Eisenhower Park, located next to Camp Bullis on San Antonio’s North Side, is easily one of the city’s most popular hiking spots. For years, the park was a small island of green, accessible to visitors who would park in the lot and explore its six miles of trail.

But Eisenhower Park is now also the crossroads for the Salado and Leon creek greenway trails, a network spanning more than 40 continuous miles. The greenway connection completed last year involved paving over a part of former Eisenhower Park path called the Hillview Natural Trail along the park’s southern edge. 

Not only is Eisenhower the dividing line for the trail network, but the watersheds themselves. Rain that lands on the west side of Eisenhower Park flows to Leon Creek, while rain that falls on the east side flows to Salado Creek.

Eisenhower Park

Offers: Hiking, trail running.
Trail miles: 6 miles of asphalt, crushed stone, mulch and gravel trails
Location: 19399 NW Military Highway
Restrooms: Toilets and running water at parking lot, pit toilet off Cedar Flats Trail near observation tower.

I’ve seen varying figures on the park’s size. The Bexar County tax map shows a 323-acre parcel that forms the main part of the park, with an adjacent 101 acres that includes a steep, switch-backing portion of the Leon Creek Greenway near the Rim.

The Hillview loop is the longest trail at the park, at 2.6 miles. It circles the hilly, rocky park’s perimeter and offers access to the rest of the trails. The Yucca natural trail extends from north to south, and the paved Cedar Flats Trail offers the easiest path through its center. The four paved and asphalted trails segments — Hillview Paved Trail, Cedar Flats, Yucca Paved Trail, and the greenway — are all wheelchair-accessible. 

The park is San Antonio’s hiking hotspot for dog owners (leashes are required). That makes it stand out from Friedrich Wilderness Park, northern San Antonio’s other main hiking attraction, where dogs aren’t allowed. Like at Friedrich, bikes, scooters, skateboards, and other wheeled devices aren’t allowed on Eisenhower trails.

The ability to bring dogs and the scenic views mean the trails often gets crowded on weekends, especially during spring and fall.

During those peak times, many an Eisenhower Park visitor has witnessed a bizarre ritual: the placing of dog poop bags along the trail. During some visits, I’ve seen around a dozen brightly colored plastic poop bags left festooning the sides of the paths like cursed party favors. I guess cleaning up half of one’s mess is better than not at all?
Visiting Eisenhower during a chilly late fall weekday is a different experience. In mid-November, I met a couple of friends there for a trail run on a Tuesday after work. My friend Paul was visiting from Colorado and had brought his two dogs, so we needed a place to take them that also offered some interesting terrain and singletrack trail. We only saw a couple people and no abandoned poop bags.

Our route made a counterclockwise loop around the park, starting on Hillview Paved Trail, then dipping down into the half-mile Red Oak trail to weave through some of the prettiest woods in the park. We then rejoined Hillview trail and traveled south, climbing to the highest point of 1,230 feet. We skipped the observation tower and headed further south down a loose, rocky slope lined with sotol and yucca plants, descending more than 300 feet back down to the greenway trail. From there, on a hill next to the powerline road overlooking the Rim, we had about a mile run back to the parking lot. We ended up running just over three miles.

We skipped the observation tower on that run, but it’s worth checking out for some of the best views in the city. With its rolling terrain and tree cover, San Antonio’s trails don’t often lead to prominent points where hikers can get panoramic views of the city. The tower is one of the few places in our parks where visitors can see for miles.

For visitors who want to take the most direct route to the observation tower, go to the southwestern side of the parking lot, near the bathrooms, and head west on the Yucca trail. Pass your first right and take your second right for the paved Cedar Flats Trail. Pass the bat houses, the Live Oak Trail to your left, and the bathrooms at the intersection with Hillview Natural Trail. Keep going to the top of the hill, following signs for the tower.

The city reopened the observation tower in 2021 after repairs the previous year. Credit: Brendan Gibbons for the San Antonio Report

The tower is one of the park’s original features, originally built by Churchill High School woodshop students ahead of the park’s official opening in 1988. The land was formerly part of Camp Bullis, the Army’s nearly 28,000-acre training ground separated from Eisenhower by a tall fence. 

The park owes its creation to the Harmony Hills Optimist Club, according to a sign detailing the park’s history placed earlier this year. In 1972, the federal government carved out the land that would become Eisenhower from Camp Bullis and gave it to the City of San Antonio. Original plans called for an exotic animal refuge in partnership with the San Antonio Zoo.

When that fell through, the Optimist Club’s leadership took over fundraising and trail-building efforts. Greater Harmony Hills is more than seven and a half miles south of Eisenhower, as the crow flies, but at the time was one of the closest neighborhoods to the park, given that the city hadn’t yet sprawled that far northward. 

I’m grateful for these forward-thinking volunteers who worked hard to set aside this space for everyone to enjoy. We are only the latest in a long line of people to visit Eisenhower Park, though. In the 1980s, a team of archaeologists examined four sites on the property. They found multiple stone arrow and dart points, fragments of stone stools, and other evidence of indigenous people dating back as far as 6,000-8,000 B.C.

I’m always amazed at the evidence found in our local parks of people using them for thousands of years. As the archaeologist’s report puts it, “the aboriginal sites of the project area reflect a long history of sporadic, temporary activities across the upland landscape between the Leon Creek and Salado Creek watersheds.”

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.