Locals in San Antonio know that the city boasts a great variety of trails, especially for a major metropolitan area. The Texas hill country in general is one of my favorite area’s to run. The views are amazing, the terrain is varied, and the rolling slopes are guaranteed to build leg strength. While I’ve long known that there are several options for those looking to leave the road, I was completely unaware that San Antonio had such an extensive greenway system right inside the city. During some recent trips to San Antonio, I stumbled upon a portion of the Howard Peak Greenway trail system, and was so impressed I decided to do some research. Of course, I also returned for more running once I realized just how much there was to explore. For those who are not familiar with this hidden gem, here’s some useful details.
The system is currently around 70 miles, but there are plans to expand up to 130!
So, yea, this is not your average three mile hike and bike trail so often found in larger cities. The Howard Peak Greenway trail system currently winds alongside five major waterways that are usually dry. There are three main trail sections currently; the Leon Creek Greenway, the Salado Creek Greenway, and the Medina River Greenway, each offering several miles of trail. It was the brainchild of Howard W. Peak, who envisioned a trail system that formed a ring around the city. The system started forming in the early 1990’s, and is still underway as of 2019. Several large segments have been completed, but the connections and full development of the system will likely take years to complete (because it is flipping huge). However, even now there is plenty for runners, cyclists, and hikers to explore. I’ve explored my fair share of urban parks and greenbelts, and I honestly think that the Howard Peak Greenway trail may be one of the best trail systems in the San Antonio area.
The trails are extremely easy to access.
Most of the completed segments are easily accessed, with trail heads right off major highways. One portion of the system begins at the Rim, an area known for shopping, restaurants, and the theme park Six Flags. There are several hotels in close proximity. This is actually how I stumbled upon the system originally; one of the trail heads was located just behind the hotel I was attending a conference at. Like I said, convenient. According to the city’s Parks & Recreation website, there are over 40 trail heads and community access points. If you’re interested in taking a look for yourself, the link is https://www.sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec/Parks-Facilities/Trails/Greenway-Trails. The city’s website includes a map of the greenway, along with links to maps for the trail segments as well.
There’s a little something for everyone.
Much of the greenway is paved, multi-use path that winds along dry creek beds. However, there are several smaller gravel and dirt trails for those interested in more organic experiences. The system has several trailheads with water fountain access, which is especially appreciated by athletes in the summer; we’ve talked about Texas summer heat indexes. The long paved portions are extremely stroller friendly, which I appreciate as a mother who spent countless miles behind my beloved BOB. In fact, as I was running on some of the smoother sections, I thought to myself that the path was wide enough that my six year old could ride his bike next to me. Him riding his bike while I run is newer territory for both of us, so I’m always on the lookout for places that would allow enough room and visibility for us to explore together. Howard Peak is definitely a family friendly greenway. Runners, walkers, and cyclists will certainly enjoy the amazing views of limestone cliffs, waterways, and heritage trees, all without ever leaving the city.
For most of my visits, I have stayed on the Leon Creek and Salado Creek portions of the system. I love that there are easy navigation markers throughout the entire system, along with emergency call boxes. I especially enjoyed my time spent on one segment; the Poison Spider trail. This is a shorter single-track, multi-use dirt trail that has a good amount of up and down. It felt so remote and removed from the city, despite being right in the heart of the medical district. And just like the name suggests, I did see some rather imposing sized arachnids. I appreciate the variety of surfaces and the amount of distance the greenway covers, as so many urban trails are under 10k, which can quickly become boring for those of us looking to achieve double digit days. I can’t encourage visitors and residents enough to checkout this trail system.
Some helpful reminders if you plan to explore this system. While there are several trailheads with water fountain access, I would recommend carrying water, especially on warmer days as some of these trailheads are several miles apart. A good portion of the system is treelined, but definitely wear sunscreen if you plan to be out for more than 30 minutes, as portions of the greenway are very exposed. If you are a runner who needs to stay off hard surfaces, do a fair amount of research on dirt segments; most of the greenway is paved, but there is certainly easy access to soft surface areas. As always, be mindful when parking at trailheads; lock your car and hide valuables, trailheads can be hot spots for car break ins.
What are your favorite hidden gems?