At the tail end of 2020, San Antonio hit another milestone in the growth of its greenway trail network with the opening of the northernmost leg of the Salado Creek Greenway trail.

The 4 miles of the Salado Creek trail north of Loop 1604 opened in stages from June through Dec. 18, when access began to the final mile that ends at Eisenhower Park. The stretch of paved concrete trail crosses through varied terrain, from shaded forest to sun-beaten stretches marked by utilities and heavy industry.

Salado Creek Greenway – Loop 1604 to Eisenhower Park

Offers: Walking, running, biking, rock climbing.
Location: Loop 1604 trailhead at 3104 N. Loop 1604 W., Shavano Park, TX 78231. Eisenhower Park trailhead at 19399 NW Military Highway, San Antonio, TX 78257.
Trail miles: 4 miles of paved trail. Access to Medicine Wall climbing area 1 mile north of Loop 1604.
Restrooms: Restrooms and potable water at both trailheads.

Later this year, Eisenhower Park will become the crossroads for the Salado and Leon trail systems, connecting an entire arc of greenway trails along this city’s northern half.

Construction is already underway on some of the final stretches of the Leon Creek Greenway, which currently ends at the Rim. Crews have already installed one cursive metal sign pointing east to “Salado” and another pointing west to “Leon.”

For now, cyclists can ride 20 uninterrupted miles of Salado Creek trail from Eisenhower Park to John James Park north of Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, the final gap left in the Salado trail. The whole thing will be roughly 30 miles long when complete.

This latest section offers the only outdoor rock climbing access in San Antonio. The Salado Creek trail is the lone entry point to Medicine Wall, a sport climbing area that opened to the public in June.

Volunteers with the nonprofits Access Fund and Texas Climbers Coalition spent years working on an agreement that allows TCC to own the land and keep the area open for climbing. Ahead of the wall’s public debut, volunteers installed permanent anchors on a few dozen routes. Every weekend, people passing by on the trails will see climbers tethered to the 80-foot limestone cliff.

Texas Climbers Coalition President and Access Coordinator Adam Mitchell (right) and Brian Tickle look up to Medicine Wall after taking ownership of the climbing destination.
Adam Mitchell (right), president of the Texas Climbing Coalition, with Brian Tickle, Access Fund’s Texas regional director, looks up at Medicine Wall. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

From Medicine Wall, the trail hooks north and begins to climb more steadily. It passes between two newly built subdivisions before leaving the creek and sloping upward 3 miles to Eisenhower.

The uppermost part of Salado Creek trail parallels the southern boundary of Camp Bullis, marked by a high fence and stern white signs. On the south side of the trail lies a landscape marked by the pursuit of some of civilization’s raw ingredients – water, stone, and electricity.

Most obvious are CPS Energy’s high-voltage transmission lines and an electrical substation near Eisenhower Park. The trail also winds between several water wells owned by Texas Water Supply Co., a company focused on selling Trinity Aquifer water to fast-growing subdivisions on the city’s northern exurbs.

Finally, it skirts the northern edge of an old quarry owned by Martin Marietta, where explosives and excavators carved crumbly cliffs that look like man-made models of Medicine Wall. Decades ago, this quarry would have been surrounded by undeveloped ranch land. Now, subdivisions blossom along the surrounding hills.

As I rode between water wells and power lines on New Year’s Day, I thought about how this trail is its own type of critical infrastructure. People need nature, as well as a way to get around on foot and by bike below the towering overpasses dedicated to traffic.

At certain times during the pandemic, these trails were our only outdoor escapes. During outdoor-focused holidays like Memorial Day and July Fourth, the greenway trails were the only parks exempt from local shutdown orders.

Thankfully, 2020 was a big year for local trail connections. Parks and Recreation crews completed a connector trail that tied the Mission Reach system to the Medina River system while patching the remaining gaps along the Medina.

It’s been a pleasure exploring these places and talking with so many readers about them. I’m excited to bring you more news of new connections and outdoor opportunities in 2021.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is the San Antonio Report's environment and energy reporter.