The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Wandering Waco

Your Guide to Waco Parks

4 weeks ago

Pictured: Photos by Avery Bathurst

By Avery Bathurst

Waco is overflowing with things to do, from touring the Dr Pepper Museum to shopping at Magnolia to checking out the impressive culinary spread. But what about the parks? The outdoors of Waco are not to be underestimated in terms of beauty, challenge, history or fun! No matter what you look for in a park, there’s something in Waco for you.   

For the Challenge  

Jacob’s Ladder

 Located in Cameron Park, this 88-stair challenge is more than a workout and is a Waco tradition dating back to 1963. Jacob’s Ladder is a fun and unique climb that will leave its challengers out of breath, but the exercise is well worth the final destination: Anniversary Park! 

 

Hale Bopp and Highlander Loop

This short loop through Cameron Park is as challenging as visitors would like it to be. Winding through some of Waco’s most scenic forest area, the Hale Bopp and Highlander Loop is one of the best routes for trail runners, bikers and anyone else who wishes to be immersed in nature. 

 

For the Chill 

Brazos Park East

This park is best known for its slowly curving trail that carries visitors on a relaxing walk along the Brazos River. Featuring pavilions, a boat ramp and disc golf course, Brazos Park East is a great spot to spend the weekend. 

 

Carleen Bright Arboretum Nature Trails

Woodway’s Arboretum is a beautiful space with walking trails, botanical gardens, pavilions and a new splash pad and playset for a magical experience with nature. This 16-acre plot of native woodlands and carefully tended gardens is the ideal location for family photos, private events, meditation or simply appreciation of the natural beauty found in Central Texas. 

 

Cotton Belt Trail

Located just outside of Waco in McGregor, this 2.5-mile trail winds along an old rail line and crosses the South Bosque River. The Cotton Belt Trail branches off into short paths through the trees and is surrounded by native plants and wildlife. Secluded and paved, this is a great option for runners and those who enjoy the peace and quiet. 

 

Indian Spring Park

This park is well-known for Robert Summers’ life-sized sculpture “Branding the Brazos”, a nod to Waco’s history in cattle driving and an exhibit of the city’s rich artistic culture. Including a paved path toward the Waco Suspension Bridge, fountain and natural amphitheater, Indian Spring Park is a true Wacoan experience. 

 

Waco Riverwalk

With approximately seven miles of pathway, the Waco Riverwalk runs along both banks of the Brazos River and through Cameron Park. Pet friendly and paved, the riverwalk is a relaxing and easily traversed trail. 

 

Did you know: The Waco Suspension Bridge was built with cable supplied by the John Roebling Co., who built the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. It was the longest bridge west of the Mississippi at the time of its completion in 1870, and the first bridge to span across the Brazos River. 

 

For the View 

Circle Point

This area in Cameron Park provides visitors with an incredible view of the Brazos and surrounding countryside. Circle point has a pavilion, picnic tables and an observation hill for the best viewing experience for anyone looking to be immersed in Waco’s natural atmosphere. 

 

Lakeside Park

Previously known as Woodway Park 2, Woodway’s Lakeside Park is a beautiful area to view Lake Waco from. Containing a playground, disc golf course and two pavilions, the park is open to the public and one of the only spots in Waco where it’s possible to catch both a fish and a lakeside sunset. 

 

Lover’s Leap

Including pavilions and walking paths, Lover’s Leap overlooks the Brazos River and vast countryside that surrounds Waco. This outlook is named by a legend of forbidden love between a Wi-iko maiden and an Apache warrior, whose final act of rebellious love was to leap off the cliff together. This area has been visited by many throughout the years and remains one of the most popular points in Cameron Park. 

 

Miss Nellie’s Pretty Place

Just across the street from the Cameron Park Clubhouse and Anniversary Park, this six-acre flower farm includes a fountain, walking path and composting demonstration garden for a multifaceted educational experience. Wildflowers line the trail and in the late spring, Monarch butterflies make their migration through the area.  

 

For the Kids 

Anniversary Park

This park is in a very peaceful space, just across the street from Miss Nellie’s Pretty Place and at the top of Jacob’s Ladder. The park contains a large playset, a smaller climbing boulder and an accessible bathroom. 

 

Hewitt Park

Sand volleyball pits, a huge playground, disc golf and a wide-open field: Hewitt Park is a child’s dream. It’s impossible to be bored here, and parents can relax while the kids run themselves ragged.   

 

Pecan Bottom Park

With a splash pad, playground, swing set and pavilion, this is a spectacular place to take the kids, especially in the summer. The park brushes next to an expansive activity field that includes a few of the Cameron Park disc golf baskets, so there’s something for everyone. 

 

For the History 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Park 

Including a mural, overlook tower and riverfront walking trails, the park acts as both a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a scenic viewpoint for the Waco skyline and the Waco Suspension Bridge. 

 

Doris Miller Memorial

Born and raised in Waco, Doris Miller was a naval hero who made his mark during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This memorial stands at nine feet tall and was created to honor Miller for his service and ultimate sacrifice later in the war.  

 

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Nestled within miles of forest and parkland, the Waco Mammoth National Monument offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the lives of the Columbian Mammoth and other ice age creatures.  

 

For the Sports 

Cameron Park

Containing a 23-hole disc golf course, dozens of hiking and biking trails and acres of open space, this 416-acre urban park is the largest park in Waco. Massive trees and riverside paths create a wonderful space for human and animal visitors alike.  

 

Lakeside Park

Although listed as a park “For the View”, Lakeside Park also contains an 18-hole disc golf course, playground and open field space for anyone to use for sports.  

 

Woodway Activity Park

Previously known as Woodway Park 1, the Woodway Activity Park is a great area for hiking, biking and other outdoor sports with multiple trails and an open field. 

 

Whitehall Park

Grab a racket or a paddle, because this park has it all: tennis and pickleball courts, a walking trail, playground, gaga pit and dog park. Aside from all of these activities, there is also a large field that can be used for other sports and games like tag, soccer, football and wiffleball. 

 

There’s more to explore and more to experience, whether you’re a visitor or a resident Wacoan. Don’t be afraid to branch out and enjoy the many parks Waco has to offer. Make an effort to go outside and take advantage of the amazing nature right here in Central Texas!