A Walk in the Park
Travel time from:
Austin – 1.5 hours
Dallas – 4.5 hours
El Paso – 7 hours
Brownsville – 4.5 hours
Houston – 3.5 hours
Lubbock – 5.25 hours
Enjoy charming Boerne's slower pace and shady hikes.
By Lydia Saldaña
Boerne’s City Lake Park invites visitors to sit a spell and take in its relaxing charms. It’s hard not to slow down on the hot summer day of our visit, especially when the shade of a tree beckons, as do the quiet waters of the lake.
“Back then, four game wardens shared one ‘portable’ radio that had only one TPWD frequency and ran on 24 D-cell batteries,” he recalls, chuckling. “You sure didn’t pack that thing around!”
We sit at a park picnic table with Danny Zincke, who’s guiding us to some favorite Boerne spots. Parks and trails are the dominant features of our itinerary, and those are right up his alley. Zincke’s been Boerne’s parks director for six years, and was recently promoted to community services director.
“The big draw at City Lake Park is no Jet Skis or motorboats buzzing around,” says Zincke, explaining that a city ordinance prohibits any motorized vehicles on the water. “We have 100
acres of parkland here and 100 acres of surface water to enjoy.”
The park gets lots of visitors from nearby San Antonio, and it can get crowded on weekends. But on this Wednesday it is quiet, with a few families spread out enjoying picnics.
Zincke’s passion for parks is immediately apparent. He took up hiking a few years ago and quickly progressed up to 20-mile hikes in state parks across Texas. Zincke’s now the biggest cheerleader for a trail system that connects all of Boerne’s key attractions with walkable paths.
With the following day’s hike planned, Zincke introduces us to Kyle Calvano of Hill Country Paddle Sports and leaves to tend to some city business. We’ve both kayaked before, but this is the first time my husband, Bill, and I have been in a kayak together, and we quickly get into a good rhythm. We glide swiftly through the water, enjoying the breeze and the sunshine. Before we know it, we’re on the other side of the lake.
Feeling spent after paddling back across, we spread a picnic blanket under the shade of a tree. I settle in with a book while Bill lazily casts a line into the water. Catching a fish isn’t in the cards this day, but no matter; we both enjoy the relaxing vibe of a slow summer afternoon.
Afterward, we check into our elegantly appointed quarters at James Street Livery Guesthouse, the site of the town’s original livery, decorated with historical photos and captions that tell the story of Boerne’s past. Just steps from Main Street, it’s the perfect location to enjoy all that Boerne offers.
We wake up in time to take a walk along the Cibolo Creek Trail in River Road Park. Anyone driving into Boerne from the east on Texas Highway 46 can spot the bucolic stretch of parkland next to the creek. Ducks rule the roost here; we enjoy a morning duck parade, complete with duck-crossing signs posted on the street. We meet Zincke at Boerne favorite Bear Moon Bakery and, fortified with breakfast, head to the Cibolo Nature Center.
The Cibolo Nature Center has been connecting Boerne residents and visitors to the natural world for close to 30 years, but Carolyn Chipman Evans’ connection is decades longer. She can remember idyllic childhood days riding horses and playing in the cool, clear waters of Cibolo Creek on this family land. In the mid-1960s, family members sold 125 acres of land here to the City of Boerne for a city park.
“It was a remarkable, forward-thinking thing to do because the city didn’t even have a parks department at the time,” recalls Evans, as we sit on the breezy porch of the center and listen to the happy laughter of children there for summer camp. “In those days we didn’t have a Danny Zincke to take care of things, so unfortunately it became a dumping ground. It broke my heart when I moved back here as an adult and wanted to bring my children here.”
Evans rolled up her sleeves and, with the help of her husband and friends, formed the Friends of the Cibolo Wilderness to clean up the parkland along Cibolo Creek. They opened the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne City Park in 1990, and it has been popular with Boerne’s nature lovers ever since. Evans also works on plans to connect the nature center and Boerne’s parks with trails. A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recreational trails grant kick-started the effort.
“The idea was that if we could just build an inch of it, it would continue to grow,” Evans says. “But it didn’t really start to take off until Danny came in. A week after he got here, I called him and we walked along the Old No. 9. I had a feeling he liked trails!”
Now the Old No. 9 Trail is a 1.4-mile pathway that cuts right through the heart of Boerne. The Cibolo Creek Trail (our earlier hike) is a 1.75-mile path that connects the historic Ye Kendall Inn downtown to City Park and the nature center.
Once you get to the nature center, there are 3 miles of trails through the grounds.
Zincke leads us through a wooded trail down to the waters of Cibolo Creek, surrounded by towering cypress trees. It is a lovely spot, shared with only a few other visitors taking in the cool, green beauty of the water and canopy overhead. A boardwalk stretches over the marsh.
As we walk to Herff Farm, we can see the ball fields and tennis courts of the more developed Boerne City Park. Zincke tells us that some parents drop their kids off for practice and then enjoy the solitude and quiet of the nature center trails.
It is quite a diversity of recreational opportunities, all within walking distance of one another.
A private capital campaign led by Evans a few years ago resulted in the purchase of the nearby Herff Farm and the restoration of the historic homestead of German settler Ferdinand Herff, Evans’ great-great-grandfather. The farmhouse is used for special events; outside, the Inspiration Garden displays organic gardening and offers a farmers market on Saturdays.
Before he leaves us to our own devices, Zincke makes plans to hike with us the next morning at Guadalupe River State Park, a park we were surprised to learn he hadn’t visited. We say goodbye and stop for lunch at the Dodging Duck, then join Dayna Cartwright for a walking tour of Main Street.
It’s hot, so we head back to City Lake Park to cool off. We while away the rest of the afternoon on a cove, joined by a few others seeking relief from the summer sun. Young people attempt yoga on stand-up paddleboards, laughing as a warrior pose goes awry with a splash.
The next morning, we join Zincke one last time for a hike at Guadalupe River State Park, a short drive from Boerne. We suggest stopping in to talk with the park ranger about the trails, but to our surprise, Zincke had hiked every trail the previous afternoon. He explains that he hadn’t visited the park before then because the trails were “too short” for his taste. While we’d lazed by the lake, he’d decided to familiarize himself with 9 miles of trails. Wow!
Shaking our heads in wonder at Zincke’s passion and enthusiasm, we join him on the Bald Cypress and River Overlook trails for a hike that feels just right for us after a weekend of Boerne’s slower pace. A walk in the park with the town’s park cheerleader is a fitting end to our Boerne adventure.
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