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To all you Riders who haven't been to McKinney Roughs:

Testimonials are not really my thing - I always wonder if they're made up by the writer to suit the situation - but I have encountered so many misconceptions about the riding trails at McKinney Roughs that I feel compelled to offer my viewpoint. The Happy Horse Hotel website is the only venue available for such comments, so here's my experience:

I've been riding McKinney Roughs for about five years now, and during that time the park has changed dramatically - specifically with the opening of the Hyatt resort and the closing of some riding trails. The fear among equestrians was that the park would be ruined for good riding - ie fewer trails and only the upper, more rocky trails available to riders. We also thought the river access for horses would be inadequate, compared to our previous excellent river access, and the parking lot situation would be too small.

It turns out that none of those fears have materialized - and in fact the park continues to get better and better. LCRA has mobilized a program to create new trails and within the past year has opened a perimeter trail that is fantastic. It's a rather challenging trail, with lots of steep ups and downs and twists and turns, but it also has long stretches of excellent footing for gaiting,trotting, or cantering. An unshod horse will do fine on this trail as there are only a very few rocky places and they are not bad.

 

I've ridden both shod and unshod horses on the park trails. There are 5 or 6 miles of lower trails with fine dirt footing - some sandy ones along the river and others with solid packed dirt that meanders through woods and grassland. Pecan Bottom is my favorite - there's no finer trail in the state that I know of with its flat dirt surface and twisting turning loops through a fabulous section of big pecan trees.

If you want to repeatedly ride ALL of the trails in the park over a period of several days, at some kind of speed other than walking, then you should probably shoe your horses on the front. The upper trails, mostly Bobcat, have some real gravelly hills to traverse, but then again it depends on what you consider rocky. This park is NOTHING like Bandera or Parrie Haynes. The rock is mostly round river-type rock, not sharp limestone - and this makes a big difference.

With care, an unshod horse can ride the whole park -- about 15-18 miles, depending on how you do it -- as there are usually places to get off on the side. I have a friend with an unshod mare who lives nearby and rides the park several times a week, at speed, on any trail she likes that day.

As for the Colorado River access, it has turned out to be very nice, in spite of our fears. LCRA is continually working on the access - most recently because of the high water in January. You can ride a long way down the shallows of the river and it's easy to water your horse most all of the time. If you're adventuresome, you can go in deeper - some do. During those times the river is up, you can't get down there, but that's the case in all rivers. There's a very nice picnic area down near the water (there are at least six picnic tables along the park trails). Look on the Happy Horse website for a picture of a friend of ours riding in the river this past week.

And finally, LCRA is almost ready to open yet another new trail - Buckeye - and the word is out that it is going to be one of the most picturesque, cool and shady trails to date. Lots of undulating hills and smooth dirt footing. It's named after the abundance of buckeye trees found there. It should be open soon.

Even the parking lot situation has remedied itself: there are TWO trailheads, one off Pope Bend Rd that accesses the shady dirt trails closer to the river, and now the 2nd large, excellent facility right off Hwy 71, that accesses the upper level of scenic trails. For a view of how this works, see the Trail MAP on the HHH website.

McKinney Roughs is one of the best parks in Texas for equestrians, and the trails are actively maintained by a wonderful full-time grounds crew. So come on out and see for yourself. The scenery is flat-out awesome: riding along the Colorado River in the deep shade of enormous pecans and cottonwoods, breathing in the smell of the river; or looking out over a long stretch of river from one of the scenic bluff views that surveys an astonishing untouched piece of Bastrop County. Be sure and get the $5 discount ride tickets from Hollis, and while you're at it spend a few nights camped at the Happy Horse Hotel - the best little horse camp in Texas.

P.W. Magnuson, Georgetown, TX ... March 2007

 

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