Tucked away between residential subdivisions just south of Loop 1604, Mud Creek Park holds a trove of natural-surface trails that cover a surprisingly wide variety of terrain for such a small park.
My girlfriend, Jess, and I explored the park this week when temperatures dipped into the 70s after weeks of unseasonable mid-80s weather. The afternoon was brilliantly clear, with azure skies and intense sunlight that gathered in the golden grasses of Mud Creek Park’s many meadows. Jess and I loved the park’s open spaces, where trees haven’t yet overtaken the fields of prairie grasses, shrubs, prickly pear, and Spanish dagger.
Mud Creek Park
Offers: Hiking, biking
Location: 16875 Jones Maltsberger Rd, San Antonio, TX 78232
Trail miles: Roughly 2.25 miles of single- and double-track dirt trails.
Restrooms: Portable toilet and potable water at trailhead.
It took us about two hours to map a little more than two miles of trail. The final mileage felt low, given the relative diversity of terrain we encountered in the park, which includes creek bottom below limestone cliffs, meadows, and oak-juniper woods. I’d like to come back with my mountain bike and whip through a couple of trail loops.
Don’t confuse Mud Creek Park with Mud Creek Loop, a popular natural trail located inside McAllister Park a mile and a half to the south. Like other North Side parks, Mud Creek Park was created in the 2000s as a positive side effect of flood-control efforts.
Most of the park lies behind Mud Creek Dam, an earth and concrete structure built in 1996 by federal and local authorities. In January 2001, the San Antonio River Authority announced it would donate the roughly 67 acres to the city of San Antonio. The park opened later that year.
At the time, a San Antonio Parks and Recreation spokesman told a reporter that the park would be “low-maintenance, strictly for hiking, biking, and enjoying the beauty of the area.” That’s been the philosophy since then, with the park left mostly in its natural state.
Mud Creek Park has no paved trails, and a web of single-track trails connects the main loops, which are double-track ranch roads. The most clearly defined trail is the main circuit, Century Tree Loop, one mile in length, with four stone markers at each quarter mile. The trails on the northwest side of the park are rockier and would make for pretty technical biking.
The map at the park entrance needs an update, as the park’s trails have clearly proliferated since it was posted. I tried to base my map of the Yucca, Sumac, and Juniper loops off the existing map, but some of these trails have clearly changed since then.
Most who access Mud Creek Park come in from the parking lot off Jones Maltsberger Road, where a 0.3-mile entrance trail takes visitors uphill past Mud Creek dam. A fence separates the dam from the rest of the park, though graffiti artists have snuck past and left their marks on the concrete spillway walls.
Century Tree Loop hugs the fence on the east side of the property, then follows a portion of Mud Creek, where it meets a crossroads with Yucca and Sumac loops. Not far from this area lies the opening to a cave, rendered inaccessible by a metal grate. Peering through the slats, we could see a fissure roughly five feet long and a couple of feet wide, dropping 15 to 20 feet into the darkness.
Here was a perfect example of why setting aside land like this is so important. Mud Creek Park lies over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, the sensitive area where caves, cracks, and sinkholes drink in the water flowing off the surface. Any substances that residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the park put on their lawns or streets will eventually make their way into the aquifer via such openings.
From the intersection with Century Tree Loop, Yucca and Sumac trails roughly follow the creek to the park’s northwestern edge, then follow a steep mini-canyon with a rocky, dry creek bed shaded by trees. The property’s highest area of elevation is a ridge along its center with CPS Energy power lines passing overhead.
The trails continue past the park’s property boundary, as marked by a set of metal poles jutting up on either side of the double-track trail. A search of the Bexar County tax map shows that the land is private, owned by a company called Aleppo Investments. Though the trails there looked well-traveled, we stayed on the public side of the property line.
The Parks department confirmed this week that its staff has no plans to add paved trails at Mud Creek Park anytime soon. Mud Creek Park isn’t slated to receive any funding from the City’s 2022-2027 bond, and it doesn’t show up on this list of upcoming trail projects. I don’t mind the idea of this place staying in its current state.
Overall, this park reminded me somewhat of Stone Oak Park, but smaller and more scenic. On a clear weekend day when other Northside parks fill up with visitors, consider hiking at Mud Creek Park instead.