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Austin Park Profiles : Mount Bonnell

Sep 6, 2008
Mount Bonnell is one of the most historic as well as highest parks in the Austin area, and has been a popular spot for hikers, nature lovers and campers since the mid-1800s. The "mount" for which the park is named is a natural limestone formation and the park is also called Covert Park and is situated alongside and above Lake Austin, and offers panoramic views of the lake and the city from its numerous cliffs overlooking the lake and hills below.

Mount Bonnell has been considered one of Austin's most well known tourist attractions for years too, and is one of the first place new University of Texas students visit when arriving in Austin, given its notable and historic reputation, frequently by word of mouth from one generation of students to the next.

Mount Bonnell is located in northwest Austin in the Highland Park neighborhood and is accessible from Mount Bonnell Road near its intersection with Ranch Road 2222 and Balcones Drive, and its peak is 780 feet above sea level, the second highest elevated point in Travis County, behind the Jollyville Plateau.

According to legend, the highest point was called Antoinette's Leap two centuries ago, when a maiden leaped to her death after the capture and killing of her fiance by Native Americans. The name Mount Bonnell came from George Bonnell, who was a prominent Austinite in the mid-1800s and who was active in Travis County affairs. Bonnell was the publisher at the time of a local publication called the Texas Sentinel, now defunct, and was a visitor to the park.

Another interesting feature near Mount Bonnell is the West Austin Antenna Farm, or WAAF, which is a broadcasting facility that can be seen from atop Mount Bonnell and which is comprised of fifteen television and radio towers that broadcast for various local stations, the KXAN tower being the tallest structure in Travis County. The WAAF is located at Loop 360 and Westlake Drive, near Mount Larson, which is directly across Lake Austin from Mount Bonnell and can be seen very clearly form the lookout point atop Mount Bonnell with its sparkling lights. The Antenna Farm includes a very high camera which captures views of the city for various news programs and other media outlets.

Mount Bonnell was dedicated as a park on July 15, 1938, by Frank Covert, and an engraved stone with its name sits atop the pavilion area at the top of Mount Bonnell, with paths leading to and from it through the flora and fauna. There are numerous trails throughout the park, and many are surrounded by cacti, sage, wildflowers and other vegetation.

Many of the trails, especially those that traverse up and down the hills, have natural steps made from exposed rock. There are also a 100 man-made step path that leads from the base of the hill, where the main entrance is located, to the peak and lookout points at the very top of the mount, and is a fairly steep hike, but access to the top can be gained by a less direct but more gentle climb just north of the main entrance.

The park is open from 5:00am to 10:00pm daily and admission is free, but it is important to wear comfortable shoes and beware of insects, ants, and snakes, as they are common in the area. Glorious views of the Austin skyline can be seen, especially at night, and the U.T. Tower looks particularly regal and majestic from the top, so come dressed appropriately, heed the warnings and stay away from the edge of the cliffs, and enjoy Mount Bonnell, one of Austin's many wonders!
About the Author
Ki works is a realtor down in Central Texas. He maintains a website about Austin real estate which has a free search for Austin homes along with a frequent market updates on his Austin real estate blog.
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