Gaines Creek Park

0.70 Mile
55 Feet
2point5stars (2.50)4
1star (1.00)
2point5stars (2.50)

The entrance to the park along Republic of Texas Blvd.
The entrance to the park along Republic of Texas Blvd.
Getting there: Head south on MoPac and take the Southwest Parkway exit. Get in the rightmost lane as soon as possible and prepare to turn at the next stoplight. The stoplight marks the intersection of the parkway and Republic of Texas Blvd. Turn right and look on your left for the entrance to the park. There is a large green sign and a picnic bench. Park alongside the road.

The Gaines Creek Park trail is often marked by a row of limestone along the trail's edge.
The Gaines Creek Park trail is often marked by a row of limestone along the trail's edge.
The Hike: Gaines Creek Park is a small park located just off of the Southwest Parkway in south west Austin. Chances are, if you do not live in the area you have not even heard of the park. There is no designated parking areas and people seem to park alongside the road on Republic of Texas Blvd.

The trail begins at the waypoint marked "Trailhead" and at this point the trail is largely gravel and rock. After only a short distance the trail crosses the creek and the terrain for most of the rest of the hike will consist mostly of packed dirt.

We saw deer prints in the park and this Texas Alligator Lizard.
We saw deer prints in the park and this Texas Alligator Lizard.
The path of the hike through the park is an oval and to make sure that you go through as much of the park as possible just try and keep in mind that you should always go left when presented with a fork in the trail. Soon after the creek crossing you'll come to the waypoint "Intersection". By turning left you'll hike the trail in a clockwise direction and see most of what the park has to offer. Much of the trail is bordered by limestone that has been placed along the ground. Sometimes that also helps to determine what is the main trail and what is not.

Several signs on the trail identified plants, like this one for Pencil Cactus (a.k.a. Christmas Cactus).
Several signs on the trail identified plants, like this one for Pencil Cactus (a.k.a. Christmas Cactus).
We were surprised to see several locations along the trail marked with signs indicating a particular plant that was present. The signs appear to be old, particularly the one proclaiming a Texas Oak, behind which appears to be a dead Texas Oak tree. Some of the the others are still quite valid. We're not sure who put those up or if at one point there was an interpretive guide to go along with the signs.

There is an added bonus to this trip. Actually, there are two. This small park boasts of two geocaches and we used a single trip to this park to find both caches and hike the trail. Both caches are very near the hiking trails and don't require that you stray far from the path. If you have a GPS you might want to give them a try. Look for links to these geocaches below.

Although largely wooded, the park also includes a few open fields.
Although largely wooded, the park also includes a few open fields.
Although the sounds of the highway nearby never totally let us forget how close we were to "civilization" the hike did provide some solitude. During the hike we came across only two other people.

Our total trip time was about 25 minutes and we covered .7 miles. This is an easy hike that is ideal for the beginner or anyone wanting a quick hike to go along with a little interpretive guidance on local plant life.

Geological Signage
Admittedly, I don't really know what a "paleosoil" is, but it's cool that they point it out, all the same. (Photo by plectrudis)
Botanical signage--Blackjack Oak
One of a number of nice write-ups on the local flora in the park--this one on Blackjack Oaks (Quercus marilandica). (Photo by plectrudis)
Fossil-bearing limestone--100 MYA
Lots of clammy-bivalvey sorts of things, plus some spirally snaily fossils. As the paleontologists call them. (Photo by plectrudis)
Log Entries
A Nice Neighborhood Nature Trail
By plectrudis on 1/12/2016
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 1point5stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 1.50 Miles Duration: N/A

I was pleasantly surprised by this park--perhaps the low ratings kept my expectations down.  For what it is, though, I think it's nice.

For those times when you're seeking seclusion far from civilization, this park is probably not the best choice. But for a quick, convenient hike in S Austin, it's clean, safe, well-maintained, and has some nice signage.

Despite being sandwiched between major roads, the woods are dense enough that you can't see the surrounding development from the loop. And despite its small size, it manages to squueze in three different kinds of plant groups--juniper woods; a young, open elm & mesquite area; and denser post oak and elm woods. The juniper area had that lovely spicy scent that dense cedar brakes often have.

Plus, someone installed a lot of nice geological signage, in addition to the more standard botanical markers.  They say things like "Fault-aligned creek" and "Aquifer recharge creek" and "Alluvial plains," plus some more specific rock-related ones.  I don't really know what 15 MY-old "terrace gravel" is, but I'm glad I've been introduced to it, however superficially.

In short, it's a modest little park, but it's got heart.  (I'm giving it a 1.5 for difficulty because there are some mildly ankle-twisty rocks.)

Not worth the trip
By Haleyms on 1/17/2006
Rating: 2stars Difficulty: halfstar Solitude: 2point5stars
Distance: 0.70 Mile Duration: N/A
I was not impressed by this park. All I could hear was traffic the whole time. The park is small and the trail very easy. If you don't live close to this one, there are better trails around.
Short Neighborhood Trail
By figment on 1/11/2004
Rating: N/A Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 2point5stars
Distance: 0.70 Mile Duration: N/A
I hoped that this trail would lead into the Barton Creek Greenbelt, but it is a self-contained loop in a tract of land bordered by roads. It has several signs identifying the plants along the trail, and an excellent trail map at the trail head. I parked on the side of the neighborhood street directly across Republic of Texas from the park, and walked across. This was a very level trail. Probably very nice if the creek is running, but it was dry when I was there.
Nice hike, should have great wildflowers soon
By snjsanchez on 3/16/2003
Rating: N/A Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 0.70 Mile Duration: N/A
This seems like a nice little trail with a lot of promise when the wildflowers come into season. For example, one of the signs read "Butterfly Meadow". There was also a large number of blackberry vines in flower all over the east end of the park. There was a fair amount of birds song right at sunset. There is also a noticable amount of traffic noise from SW parkway, but tolerable. Found one of two geocaches in a neat spot.
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