Onion Creek District Park

2.46 Miles
75 Feet
3stars (3.21)15
1point5stars (1.67)
3stars (3.27)

Getting there: From I-35 in Austin head east on William Cannon Drive. Turn right on Pleasant Valley Road and head south. Turn left onto Springville Lane and then take an immediate left onto Onion Crossing Drive and the next right onto Vine Hill Drive. Continue to head east until the road runs into Onion Creek Drive. To the right there is an area in which to park.

The Hike: Onion Creek District Park is one of several parks in south east Austin that doesn't tend to get much attention. The trail here follows along Onion Creek as it meanders its way towards McKinney Falls State Park, not far away on the other side of East William Cannon Drive. The trail starts at the waypoint "Trailhead". A short spur heads straight to Onion Creek, but the main trail heads south paralleling the creek's path.

Onion Creek as it appears near the start of the hike.
Onion Creek as it appears near the start of the hike.
The trail here is less traveled and the path resembled a jeep trail cleared by periodic mowing. Since the trail is so close to Onion Creek the vegetation here is dense. During the month of August the summer grasses and brush had grown up to six feet tall, forming a wall of green on either side. Usually the mowed area was wide enough for a vehicle to say nothing of a hiker, though the plants closed in at a few spots. The trail surface is packed dirt, so things could get a little muddy after a good rain.

This pretty much sums up the entire trail. Mostly straight, often with tall stands of foliage and weeds closing in on either side.
This pretty much sums up the entire trail. Mostly straight, often with tall stands of foliage and weeds closing in on either side.
What was overgrown were the side trails that connected to the main trail pictured in the topo map of this hike. The official City of Austin map for the park shows a couple of side trails but I spotted more and all were quite overgrown. Not knowing which was an official trail and which was a maverick trail I decided to save their exploration at some other time of the year. So instead my hike consisted of an out and back down the main trail to the turnaround point at Onion Creek.

The view of Onion Creek at the turnaround point. Lots of fish here and what appears to be a car washed into the creek in the distance.
The view of Onion Creek at the turnaround point. Lots of fish here and what appears to be a car washed into the creek in the distance.
In almost an hour of hiking and exploring I encountered four people, two on horseback. Though road noise of William Cannon can be heard in the northern part of the park there is some solitude to be found. The waypoint "Turnaround" marks the spot at which the trail runs into Onion Creek. The water here was surprisingly clear with lots of fish in the water. Not a bad spot to rest, as long as one ignores the car that appeared to be washed into the creek upstream!

The most interesting thing about Onion Creek is what will be in the future. Plans are afoot to link Onion Creek District Park with Springfield Park and into McKinney Falls State Park. The resulting trail system will be the most extensive in southeast Austin. Keep your eye on this area and consider helping out when trail restoration and building takes place.

The trail is straight and not ankle-twisty
The beginning is lovely and shady, but it becomes less so farther in. (Photo by plectrudis)
THIS is the real park entrance: Onion Creek Drive   Vine Hill
There's a trackway leading to Onion Creek, and the trail begins off to the right of that track. Basically, walk straight back into the middle of this picture from the sign, if that makes sense. (Photo by plectrudis)
The former neighborhood--tall trees, no brush--very park-like
The former neighborhood--tall trees, no brush--very park-like. Not sure if the city is maintaining it this way, or if it's just temporary. Very pleasantly serene. (Photo by plectrudis)
The sign says it's a park, but the empty lot is just a small clearing in the weeds--no trail access.
This sign (Onion Creek Dr at Firefly) is nowhere near the trailhead. Go to the main park entrance at Onion Creek Dr at Vine Hill. (Photo by plectrudis)
First creek crossing
Onion Creek is wide and shallow during the wet seasons. Perfect for playing fetch. (Photo by crocodile235)
Log Entries
Ehh...It's OK, but watch out for Poison Ivy.
By offoxandbear on 4/30/2017
Rating: 2stars Difficulty: 1point5stars Solitude: 1point5stars
Distance: 2.75 Miles Duration: N/A

The main part of this trail is farily wide and takes you about a mile down to Onion Creek. Nearly half of the hike, you'll see LOTS of Poison Ivy on the East side of the trail.Anyone who is highly allergic should probably stay away (I am), as you will probably also encounter people with dogs that are running right through all of it. We were careful, but we won't go back here anymore.

That being said, we also decided to cross Onion Creek to get the Metropolitan park and try some of those trails. None were that great. Lots of dead cactus and again, a lot of Poison Ivy.

So, it's kind of a meh trail, and probably not worth it.

Shady, Now with bathrooms
By plectrudis on 3/27/2017
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 1point5stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 2.80 Miles Duration: N/A

Google directed me to park at the intersection of Firefly & Onion Creek Dr.  And, to be fair, there's a sign there that says "Onion Creek Park."  However, there are no trails anywhere near the sign.  The main entrance/parking lot is at Onion Creek Dr and Vine Hill.

The park folks have added a bathroom and playground since the original write-up, but no trial map (this has been a theme lately--the city puts up a map kiosk... and then leaves it empty.  Why???) 

TO ACCESS THE TRAIL: from the parking lot, head down toward the creek.  You'll see a well-worn (but unmarked) trail on your right with a gate across it--that's the greenbelt.  It runs parallel to the creek, though the creek isn't visible from the main trail.  By ~5 in the afteroon, the first ~1/3 of the trail is wonderfully shady, and about another 1/3 is part-shade.  The far end is less maintained, narrower, and more exposed.

THE GOOD:  Shade!  Can't have too much of it in Austin, especially in the summer.  Also, a reasonable amount of foot traffic and dogs.  It's not full of people, but there are enough on a weeknight to feel safe.  The dog density was fine (for me)--a few dogs, but not hordes of them.

THE BAD: Lots of poison ivy--mostly avoidable, since the trail is pretty wide at the beginning.  But it does lean into the trail, and is a little closer than I'd like as the trail narrows. The petering out of the shade is also a downer.  Also, it was crazy humid--not sure if it's always that way due to the creek, or just today's weather.  And I got some bug bites--a combo of chiggers and gnats, I think?  Might be the warm winter + wet spring?  Maybe August is less insectoidal.

Lastly, the empty neighborhood (not part of the trail, but of course you can walk down the streets) is kinda neat--lots of lovely mature trees and green grass, but virtually no shrubs or brush.  It's the most park-like park I've seen in such a large space a while.  Not sure if the city mows periodically to keep the brush and saplings down or what, but it's pleasantly Arcadian.  Next time, I would plan to start by walking the neighborhood and then the greenbelt, to get more steps.

very hot but my first time here, very quiet
By jimmy peace on 8/2/2015
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: 2.30 Miles Duration: N/A
good dog walk
By crocodile235 on 4/19/2015
Rating: 2stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 2.00 Miles Duration: N/A

The Austin Parks Foundation website confirms that this is an official off-leash dog park (other than the playground areas, where leashes are required).  The walk to the first creek crossing is 3/4 mile down what is basically a Jeep trail.  From there you can play fetch in the shallow creek, then cross the creek and ascend a small hill to the rest of the trails.  There is a veritable spaghetti bowl of trails up there, so you can really choose your own distance.  I've done a couple of them, and even with a map, it is easy to get turned around since they're so twisty.  Horses are allowed on these trails, so there is a good amount of horse poop (dogs think that is super fun to roll in!) but I've never actually seen a horse in the 5+ times I've been there this year.

Great quiet morning walk
By ZenRuth on 8/15/2012
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 1.00 Mile Duration: N/A

Aside from the trail, there are several blocks of deserted roads where houses have been removed, that are great for exercise.  I walk in the morning, and I rarely see anyone there before 8 am. 

If you use Onion Creek District Park regularly and want to support cleanup and community efforts there, please join our Facebook Group, Friends of Onion Creek.

Short Walk
By wekulm on 11/14/2011
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 1.00 Mile Duration: N/A
We just walked a mile or so from the trailhead. We didn't encounter anyone but did find plenty of horse poop. Was carrying a baby so couldn't go further but I plan on returning.
very average! not great, not a waste of time.
By texaskdog on 4/4/2010
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: 1 hour

Take the FIRST left off of Pleasant Valley to Onion Creek Drive and take it to where it ends that is the quickest way there.  There is NO signage anywhere for this park but the trail is easy to find.  Fairly straight as mentioned.  Austin parks lists additional side trails (marked on this map as "gravel pit") which was just full of old pipes and not worth the effort.  Coming back up we took the side trails to the right and there is a HUGE tree (takes 3 people to get your arms around it.  You can wade across the creek on the other side trail but not sure what is over there.  Main trail doesnt go near the creek but the trees are nice and worthy of a 3 for this trail.

My past adventures on the trails
By Motoman on 3/6/2010
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 3stars
Distance: N/A Duration: N/A

I live right down the street from the trails,I have been riding my small dirtbike on the trails for the past year and then all of a sudden new years day I started having trouble with people who want to be selfish and ugly about me being out on the trails.I do not go near the park,there are no signs saying I cant be out on the un attended trails on the east side of the creek,I do see horse tracks and poop over there at times.I don't leave trash out there,or poop on the ground for people to walk in or around,if anything I'm helping keep the trails cleared,my tracks from riding look like mountain bike tracks,so it's not like I'm tearing up the place.The only place that Austin does have trail riding is on city park road and it's not fun,it is nothing but rock..... So why not share the land  or have a designated area for dirtbikes and be friendly and everyones happy! We could even organize a clean up for the trash and debris that has been dumped there.

By Motoman on 3/6/2010
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 15.00 Miles Duration: N/A

my friend and I rode bicycles to the park as we approached the "leash free dog park" so it say's in spray paint on the ground,so that makes it official right??? not. both of the man's dogs ran up to my friend and I in the street as the man was yelling for his dogs to come back they didn't listen one of them bit onto my friends pants,he had to kick the dog to get it away. Then there was confliction between the guy and us,not cool! There is a playground right there as well,what if that guy's dogs decide to go over there and bite one of the kids??? Leash free dog parks should have a cyclone fence around them like the one at 35 and riverside! For the dog and human safety!

Tried and true
By austinali27 on 3/5/2010
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 1.50 Miles Duration: N/A

I live close to Onion Creek so my dog and I frequent this trail.  Today we crossed the creek, thanks to my trusty Keens, and explored the other side.  If you are able to cross the creek do so! It's beautiful on the other side.

Easy hike but great if you need something quick and easy to tire out your pup!

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