opportunity in the springs that
gushed from the rock face on the opposite bank from these oaks. He built a small
resort here after constructing pools to collect the clear, cool waters. Some of
those pools exist to this day and we were fortunate to come by during a wet period
when the springs were active.
|One of Seiders springs|
The Shoal Creek trail is fairly easy to navigate, but it does cross the creek
several time down its length. Some crossings are easier than others. The crossing
at Seiders Springs, to get to the side of the creek with the pools was easy. The cement
walkway can even be traversed by wheelchair. The terrain of the trail varies greatly
depending upon the section though. Some parts are paved concrete, some cushed
gravel, some compacted dirt. In this regard it provides a bit more of a real "hiking"
experience at times than the Town Lake
hike and bike
|Much of Shoal Creek provides easy terrain|
Some sections of the trail can not hug Shoal Creek closely because many old houses
are built right up on the creek's banks. Waypoint "Exit Trail" marks on place in
which you'll have to walk along 31st street for a couple of blocks until you get
to waypoint "Enter Trail", when the trail rejoins the creek.
|Watch out for some of these overhangs|
Now you're in one of the most interesting parts of the hike. The trail here enters
a small canyon of rock and you could very well forget that you in the center of
Austin. The rock overhangs are impressive and in one small section are low enough
that you'll need to watch your head as you pass through. If you elect to only
hike part of Shoal Creek, this is one area that you should include in your trip.
Once you exit the canyon the trail gets easier. On the opposite bank an
impressive rock face remains, but it's largely flat and easy going on the trail side.
When you get to waypoint "Shells" you'll see an interesting feature of Shoal Creek's
beds. At the turns in the creek rocks and shells pile up. Many of those shells
are actually fossils, reminders of a time when central Texas was ocean bottom instead
of Hill Country. Remember that city ordinance prohibits the removal of fossils from
city parks. Look all you want, but leave them for others to enjoy.
|Probably the most interesting section of Shoal Creek|
At waypoint "Pease Park" you have entered Pease Park. With the exception of a moderate
hill the going is easy and the grounds well kept. You'll encounter many more
people here as Pease Park is one of the more popular parks in central Austin.
|Pease Park. Note the top of the capital poking out above the trees.|
If you're not interested in continuing all the way to Town Lake waypoint "Pease End"
may be a good time to turnaround. The trail south of here is not nearly as nice
and often has no connection with nature to speak of. If you want park-like
settings then spend your time north of 15th Street.
We're going to trace Shoal Creek to its end though, so we continue on and are rewarded the site of the old Austin Athletic Club building at waypoint "AAC". This building has been around since the 1930's and has stood abandoned since the late 1980's.
The trail at this point sometimes resembles a walkway adjancent to a drainage
ditch. Every now and then a nice view, but often not very appealing visually.
At waypoint "Building Supply Sign" though you can get a little gem of history. We
found the back of the old Austin Building Supply, complete with painted sign that
you can see here.
|The southern section of Shoal Creek is not the best|
Just south of the building supply sign is the last creek crossing that you'll
have to make in this direction and it's the most tricky. We did not want to go
up to street level further upstream and then work our way to the other side, so
found the shallowest section of stream and positioned some rocks strategically so
that we could hop across. The shallowest section was a couple of hundred feet
away from the trail proper on the other side so we had to carefully walk along
the decorative stone wall (stairsteped, thankfully) on the opposite bank.
The Seaholm power plant dominates the last couple of blocks before getting to
Town Lake. Technically, some part of the trail should be off limits as
construction goes on. When we got to waypoint "Gates" though we found the gates
wide open and no one around, so we proceeded, knowing that the last stretch of
trail was just a bit further up. We were rewarded by being able to pass by the
remnants of a railroad bridge on 3rd street. Some of the rails had the date
1928 stamped on them.
|Yet more railroad track goes away|
The fence on the opposite side of off limits area was closed, though someone
had cut a sizable hole in it and people came and went as they please. One fellow
even got through with his bicycle. Shoal Creek widens as it gets to Town Lake and
makes a sharp left turn just before spilling into it.
Waypoint "Turnaround" was the end of our hike as we planned a two car effort so that
we would not have to hike back due to time constraints. The total distance for
our hike was 4.4 miles and we did this in 3 hours and 50 minutes. Of course we
stopped and took photos and looked at fossils, which means you could very well
complete the trip in a shorter period of time.
|Shoal Creek turns, then empties into Town Lake|
One complaint with the hike overall compared to some others is the amount of
trash that we saw on the trail, particularly in brush along the creek itself.
Given the fact that not much trash was on the trail or in the creek itself, it's
likely that the trash was more a result of wash out from the surrounding city that
got caught travelling downstream. When you go hiking be sure to bring at least a
small bag into which to pick up a few items. Leave the trail in better shape than
you found it. If we all did that there would be a remarkable improvement in the