Day Trip: Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell, also called Covert Park, is a mere 5 acres in the Austin Parks Department stable of outdoor treats, but it’s one certainly worth visiting, preferably around sunset. Set 780 feet above sea level, Mount Bonnell is hardly a “mount,” but it provides beautiful views of the Colorado River, the sunset over the greater city and the mansions that litter the waterfront and hills above it.
Mount Bonnell has been a tourist destination since the 1850s and was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1969. The lone trail in the park goes up what feels like thousands of stairs to the lookout and then slopes down back to the parking area to make a loop. The stairs are steep and well worn, so bring a comfortable pair of shoes with good tread and possibly an oxygen tank.
According to local legend, Mount Bonnell was once known as Antoinette’s Leap, after a young woman who jumped from the height to escape Indian capture. The current name is attributed to either George W. Bonnell, publisher of the mid-19th Century newspaper, The Texas Sentinel; or Joseph Bonnell, a captain in the Texas War for Independence. The park’s official name is for Frank M. Covert Sr., who donated the land to the City of Austin.
If you’re looking for solitude, atop Mount Bonnell is not the place to be. The lookout and area surrounding it provide a destination for tourists, locals and those who want to work out by running up and down the stairs. I’ve never visited when there have been less than a dozen people, but if you walk down the hill from the lookout, there is more space, and it’s possible to at least have a little outcropping to yourself.
A trip to Mount Bonnell can hardly be called a Day Trip; even the most interested person would have trouble finding more than a couple of hours of activity here. However, Mayfield Park is right around the corner, providing a few hiking trails and a great deal of peacocks, and the Dry Creek Café, one of the best dive bars in the city, is right around the other corner, providing cheap cans of beer, borrowed coozies and view of the sunset from their rooftop deck that rivals the one on Mount Bonnell. Combine the three activities together and you have a pretty pleasant afternoon.