The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Trekking Waco’s Trails

The best routes now and those to come in Waco’s city-wide trails master plan

12 months ago

By Avery Ballmann

One of the best ways to explore Waco is through our trail system and it’s one of the reasons to love Waco. You can exercise and enjoy nature by traversing the many trails through Cameron Park and even in Hewitt. With the Waco City-Wide Trails Master Plan in development, now is the perfect time to lace up your tennis shoes and explore.

The Trails Master Plan is an initiative to expand our trail system within five years by 16 miles with an estimated cost between $4.2 and $8.8 million. The Master Plan will not replace the current trail system, rather it will expand upon it and improve preexisting routes.

From the City of Waco’s Vision for Trails: “Waco will build a network of trails throughout the metropolitan area that will establish interconnected and continuous corridors to promote outdoor recreation, personal fitness and wellness, facilitate non-motorized transportation and highlight the natural and cultural resources of our community.”

Nature trails bring a variety of benefits to not only the hiker but the community as well. They add increased value to properties, promote economic growth, add a variety of transportation options, improve the environment and health benefits. Even if you are not an expert hiker you can still utilize the beautiful trails Waco has to offer. Here are some of our favorite must-hike Waco trails.

Brazos Park East — Beginner

This little gem is located on the east side of the Brazos River with its trailhead located at the south end of Brazos Park East. With plenty of parking for vehicles, this trail is easily accessible. It’s completely paved and hugs the river while also taking the traveler across bridges and through the foliage. With the trail being .5 miles one way, it is the perfect beginner trail to run, walk or bike on. The end of the trail brings you to MLK Boulevard near the Herring Avenue Bridge. You can either continue on the sidewalk or turn around and walk the same path back to your vehicle. Another plus about this trail is that it is handicap accessible. This is a great trail for all ages.

River Trail — Beginner

By the name, you probably guessed correctly that this trail takes you along the Bosque and Brazos Rivers. Beginning across the street from Jacob’s Ladder, 2500 Cameron Park Dr., and ending at McLennan Community College’s boat ramp, located on Cameron Dr., this trail is four miles in total. As you traverse, you will see breathtaking views of cliffs, trees and the river. This path is not paved and has lower points susceptible to holding water. The River Trail is the connector of most other Cameron Park trails. I highly recommend taking a detour to the drainpipe. From there, you can cross wooden bridges and explore the concrete tunnel running under Cameron Park Drive. If you choose to hike the entirety of River Trail, note that it is the second-longest trail on our list.

Cotton Belt Trail — Intermediate

Farther away from Cameron Park is the Cotton Belt Trail, located in Hewitt. This trail is a grand total of 2.5 miles one way. You can either begin at Trail Blazer Park, 1119 Harris Creek Rd., or the Cotton Belt Trail Head, 1624 Hannah Hill Rd. — both locations have available parking. The Cotton Belt Trail is entirely paved and has a bridge crossing over the South Bosque River. According to the Waco City-Wide Trails Master Plan, the initiative plans to connect the Brazos River and the Cotton Belt Trail. This will open many access points to the trail and extend its reach. The initiative also plans to add greenbelts near and along the Cotton Belt Trail. This trail is considered intermediate due to the distance and paved path.

Edge Trail — Intermediate

Edge Trail

Edge Trail is by far one of my favorite routes. It’s short but insanely steep; once you reach your destination you will have felt as if you’ve climbed Mt. Everest, but it’s worth it. You start this trail by parking at the Mouth of the Bosque, located at Brazos Bosque Rd. Begin on the River Trail right of the gazebo and after a couple hundred yards there will be a fork in the trail where you’ll take the Edge route. From there, it’s a constant incline. You’ll know you’re getting close when you see the cell phone tower. Once you make it to the top, the stunning views of the review will have made the trek worth it. From this vantage point, you can see for miles and explore the top of the cliff. This cliff is not fenced off, so keep this in mind when hiking and always hike with caution. Edge Trail is .4 miles one way which is why it is a great intermediate trail because of its short distance and challenging terrain. Make this trail even more special by packing a few snacks and taking a rest on the chalky bluff overlooking the Brazos River.

Hale Bopp and Highlander Loop — Intermediate and Advanced

Highlander Loop Trail

Unlike the other trails listed, this loop weaves the hiker through the thick foliage near MCC. You can park your vehicle at Northern Gateway Park, 704 Park Lake Dr., or you can follow the River Trail and take a detour. The trailhead is across the street from the park, you can either take Hale Bopp or the Highlander; both paths create a loop, so it’s up to you which road you take. Totaling at 1.8 miles this trail is more difficult due to the distance, with the Hale Bopp being an intermediate trail while the Highlander is advanced. With many hills and valleys, the quietness of the trees is so relaxing, you will forget you’re in Waco. This is also a great hike for families because of the closeness of the park. We recommend packing a picnic and fueling up before trekking the loop.

Trekking New Territory

The River Walk

The Waco City-Wide Master Trail Plan won’t happen overnight. The plan will be implemented over three five-year periods. Although the trails will expand slowly it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them now. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just want to get a breath of fresh air, there are plenty of trails now and in the future that Waco has to offer.