Biking on San Antonio’s River Walk
Friday, October 25, 2019
Everyone has heard about the River Walk in San Antonio. Walking along the river to see the people, enjoy the restaurants or bars, or watch the boats sailing by can all be fun.
But there are also miles of the River Walk through the rest of San Antonio that are perfect for a bike ride and don’t have the crowds you see downtown. This can be done in one bike trip but there is so much to see that it is best to split this into multiple trips.
Bikes are available for rent for only $12 a day at many locations. Here are some highlights of the trail.
The hiking and bike trail is wide, fairly flat, and normally not very busy. The path itself is pretty. The flowers can be gorgeous, with bluebonnets, primrose, and sunflowers frequently seen along the edge of the river.
The water attracts birds, like egrets and herons, since it is located within a major migratory route. There are multiple city parks along the path with restrooms, water fountains, and even faucets with bowls for your dog. It doesn’t hurt to pack a water bottle along with some snacks, though.
The path is on both sides of the river at times or moves back and forth. If you forget a map, there are signs with maps along the way. By the way, there are multiple geocaches along the trail or very close.
Section of the acequia built to irrigate crops at Mission Espada.
Stop to see the technology used to control the water flow, which includes several dams, aqueducts, and locks. Some of the irrigation systems were originally set up by the Spanish.
The downtown area of the waterway is drained periodically. Workers find phones, silverware, chairs from restaurants, and bikes under the water. Note that parts of the south section of the river below downtown are open for paddlers to enjoy.
Spain claimed this area back in the 1500s. In the early 1700s, Spaniards began converting natives to the Catholic faith along with teaching them Spanish technology like mills, masonry, looms, etc.
Missions were set up to accomplish these tasks with a chapel, convent, and space for the natives. Classes were held for children, and farms surrounded each mission.
San Antonio has five missions that are either on the path or close by. Four of the missions are part of the National Park Service with free admission plus museums and signs explaining their histories. The fifth mission is the Alamo and is under state governance.
You can begin your trip of the south section of the River Walk at Mission Espada, which is located only a quarter-mile off the trail. The mission itself was built in 1690 near Weches and was the first built in Texas. It was moved to San Antonio in 1731. Look for the loom here along with the aqueduct system.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is less than a half-mile from the main trail. Located around it is a demonstration farm.
Arches at Mission San Jose
Further north and less than a mile off the main trail is my favorite, Mission San Jose. It is rightly called the Queen of the Missions. The architecture is stunning.
Look for the rose window and the statues both outside and inside the chapel and the gristmill, where sometimes they demonstrate how flour is made.
Further north, it is fun to wander through the buildings and halls of Mission Concepcion. The mission is about a half-mile off the main trail.
Downtown River Walk
At a certain point (there are signs), you will need to park your bike. No bikes are allowed in the downtown area. The restaurants are a great place to eat and drink after your bike ride.
The walking area takes you past places like the stage that you see in "Miss Congeniality" or the love lock bridge.
Remains of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis in the San Fernando Cathedral.
While you are downtown, walk through San Fernando Cathedral. The plaza there is also an enjoyable place to rest and perhaps hear some music. We parked our bikes near here.
The Alamo is within walking distance. It can be busy, but it is worthwhile to see at least once. While everyone hears about the battle, the Alamo started as a mission (Mission Valero) and was the first built in the San Antonio area.
This south part of the River Walk is 10 miles from the first mission to downtown. The trail continues another 4.5 miles north past locks and dams, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and all the way to the Witte Museum and the San Antonio Zoo. We haven’t gone that far yet but are saving that for our next adventure!
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