San Antonio is known for its beautiful culture, the River Walk, the Spurs, and so much more. I grew up here and came back after college because I love that it’s a big city with a small-town feel, the perfect place to raise a family.
Once I became a mother, I started looking for more out of our city. Getting outside and making nature a part of our family culture became a priority. While the City of San Antonio has done an amazing job preserving green spaces and building parks within the city limits, it’s a bit more challenging to find wild spaces accessible for nature adventures with young children.
Cibolo Nature Center & Farm is a hidden gem that offers so much for families in our area. I post pictures of this beautiful space regularly on Instagram, and I’m always shocked that so many local moms haven’t been there! I shouldn’t be surprised, though, because it took me forever to realize this treasure was sitting right under my nose.
I want to take away some of the mystery so that more families can enjoy the natural wonder and explore Cibolo Nature Center too.
Know Where You’re Going
Cibolo Nature Center & Farm is located in Boerne, just a short drive up I-10 W. There are two separate entrances to the facility, and the two sides are not currently connected:
Cibolo Nature Center
140 City Park Rd.
Boerne, Texas 78006
Cibolo Nature Center is open 365 days a year from 8:00 A.M. to dusk. The Visitor Center and Gift Shop are open Monday–Saturday, 9:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M., and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 P.M. Cibolo Nature Center has three miles of trails suitable for walking and open to equestrian use. It also has an excellent educational program offering opportunities for families and children to learn about nature.
33 Herff Rd.
Boerne, Texas 78006
Herff Farm is the site of the Farmers Market at Cibolo on Saturdays from March to December. This side of the property serves as a sustainable living education center that includes the restored farmhouse, an inspiration garden, a teaching garden, and more. It is the future site of a dedicated school building housing preschool and Kindergarten classes, slated to open in fall 2020. Herff Farm is only open to the public on Saturdays during the Farmers Market and for special events and workshops.
Parking is free and plentiful at both entrances.
Visiting Cibolo Nature Center
The first time I visited Cibolo Nature Center, we walked up and saw an open space with picnic tables and thought that was it.
Boy, was I wrong! Cibolo Nature Center offers so much, not only through its educational programming and events but also for families to visit and explore on their own. You just have to know what you’re looking for and where to go.
Adjacent to the main parking lot, you’ll find a covered pavilion. Depending on which trail you go down, this may be your last stop with a restroom. Trails can be hot and in full sun in the summer, so make sure to fill up on water here too.
Next to the covered pavilion, you’ll see signage noting the otherwise indistinct dinosaur tracks. These dinosaur tracks aren’t actual tracks, so children can run, jump, and play all around them. That makes these tracks way more fun than the real deal that must be seen from a distance (looking at you, Government Canyon!).
The tracks are an exact replica of the dinosaur tracks uncovered at Boerne Lake Spillway in the 1990s, made by Acrocanthosaurus, who lived in the Cretaceous Period about 100 million years ago. If your kids love the big dinosaurs at the Witte Museum, they’ll love seeing Acrocanthosaurus’ footprints in action at Cibolo Nature Center.
If you’re visiting during business hours, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center. Housed in a small but jam-packed building, the Visitor Center is one of my kids’ favorite places.
They have a couple of aquariums with animals from the creek and a children’s discovery center where you can see a huge mammoth tusk, Native American artifacts found locally, a unique rock collection, and a variety of nature specimens. You’ll find a pint-sized investigation center perfect for little ones to explore these nature finds at their own pace.
After stopping by the Visitor Center, relax on one of the shaded, covered porches. There are rocking chairs overlooking a small pond in the front and a nice picnic table and bird-watching area in the back. Several bird feeders regularly attract cardinals, orioles, finches, sparrows, and more.
Among the covered porch areas at the Visitor Center building, you’ll find another restroom and a water fountain. There are no restrooms or water available once you are on the trails.
The trails at Cibolo Nature Center are animal friendly, but bicycles are not allowed. All of the trails are short and well-suited for families with children.
There are two mail trailheads at Cibolo Nature Center: one behind the dinosaur tracks, and another in the main picnic area near the Visitor Center and amphitheater. You can access all of the trails through either trailhead.
Head down the trailhead past the dinosaur tracks, and if you follow the signs toward the right, you’ll find the half-mile Marshland Trail. This is the only trail at Cibolo Nature Center that is handicap accessible, which makes it a great stroller-friendly option. The trail is in full sun and especially hot in the summer, but it’s perfect for cooler seasons.
A word of caution: The wide open edges of the beautiful boardwalk can be challenging with independent toddlers and curious preschoolers. However, the marsh is home to many neat birds including the red-winged blackbird, kingfisher, cattle egret, whistling tree duck, and many more. We’ve also seen turtles and a lot of fish at the marsh. There is so much life hiding among the tall rushes and the still water here.
To make sure your little ones get a close-up look at the excitement in the marsh without toppling in, have them lay down on their bellies and look over the edge of the boardwalk.
Nearby the Marsh, you’ll find the half-mile Native Texas Prairie Trail. This trail is not paved, but the ground is pretty compact, making it relatively stroller friendly, especially with a good jogging stroller.
This side of Cibolo Nature Center is hot and dry in the summer and in full sun most of the day. In any other season, this area is a wonderful, open space for children to explore and get up close and personal with many different species of birds and native plants.
The paths through the high prairie grasses are an incredible adventure for little ones who feel like they are getting lost in a big maze. Out on the prairie, we’ve seen deer, a red-shouldered hawk, meadowlarks, and rabbits. This is also the trail you’re most likely to encounter equestrian visitors in the park, which is always a fun surprise!
Follow the half-mile Woodlands Trail by entering the trailhead nearest the Visitor Center down the aptly named trail through the trees along the bluff overlooking Cibolo Creek. This entrance to the trail is NOT stroller friendly.
This trail offers full shade in most places and a variety of natural life including the largest variety of different tree species at the complex. It loops through a wildflower meadow and open grassland, and you’re sure to see deer, bunnies, squirrels, and lots of birds on your trek.
Enter the trailhead closest to the Visitor Center or head down the stairs off the back porch of the auditorium and you’ll be on your way to Cibolo Nature Center’s star attraction. This path is steep and rocky and not stroller friendly. (If you want to access the creek with a stroller or wagon, enter though the trailhead by the dinosaur tracks).
You’ll cross over a bridge that may or may not have water in it. This part of the creek dries up in the summer months, but don’t worry—the main section is always flowing. The creek is supplemented by treated water from the Boerne Wastewater Treatment Plant and tested frequently to ensure water quality.
When you get to a fork in the trail, follow the signs to the left along the Cibolo Creek Trail. This section of the trail is in full sun, but it’s a short walk until you reach the cool creek bed shaded by giant cypress trees.
The Cibolo Creek Trail passes by a natural playground on the way to the creek. This completely shaded, open-ended playground’s main feature is a treehouse platform with a very steep, winding staircase. Be prepared to walk up with toddlers and those who might be nervous about heights because coming down the steep stairs can be a challenge. Children can also hop on tree stumps, swing on grapevines, play in a sand pit, climb trees, and more.
Just past the playground, you’ll see the lush canopy along the banks of the creek. Follow the trail down and a bit to the left to enter the creek at the picnic area where you see the crossing bridge.
There isn’t a lot of room to spread out and make yourself comfortable on the rocky banks of the creek here, but it is rarely crowded. This section of the creek is my top pick for babies and toddlers because they can happily splash in the shallow water that goes over the crossing bridge.
Older children can wade in the waters just off the bridge. The water is shallow enough for my four- and six-year-old to wade comfortably.
There are many spots upstream and down that are fun to explore too, but be prepared to stash your stuff on the muddy creek bank and watch little ones closely in the deeper (but still shallow) water.
The creek area is almost fully shaded in the summer, and the air temperature is noticeably cooler. The water in the creek maintains a pleasant temperature for much of the year. Summer is prime time for swimming in the creek, but my kids happily wade in it almost year-round.
Bugs aren’t typically a huge problem around the creek because the water is constantly flowing, but I usually have some bug repellent on hand just in case. Other items you might consider bringing are water shoes, fishing nets, bug boxes or an empty container, and a bag to pack up any trash.
The creek is an amazing respite from the summer heat and a beautiful escape to nature at any time of the year. The sun shines through in the most magical way, giving the trees and the water an iridescent glow. You just have to see it for yourself!
I’m so thankful to those who have protected this little piece of nature right here in our own backyard. It’s been a favorite place for my family to visit, and I hope you’ll try it out too!