Getting there: From I-35 in south Austin, exit onto Slaughter Lane and
head west. After a couple of turns in the road look for Yarsa Blvd. or Palace Parkway on
the right. That's your key to prepare to turn left, immediately after some apartments that
abut the park entrance. The parking area is quite a distance back, past the radio
controlled plane airport.
The large loop in the center of the park gets the most foot traffic.
Mary Moore Searight Metro Park off of Slaughter Lane never strays
too far from civilization. The busy road to its north and I-35 provide enough road noise,
though not excessively loud, to remind the hiker that one is not too far from the bustling
city around it. The main loop through the park is popular for runners or walkers, further
cutting into any desired solitude. Still, if you pick your spots carefully one can find
some tranquil areas where its possible to leave the bustle behind.
The trail begins at the waypoint "Trailhead", located near the physical center of the park
adjacent to the main parking area. There are really two trail systems in the park, the "Metro"
trail for runners, walkers and hikers, and the "Equestrian" trail for those on horseback. As
you'll discover later, there's no sign of any equinne on the equestrian trail.
Watch out for low flying aircraft near the northern trails. No, the park is not in a direct
flightpath of Austin Bergstom. The park plays host to a radio controlled plane airfield.
The high pitched whine of the planes' engines can be heard and at the very northernmost end
of the trails can occasionally be seen overhead, though in actuality safely elevated.
What the city calls the 'Equestrian Trail' provides some of the best trails in the park.
Head south on the trail. You may find yourself on the equestrian trail without realizing it
since both it and the Metro trail intermingle somewhat and cross paths often. Provided that
you head south regardless of which path you choose you'll end up at the big loop. Like most
of the Metro trail in the northern part of the park, the big loop is paved. Here there are
some large open fields and the trail is wide open. Dog walkers and runners abound. The
loop itself covers just over a mile.
The terrain is a mix of open fields and Oak-Juniper woodlands. Expect a bit of shade and Sun.
More interesting are the criss-crossed trails in the southwest corner of the park. You can
use the big loop to get there and then get lost in a maze of small interconnecting trails.
The trail here is packed dirt, with a little rock thrown in. You'll find far fewer people
here and less noise and commotion.
The other benefit of heading to the southern edge of the park is the trail's proximity to
Slaughter Creek. At a couple of spots along the trail small overlooks perch over the stream
below, a great place to relax. During the moments I spent along the creek I didn't see
Near the creek the vegetation gets a bit more lush and the air more humid.
The trails near the creek are sometimes choked with vegetation and the air is heavier and
humid. The generally humid conditions provided the proper conditions for something you don't see too widely in Central Texas, Spanish Moss. A large mass of it covered a large oak not too far from Slaughter Creek. An even less common sight was the moss draping from some of the nearby Juniper.
There are a couple of nice spots along the trail that provides views of Slaughter Creek.
On the eastern edge of the park, and partly bisecting the big loop lies the equestrian trail. Hikers would enjoy these trails much more than the paved big loop and there appears to be no reason not to make use of it. During my visit I saw no horses and not even a sign of a horse having recently been there (manure or hoof prints). However, I did see several hikers along the trail.
I suspect that the park has lost some attraction for horse lovers. The trails out at
McKinney Roughs provide more solitude
and much more mileage. So while you may find no horses on the trail, you should always
be ready if you do encounter one. Be sure to move to the side of the trail as much as
possible and yield to horse and rider.
When one includes the equestrian trails into the equation, Mary Moore Searight Park ends up supplying almost 6 miles of trails. As you've seen, picking your trails and areas of the park greatly affect the solitude you can expect. This park is what you make of it.