San Marcos features several natural escapes that feature excellent hiking trails. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau

Autumn weekends in San Marcos revolve around one activity: football. Texas State University fans head to Bobcat Stadium hours before game time to set up a tailgating spot, grill burgers, and throw the football around before heading to the game. For non-football lovers, autumn weekends mean something else entirely. It means that after a long hot summer, the temperature finally reads less than 100 degrees. Cooler weather draws residents out of their air-conditioned homes. So while you may be in town to watch the action on the field, it’s also a chance for nature lovers to enjoy the outdoors. Here are some of San Marcos’ best fall outdoor activities.

1. Run the Trail at the Purgatory Creek Natural Area


You can’t beat trail running on the singletrack at Purgatory Creek Natural Area. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau

Start the morning far away from the chaotic football stadium with a trail run along Purgatory Creek Natural Area’s famous Dante’s Trail. The eight-mile moderate run connecting the Upper and Lower Purgatory is popular with trail runners, mountain bikers, and hikers. Upper Purgatory kicks off with gentle slopes and an ADA-accessible trail built for adventurers of all activity levels. Popular trails are Dante, Paraiso, and Malacoda. The Malacoda trail ventures to the iconic grotto. The limestone cliff above and the grotto below both make excellent photo spots. Lower Purgatory is home to more rugged terrain. Popular trails in Lower Purgatory are Dante, Beatrice, Ovid, and Ripheus. The Lower Purgatory is a very popular section, so get there early on the weekend to ensure finding a parking space. Make sure you bring water as there are no water sources along the trail.


2. Go Birding

Located on the Central Flyway, San Marcos is home to plenty of natural green spaces, riverside parks and nature preserves for your birding adventure. From the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler (found only in the Texas Hill Country) to majestic waterfowl, and lots of feathered friends in between, you’re sure to spot birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors. If the game happens to land on the first Saturday of the month (looking at you, App State) you can also go on a guided Birding Hike in the morning and be done just in time to tailgate! 


3. Kayak the San Marcos River


Enjoy an escape on the San Marcos River. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau

Fall weather in Central Texas is not too cool to stop anyone from enjoying time on the water. While the San Marcos River offers several areas to drop in a kayak and enjoy a good paddle, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife designated the section between San Marcos and Luling Zedler Mill as one of the state’s most popular paddling trails. It is easy to see the popularity of the six-mile trail as the tree-lined river twists and turns through the Texas Hill Country. The gentle currents make the four-hour trip perfect for beginners or those who just want to put their feet back and enjoy the quiet beauty of Central Texas—looking for a paddling adventure after the game? Paddle SMTX offers Glow Tours where you can explore the San Marcos River at night with lights lighting up the river below your clear kayak. 


4. Snorkel Spring Lake

As the headwaters to the San Marcos River, Spring Lake has been a gathering place for water seekers for more than 1,200 years. The snorkel tour at the Meadows Center is a really unique way to explore the crystal-clear lake. Bobcat Stadium is just across the road so you might be able to keep up with the progress of the game depending on all the “oohs” and “ahhs” you hear. For those looking to stay dry, the Glass-Bottom Boat Tours are an excellent activity! You can see the lake below through the window in the bottom of the boat and hear all about the unique history of the area. 


5. Float the San Marcos River


Floating on the San Marcos is as much a part of the town as football. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau

Floating the San Marcos River is practically a right of passage for visitors to San Marcos. Central Texas is filled with fun, floatable rivers, but with continuously flowing water, the San Marcos River is arguably the best river for tubing. For an hour-long slow and steady float that is perfect for families, start at San Marcos City Park and end at Rio Vista Park. For a longer, more action-packed float, start at Texas State Tubes.


6. Body Surf at Rio Vista Park

If you are brave enough to submerge yourself in 72-degree water on what might be a cool fall day, jump in the San Marcos River as it cuts through Rio Vista Park. The popular 13-acre park in the middle of town attracts sunbathers, paddleboarders, swimmers, kayakers, and tubers. The Rio Vista Damn Falls—a series of three artificial rapids with eight-foot drops—makes for great body surfing.


7. Go For a Hike


Enjoy some of the natural beauty around San Marcos before or after the football game. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau

Strap on your hiking boots and head to the Spring Lake Natural Area to enjoy some of the area’s most beautiful trails. Miles and miles of trails weave through 251 acres of meadows, hillsides, and woodlands. Featuring majestic live oaks draped in Spanish moss, the area around San Marcos Springs and Spring Lake offers a glimpse of nature at its finest. And it’s less than two miles to the football stadium, meaning you can be back at the tailgate with plenty of time to catch the game.

Written by Jennifer Simonson for RootsRated Media in partnership with San Marcos CVB.