Looking for a short hike your kids can handle? Check out Mayfield Park and Preserve. Mayfield often tops the lists of best parks in Austin with its picturesque gardens and exotic peacocks. But behind the gardens are short hiking trails perfect for exploring with small children. Here, we’ve given you a step-by-step guide to the trail so you can meander through the woods with your kids and know what to look for and expect.
To start your hike at Mayfield, find the picnic tables outside the main entrance to the gardens and head to the right – you will see the trail next to the Mayfield Park and Preserve welcome sign. You may see peahens and peacocks dusting themselves or taking a break from the heat. They often hang out here in the morning.
Next stop: the map. Mayfield Park is bound by the Contemporary Austin Laguna Gloria to the west and the lake to the south, and the trails wind around in small loops, so you run a very small risk of getting lost.
Heading straight past the map is a shady area that slopes down to Lake Austin. Follow it to right and down the hill until you see the water. There are a few spots that are perfect for throwing rocks into the lake. You can follow this trail to the west where it will eventually spill out onto the ground at the Austin Museum of Art and then you can loop back around to the Mayfield parking lot.
To the east of the map (if you head left instead of straight), the path winds through shady trees and patches of wildflowers before descending down a small set of stairs to the creek. Large rocks have been set into the creek bed for crossing.
On the other side of the creek, a short walk takes you to the base of a steep bank where you can climb up to the overhanging rocks, or “caves.” The climb is steep and small children might need some help. Getting down is best attempted by sliding on your butt, at least according to the kids we interviewed.
Taking this trail north, watch for the fork to the left and it will take you back across the creek. The banks here are a little steep and you will need to climb a bit. Then the trail loops back up the hill to the east gate of Mayfield gardens. You should be able to see the garage and the tower as you get close.
Notes before you go:
- Sometimes the Mayfield gardens are closed to the public for private events, but the trails are open every day no matter what is going on in the gardens.
- This hike is appropriate for small kids, even toddlers. I took my surefooted 20 month old, but he did want to be carried a bit. My 3 year old was in his element and ran ahead the whole time.
- This trail is not stroller friendly. The trails are full of roots and large rocks. There are stairs around the creek.
- Long pants would be a good idea, so you can slide down from the caves and in case you run into a patch of poison ivy, but they aren’t necessary.
- Take water. Even when the weather is nice, the sun and heat can really creep up on you.